Plastic material has evolved over the last 20 years. New processes and formulations have created material that not only survives the off-highway environment, but adds features that could have never been achieved with ferrous metal. Plastic has come a long way, and it is up to suppliers to educate engineers about the possibilities.
This year, igus® Inc. (it prefers the lower-case “i”), which produces Energy Chain Systems®, Chainflex® cables and iglide® plastic bearings, instituted the Y.E.S. (Young Engineers Support) Program to help foster the mechanical design ideas and inventions of students who have a passion for engineering.
Through the Y.E.S. Program, igus offers free product donations to students in the United States, Canada and Mexico for school projects and various design competitions, such as Dean Kamen’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition and BEST Robotics Inc.’s BEST (Boosting Science, Engineering and Technology) Robotics Competition.
In one application, students from the University of Rhode Island used igubal® spherical bearings to support the steering shaft of their off-road vehicle. The vehicle was designed by the seniors to survive the “severe punishment of off-road terrain” and provided them with a challenging project. Once the vehicle was completed, the team participated in the SAE Mini Baja East Competition in Canada and earned 22nd place out of 62 applicants.
“Igus has long been dedicated to helping students with an inclination towards engineering,” said Carsten Blase, vice president, igus, East Providence, RI. “With the Y.E.S. Program, we are formalizing that support. We are impressed with the various ways students have already used our products.”
Igus has a number of ways for potential customers already working in the field to learn about which of igus’ 28,000 standard components and 20 different materials options will work best in their application, including online tools and databases created on 20 years of research.
“For engineers who are in the exploration stage, we have a staff of design technicians who work with every customer to ensure the exact parameters of their application are understood and met,” says Farrah Phillipo, marketing manager, igus. “We want to decide what the right product solution is the first time.” Free samples are available so the OEM can do all of the testing themselves, as well.
“People don’t often think of plastic for difficult areas, especially more seasoned engineers. Twenty years ago, plastic couldn’t withstand everything it does today — it has gone through many changes, and today there is a plastic that can pretty much withstand anything metal can survive.”
For example: Harriston Ind., Minto, ND, replaced 144 bronze bearings on its six-row potato planter with iglide® J plastic bearings, which increased the bearing application’s lifespan by 500-600% and eliminated seizing and corrosion issues. The bearing also costs 70-80% less than the bronze.
With the Y.E.S. Program, igus is being proactive in getting the word out to the engineering community about what plastic can accomplish today. Its aims are two-fold: igus hopes to not only support young engineers, but also to build awareness about the advantages and merits of plastic components.
“These kids are in the schools, using our products and having fun with them,” says Phillipo. “Many of them will get jobs in the engineering field, and remember igus when they come across a similar application.”
The company has dedicated a section of its web site to showcasing various student designs (www.igus.com/yesprogram).
Help is around the corner
To propel his self-propelled ice-fishing house concept to market, Tom Lykken, president and CEO, SnoBear Ind., West Fargo, ND, has sought high-quality, local suppliers whenever possible. Below are some of the suppliers that have helped to make the SnoBear and SnoFox vehicles a reality.
- Transmission and differential components: Team Industries, Bagley, MN
- Differential crown and pinion gears: Marine Associates, Hudson, WI
- CVT belt drive: Comet Ind., Richmond, IN
- Pump, steering orb control: Sauer-Danfoss, with Power Beyond capability for lift
- Steering and lift cylinders with counter balance valves: Prince Hydraulics, North Sioux City, SD
- All laser cut parts, stampings and weldments are provided by Young Mfg., Grand Forks, ND
- HMW (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene) plastic and wheel components: PPD UHMV Industries, Madison, SD
- Composite floor: SpaceAge Synthetics, Fargo, ND
- Composite body adhesive: PLIOBOND elastomeric adhesives, Ashland Specialty Chemicals