Friction is defined by “the rubbing of one body against another,” which ultimately leads to wear. This directly affects production efficiency by slowing down machine processes and leads to maintenance, servicing and replacement costs. Materials with more abrasive surfaces such as metal are more susceptible to wear than plastic. Moreover, certain processes generate repeated friction over long periods of time, eventually damaging the materials. For this reason, it is essential to avoid premature wear, especially in industrial environments where corrosion and abrasion are common. This can easily be achieved by using plastic materials, which will force surfaces to slide on one another thanks to their low coefficient of friction. When used properly, certain polymers can therefore replace metal parts, increasing not only the service life of the equipment but also production capacity.
Thermoplastics are ideal in situations where low friction is required, such as goods sliding on a conveyor or parts sliding on one another. They provide many advantages such as increased wear resistance, an extremely low coefficient of friction, a lightness unmatched by traditional materials and effective reduction of noise resulting from contact, such as steel on steel. Moreover, thermoplastic machinery parts generate less heat due to their low coefficient of friction, extending the service life of parts and reducing maintenance time and costs. Self-lubricating plastics also keep goods intact by lowering damage risks and provide resistance to shocks due to their flexibility.
Choosing the right plastics
Many plastics offer ingenious solutions to optimize factory production. Plastics with a low coefficient of friction include the UHMW family and self-lubricating nylons. The latter even have enhanced properties, as they contain additives that increase wear resistance and decrease the coefficient of friction.
Wear plates and strips
Wear plates and strips made of UHMW allow goods to move more easily and preserve their integrity by reducing damage risks that can occur from contact with metal strips. Strips made of plastic with a low coefficient of friction are an excellent solution for handling equipment, as they allow for a constant flow of materials by facilitating movement. For a distribution centre where the movement of objects is essential, thermoplastic will often prevent products such as boxes from getting damaged on metal strips, or glass bottles from getting scratched or broken when coming into contact with metal guardrails. The speed of production will therefore be increased. In addition, there will be less wear on strips and products, extending the time needed between maintenance periods.
Hoppers and chutes
There is also a range of possibilities for optimizing hoppers and chutes. Lining them with thermoplastic materials offers many advantages, as it not only promotes movement but also prevents blockage, material bridging and agglomeration on the walls, all of which impede flow. Polymers solve blockage problems and promote uniform flow, therefore reducing the frequency of shutdowns to dislodge agglomerated material. Since the plastic will wear out instead of the metal walls, thermoplastics also protect the equipment by keeping materials intact.
Bulk material handling
As for bulk material handling, several projects can also improve flow. For example, UHMW rods will push bulk products towards the centre of the conveyor, positioning them properly and helping them travel in a straight line. This prevents objects from falling off the conveyor, therefore reducing losses. The use of thermoplastics, such as UHMW and self-lubricating nylons, offers many advantages in the manufacturing sector by creating a smoother process and extending the service life of parts and goods. Many parts can be produced using these plastics to replace those made from more traditional materials. Custom plastic parts can also be designed to meet specific needs and constraints.