igus develops ball bearings from recycled plastic

The plastics producer presents a green recycling variant of the xiros deep groove ball bearing.

xirodur B180 gives igus a ball bearing made from recycled plastic (Image: igus)

igus has used its xirodur B180 plastic residue from injection moulding production to produce an eco-friendly version of the xiros deep groove ball bearing. The recycled version has almost the same technical specifications and load limits.

Generally, injection moulding production cannot recycle plastics in a 100% closed loop. Missing parts and sprues are often unavoidable. This also applies to the production of igus deep groove ball bearings, whose inner and outer rings are made of the xirodur B180, among other materials.

However, manufacturers can choose what happens to the excess material. Discarding them in the industrial waste is not an option, as raw material becomes lost. Emissions from incineration also add to pollution.

“As a plastics manufacturer, we are aware of our responsibility to people and nature. So, we have developed a process to recycle xirodur B180 high-performance plastic residue into a regranulate,” said Marcus Semsroth, head of the xiros polymer ball bearings business unit. Excess amounts of the engineered plastic xirodur B180 ECO, which is a characteristic green colour, is used in injection moulding production at igus to produce a recycled version of the xiros deep groove ball bearing.

Recycling variant with proven physical properties in tests

The new eco variant is made from four components: The inner and outer races are made of recycled xirodur B180 ECO, the cage is made of recycled iglidur J4 material, and the balls are made of either stainless steel or glass.

“Our test laboratory in Cologne proves that the recycled version of the ball bearing achieves almost the same technical properties and load limits as the original,” said Semsroth. “The only drawback is that the recycled xirodur B180 ECO plastic is no longer FDA-compliant, and therefore no longer suitable for direct contact with food.”

However, the recycled version can be applied in other non-food applications. Just like the original, the green recycled ball bearings enable quiet, lubricant-free and hygienic dry running in machines and systems for labelling and packaging machines. Here, the eco variant polymer bearings also show some advantages compared with classic metal bearings as. The recycled deep groove plastic ball bearing is corrosion-free, particularly resistant to chemicals, non-magnetic and electrically insulating. In addition, it is up to 60% lighter and costs 40% less than the equivalent metal bearings.

Towards sustainable plastics production

The new recycled material xirodur B180 ECO is a further step on the igus’ journey to sustainability in plastics production. Cylindrical plastic plain bearings have been available in an eco version since mid-2022. For 16 of its iglidur materials, igus provides the exact same CO2 footprint as scope 3 emissions.

In addition, in 2019 the company launched Chainge, a recycling programme for disused energy chains, from any manufacture. The E2.1CG cradle chain is the first energy chain in the world made from 100% regranulate. Since the start of the programme, igus has collected and recycled 60 tons of plastics, recycled them into new chains and transferred them from the classic linear economy to the circular economy. Another net zero measure is igus’s investment in Mura Technology, a company whose technology converts non-recyclable plastic waste into petroleum within 20 minutes. The oil can then be used to produce new plastic granulate.