What has become of the manus winners?

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

In 2007, the manus jury awarded the gold manus award to a splitting machine for leather production, "Autosplit-D3". Unfavourable environmental conditions such as humidity, greases and chemicals combined with high processing speed requirements and, above all, accuracy were the prerequisites for this application. When developing the machine, the responsible engineering office decided on the extensive use of polymer plain bearings, which work reliably in these conditions. Altogether, 239 iglidur plain bearings were installed. We spoke to the inventor of the leather splitting machine, Dr. Dorstewitz.

Mr. Dorstewitz, what has happened since you won the manus award?

We are still a small engineering office, and since the 1990s, our competences have been setting up systems and plant for tanneries and the meat industry. In recent years, in addition to the excellent splitting machine for leather production, we have also implemented other projects in the meat industry. Here we design machines that produce an edible sausage skin. In all plant - and there are several hundred - we rely on igus polymer plain bearings, as they are lubrication-free, hygienic, easy to clean and, depending on the material, FDA-compliant, so we can use them in contact with food. Recently, we have installed several thousand bearings in our machines around the world, and are convinced by the technology and the durability.

manus winner 2007

What has the sausage skin got to do with leather production?

Both products are obtained from different layers of animal skin. After the depilation, the splitting machine splits the skins into layers of a certain thickness. The upper layer, the grain split, is used for leather production, while the lower layer, the flesh split, is mostly used for making sausage skins. For example, most fried sausages consist of cattle skin collagen, which is located in the flesh split.

What is the current situation of the manus project?

Altogether, the splitting machine was built five times. And all five machines are still running in the world's largest tanneries in Germany. The companies that operate the machines, do not want anything else. Unfortunately, the business that wanted to enter series production went bankrupt, so we had to build the five machines ourselves, under our own direction. That was unusual for our engineering office, as we normally only design machines and then operate them after completion. If a development is in demand two or three times, it is of course nice to see that the concept has proven successful. However, I am a person who is always keen to do something new.

How did winning the manus award influence your project?

The manus award motivated me to try even more polymer plain bearing technology products. For example, igus set up a test rig in Cologne, specifically for one of our applications. They wanted to find a material that operated smoothly at high temperatures with a VA shaft and had a long service life. This is what the engineers at igus realised. I myself would not have managed to carry out such an endurance test for several months.

manus winner 2007

Have you worked on new applications with igus since you won the manus award? If so, which ones?

Yes, there were several. One example: I design conveyor belts for the food industry, which are also used for producing sausage skins. There, I installed a special igubal fixed flange bearing from igus. It has a diameter of 50 millimetres and compensates offset angles, while being very durable and lubrication-free.

What is your plan for the future?

I am 79 years old and still have a lot of ideas, but I am not going to realise many projects myself any more. My team, however, will continue developing machines for the meat industry.

Thank you for the interview.

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