Lead-Free Plain Bearings Offer Advantages for Commercial Vehicle and Industrial Equipment

KS Kolbenschmidt's lead-free plain bearings can be designed with higher wear resistance, longer life and improved robustness.

Rheinmetall Automotive AG
Ks 920 Buchsen Aluminiumbronze
Rheinmetall Automotive AG

KS Kolbenschmidt, a brand of Rheinmetall Automotive AG, has further expanded its portfolio of plain bearings for commercial vehicle and industrial customers. The main focus is on the complete elimination of the heavy metal lead and thus the implementation of future-proof, eco-friendly solutions for any application. The supplier is also supporting customers with all-embracing services including the efficient development of the bearing design, test vehicle diagnostics, EHD simulation or customer-specific tests on in-house test benches. 

Lead is still a widely used industrial metal, valued for its enhanced formability and workability as well as its resistance to weathering and corrosion. However, this heavy metal is also harmful to the environment and health. The Plain Bearings unit of KS Kolbenschmidt therefore early on dispensed with lead in its new developments and thus took a leading role in the changeover to zero-lead-bearings in the EU passenger car segment where since 2011, it has been using only lead-free plain bearings.

Based on the experience gained in the passenger car sector, it is recommended that commercial vehicle and industrial customers also start converting to lead-free plain bearing solutions at an early stage. Particularly in view of the long product life cycles, it is important to ensure that the material design is future-proof today. KS Kolbenschmidt offers high-performance, lead-free solutions in all product families. These range from machined solid bronze components through wound bushings and thrust washers made of various steel composite materials to coated high-performance bearings.

Main and connecting rod bearings for commercial vehicle engines

When it comes to engine plain bearings for commercial vehicles, this plain bearing expert can draw on its many years of series production experience with lead-free crankshaft and connecting rod bearings in the passenger car sector: the lead-free steel/aluminum bearing shells KS R25 and KS R53 have proven their robustness millions of times over in series production. Depending on the engine concept and application area, however, the polymer-coated bearing shells KS R53L1 and KS R55L1, the lead-free electroplated bearing KS S213D or the high-performance sputter bearing KS S213W can also be used as all are lead-free and thus future-proof.

Applications for industry and off-road

Apart from the combustion engine, low-maintenance or maintenance-free metal-polymer plain bearings of the Permaglide proprietary brand are frequently used in commercial vehicle and industrial applications. Here, too, KS Kolbenschmidt offers zero-lead solutions: steel-bronze-PTFE plain bearings such as KS P141 and KS P180 which combine extremely low coefficients of friction with high wear resistance. Or the innovative steel-bronze thermoplastic plain bearings KS P240, KS P241 and KS P243. These are particularly suitable for high-duty, grease-lubricated applications. The performance and reliability of these lead-free solutions have been proven, for example, in the actuators of commercial vehicle brakes. Following successful customer validation, KS Kolbenschmidt is supplying the first series applications in which leaded bearings have been completely eliminated.

In off-road and industrial applications, lead-bronze and brass materials that are easy to machine have proven themselves over decades and are predominantly machined. The in-house continuous casting plant makes it possible to offer customers lead-free solutions in this area as well. The aluminum bronze KS 920, for example, is noted for its high mechanical strength and excellent corrosion resistance. Kolbenschmidt offers the high-precision components made from this in a wide range of dimensions.