Changing Gear: The Use Of Polymer Plain Bearings In Vehicles

Categories: Application, Polymers

The Gearbox

Maybe plastic isn’t the first thing you think of when you think about your gearbox. Generally, you would expect the components in your shift stick to be made of something a lot more durable than that.

But that is without considering what custom plastic machining of high- performance polymers could do.

 So, in your gearbox, you would have shift forks, which work together to change the gears. As they shift, the forks lock into the shift collar to affect the chosen gears. By locking together, they can change the gear of the car.

When they move, the shift forks create a straight motion onto the shaft. On top of this, there’s a jerk-like movement of the shift collar and the fork. It is the combined motion and high rotation speed which will eventually have a detrimental effect on the condition of the shift fork.

With this in mind, the more enduring the shift forks bearings are, the longer the life of the gearbox.

But can a fabricated plastic component – even a high-performance polymer cut it, in the high temperatures and extreme vibrations of a gearbox?

It is necessary for the polymer bearing to be able to endure in temperatures which can be very high and still be able to make a linear movement and connect with the shift forks.

Fortunately, this is possible using some high-performance polymers.

Other Applications

In addition to their use in the gearbox, higher quality of polymers are rapidly being used in other areas of the automotive industry.

As automation in our cars increases and the demand for quality grows, actuators are shrinking in size. This means the components in them need ingenious design solutions.

Moving parts need to be kept moving without the need for lubrication and with this in mind, components using a lubrication-free design are crucial.

Lead screws and screw nuts can be manufactured by combining stainless steel with a high-performance polymer to create a product with much greater efficiency, a quieter service, and no need for lubrication. It is unaffected by dirt and dust and can be produced to very high standards indeed.

This combination of metal and polymer can result in a screw that may last up to five times the length of a conventional one.

 Maybe it is time to rethink the use of materials within the components for the automotive industry?