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A team of undergraduate mechanical and electrical engineers from the University of Huddersfield competed in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Railway Challenge, at the Stapleford Miniature Railway, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

Up against teams of students, apprentices and graduates from other UK universities and industry, the HudRail team had to design and build a miniature (10¼” gauge) railway locomotive. The train then had to compete in a number of track-based and presentation challenges including: energy storage; traction; ride comfort; noise; maintainability; and energy efficiency.

Thanks to the igus Young Engineers Support (YES) programme, which includes access to free product donations for students involved in design competitions and projects, the HudRail team was able to source one of the fundamental components for its entry – bearings.

“The Igus plastic spherical bearings used on the locomotive’s traction rod were of great help, providing us with specific advantages that would not have been possible to match with conventional metal-based bearings,” explains Ryan Robinson from the HudRail team.

The use of pivoting bearings is often associated with heavyweight materials, difficult installation and high costs. Most will require regular maintenance and are not usually corrosion resistant. Roller or plain bearings can malfunction prematurely due to high edge loads, or because they need to be readjusted, reamed or refitted in order to compensate for alignment errors.

Igus spherical bearings are not affected by these issues: made of the innovative Iglidur material they are easy to fit, cost-effective, lightweight and robust. They can be used in harsh environments, because the tribopolymer material is self-lubricating. The bearings also come with self-aligning features that offer many design advantages and help simplify assembly.

“One of the key benefits that stood out for us was that the igus bearings were resistant to dirt, dust and corrosion,” says Ryan Robinson. “Another advantage was that they were particularly good at vibration damping. Our locomotive was the most powerful one at the competition, but with that power also came the issue of vibration. After researching the market for bearings that could withstand this level of vibration, we determined the igus spherical bearings to have superior vibration damping properties.”

These qualities are of particular value on the underside of the locomotive. The working environment of a train is often a harsh one; finding a bearing capable of withstanding a constant bombardment of dirt and dust is essential and contributed to the success of the locomotive.

Igus

Igus is the largest producer of reinforced plastic energy chains and injection-moulded polymer bearings. The range of polymer bearings includes Iglidur plain, Igubal spherical and Drylin linear bearings. They offer an excellent price-to-life relationship and are developed under the toughest conditions. They are oil, maintenance and lubrication free, low wear, resistant to dirt and dust, corrosion free and simple to fit. Igus also has the data to precisely predict the lifetime of these bearings within a specific application.

Igus is the largest producer of reinforced plastic energy chains and injection-moulded polymer bearings. The range of polymer bearings includes Iglidur plain, Igubal spherical and Drylin linear bearings. They offer an excellent price-to-life relationship and are developed under the toughest conditions. They are oil, maintenance and lubrication free, low wear, resistant to dirt and dust, corrosion free and simple to fit. Igus also has the data to precisely predict the lifetime of these bearings within a specific application.

Energy chains are the umbilical cord of modern machines. They minimise downtime and protect, support and extend the service life of cables and hoses. The broad range incorporates more than 30,000 innovative, low-cost products. From the smallest ‘micro’ chain to the largest chain in the world, the E4.350, Igus energy chains are capable of long and short travel distances at high speeds in all axes.

Igus also has its own cable series, Chainflex, specially designed with energy chains in mind. They are highly flexible cables, offering a long service life and very small bending radii. A wide range is available, from small signal cables to large power cables, high-speed data cables and glass fibre-optic cables.

The company’s energy chains and Chainlflex cables can be delivered as a fully harnessed and pre-assembled Readychain system, cutting purchasing, warehousing and installation costs.

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