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Self-lubricating Plastic Gears Challenge Metals

SpecialChem / Nov 29, 2005

Plastic gears are replacing metal gears at an ever-accelerating rate in all the standard gearing applications -- automobiles, home appliances, industrial machinery, computers and electronics, and medical equipment. That is because plastic gears are lower in cost, lighter weight and possess greater design flexibility than their metal counterparts. The first generation of plastic gears typically required external lubricants, such as oils and greases, to reduce wear and prolong their lifetimes. But many plastic gears in use today do not need external lubrication. Instead they are made of resins with inherent lubricity, or are compounded with additives that reduce their coefficients of friction during contact with other gears. Self-lubricating or not, plastic gears are not necessarily drop-in replacements for metals. Plastics have different behavior than metals when exposed to high-temperatures, extreme forces and other stressful environments; these differences must be understood by designers to avoid premature failure of the plastic parts.

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