Modernising automation: Engineering plastics and polymers to achieve greater flexibility and scalability

Bearings form the mechanical joint of every machinery. Besides connecting one or more mechanical parts to another, bearings are crucial in enabling movements of these parts with lesser friction. Food & Beverage Asia, speaks with Carsten Haecker, head of Asia-Pacific for igus, who elaborates how smart plastics support predictive maintenance, and enable automation in energy supply and plain bearing technology in the Industry 4.0 era.

In your opinion, what are the reasons behind the rise of automated machineries and facilities, and what are the drivers for food and beverage processors and manufacturers to have their facility fully automated – more crucially, what role do plastic bearings play in such automated facility?
Carsten Haecker:
Food production companies across all industry segments have been facing increasing demands for years now – albeit some levelling was and is visible in the current COVID-19 pandemic. Customers increasingly want greater manufacturing flexibility, from batch sizes of one item to large-volume production, while a variety of materials and sizes is steadily increasing.

In a modern food and beverage production and processing facility, machines, plants, goods, and load carriers are connected via the Internet of Things (IoT), and can communicate with each other. Intelligent sensor systems provide up-to-date status information in real time. All process-relevant data is recorded and analysed, enabling users to optimise their entire value chain in a decentralised, autonomous and demand-oriented manner. The route from storage of material to the finished product becomes shorter, more flexible, resource-saving and cost-efficient. Companies are increasingly relying on fully automated manufacturing solutions for their goods processing, faster access times, and maximum transparency.

How will you rate the adoption of plastic bearings in food and beverage applications in Asia-Pacific? And as the food and beverage sector, like many other industries, is on the ongoing transition to Industry 4.0, how is igus helping its customers to over the challenges they face in the midst of this transition?
Haecker:
The market is still dominated by traditional metal bearings but we recognise an acceleration of adoption of change. We see more and more interest in polymer engineering bearings and its applications in various industries due to its features. To name a few amongst many, the key advantages of polymer bearings compared to traditional metal bearings are light weight, temperature resistance, and the elimination of lubrication. Particularly, the avoidance of oil and grease in the food and beverage sector is a thought-after feature to ensure a clean and safe environment in the manufacturing and processing plants.

The full article is published in the latest edition of Food & Beverage Asia Feb/Mar 2021 issue. To continue reading, click here.