Ball Bearings in Chemically Corrosive Environments

Though the film processing industry is in its inevitable decline with the advent of digital photography, the industry created some technologies that are simply too useful to allow to fade. Premier among these is the ball bearing for chemical environments. A unique combination of materials allows these bearings to operate completely non-lubricated in low to medium speeds and light to medium loads in all sorts of harsh chemical environments normally fatal to traditional bearings. New materials previously never considered for anti-friction bearings are now not only commonplace but also finding new and unique applications.

The primary bearing material used in film processing solutions was Acetel copolymer, (POM) which because of its hardness and self-lubricating properties made it excellent in the acidic film processing chemicals. Couple this material with chemically inert glass balls, and an ideal bearing to operate submerged in liquid transporting film at high speeds through the solution baths was created.

This ball bearing combination of Acetel rings and cage with glass balls is also very useful for many applications besides film processing. In many industrial processes using corrosive chemicals these bearings are ideal. Also food processing applications in such mixers and stirring apparatus, beverage bottling machinery, and other applications where rotating devices in contact with corrosive environments where sealed and lubricated bearings are not practical. For instance, food conveying applications that must be continually steam cleaned for sanitation. Another excellent application for these non-metallic ball bearings is for MRI, CT Scan, X-ray and microwave machines where no metals may be used.

316 Stainless steel bearings are another outgrowth of the film processing industry that has found their way into other corrosive environment applications. Non-lubricated stainless steel ball bearings are ideal for marine, salt spray environments and are used on ship hatches, doors, deck machinery, commercial fishing equipment, submersible equipment and many other places around ships. These are also ideal for chemical processing facilities, chemical loading equipment and conveyors, and other places where a heavily loaded non-lubricated bearing is required to be in contact with chemicals or materials that must be kept clean and lube free.

Plastic bearings with glass, or stainless steel balls also have another feature that makes them very unique and different their extremely low weight. In a compact application such as a surveillance camera, this low weight means very low inertia, so that very low power motors are needed to slew the cameras about. Ultra low starting and rotating friction and a no lubrication means that these can be used in applications needing a wide temperature range also.

Whenever unusual chemical environments are encountered, traditional greased and sealed ball bearings create the potential for a rapid failure due to corrosion. They also run the risk of introducing contaminants into the area when the grease, or the oil contained within the grease is released into the vicinity of the bearing. By substituting plastic or stainless steel bearings into the application, there is no necessity to lubricate the bearing, so no contaminants are present and if the material is properly selected, no corrosion occurs, greatly reducing maintenance and unscheduled system failures.