The manus award is a joint initiative which the plastics specialist igus announces every two years. More than 3,000 contestants from across the globe have entered the competition in recent years, which honours the creative use of polymer plain bearings in industrial applications. This year, the manus award celebrates its tenth anniversary. A good reason to look back: what has become of the last nine winners and their projects? The Industrieanzeiger made enquiries.
To make sure bottles are cleaned, Krones AG makes bottle cleaning machines for the beverage industry. In the machines, conveyor chains transport the bottle carriers. The bottle carriers go through different treatment areas. The main cleaning takes place in 80°C soda lye. To design the conveyor chains as a smooth running chain even under challenging conditions, Krones AG used plain bearings made from a customised high-performance polymer. Today, the materials iglidur J and iglidur X6 are the best choice to take on all challenges in practice. The lubrication-free and dirt-resistant polymer plain bearings were produced by igus in Cologne with special geometries via injection moulding. They minimise the coefficient of friction of the washing chain significantly and hence increase the energy efficiency and durability of the system. These important criteria led to Krones AG winning the first gold manus award in 2003. We discussed the project with Mr. Michael Siegmund, Head of Cleaning Technology at Krones AG.
A lot has happened since 2003. We still produce the bottle cleaning machine for our global customers. For this purpose, we have further optimised the plain bearings used in the washing chain together with igus. We tried other geometries and different materials and carried out tests to increase the durability and resistance to chemicals. We finally managed to improve the service life of the washing chain and the coefficient of friction of the wear-resistant part. As a reference, we used iglidur J as plain bearing material because this has always proven successful in our machines.
Basically, the machine that won the manus award in 2003 is still being produced today, but in an improved version. The main functions and elements are still the same. We sold more than 500 of this machine type around the world. There are between 400 and 3,000 plain bearings in one machine. The number depends on the size of the system. The service life of a machine is between 5 and 20 years, depending on the operation. We also used proven elements of the bottle cleaning machine for the development of new systems.
It was important for us to reduce the chain's coefficient of friction and hence decrease the drive loads and wear. Due to the experience of igus in the area of beverage technology, we decided on polymer plain bearings, and have had a close and successful working relationship with igus for almost 20 years and rely on the "low-friction bushings".
In the current series of the bottle cleaning machine, we are counting on a new system with servo drive, which allows us to react more sensitively to changes. We want to optimise the machine further and protect it during operation via drive data, but also by means of digital solutions for predictive maintenance.
In the area of pasteurisers, i.e. in machines for preserving bottles and cans, rollers made of an iglidur material specifically developed for this application have been used very successfully in the conveyor belts for several years. We also realised further projects with igus plain and spherical bearings in the insertion area of the bottle cleaning machine.
This year, too, the jury under Werner Götz's patronage will be looking for unique applications with polymer plain bearings. The winner will receive prize money of up to 5,000 euros. For the first time, the contestants have the chance to win a green manus award for the use of plain bearings in a sustainable project. You can find more information at: www.manus-award.com