Down into the Japanese Islands

When traveling for thousands of miles like we are, it’s important to have a comfy seat! Worldwide, many manufacturers use iglide bearings to improve their seats’ performance and durability, including a customer we met with along our tour!

Down into the Japanese Islands

Many seat makers are utilizing iglide bearings for the seat height adjustment, reclining functions, crash-active headrests, and adjustment motors.  The bearings are perfect with their smooth motion. We retrofit our orange car with iglide, too. They help keep the seat adjustable without any added noise or mess.

Down into the Japanese Islands.2

Depending on the weight of the passenger, the bearings must endure high static loads. With the ability to support 100N/mm2, iglide bearings could carry even the heaviest sumo wrestler across Japan. While they are very strong, the bearings are also very lightweight, weighing in at 7x less than conventional metal bearings.

Down into the Japanese Islands.3

Japan is comprised of four large islands, including the mainland, where Tokyo and Hiroshima are located. From the mainland, we continued our tour onto the island of Kyushu, the third largest of the islands.

Kyushu is famous for its hot springs – everywhere you look you see pillars of steam coming from the ground. The number of springs is due to Japan’s unique geography. Japan is situated at the edge of 3 techtonic plates, the Pacific, Phillippine, and Eurasian plates. This not only makes Japan a great location for hot springs, but for volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.  We took our car to visit Mt. Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan.

Down into the Japanese Islands.4

The land surrounding the volcano is extremely fertile, so it becomes very green and lush. The volcano had its last eruption in 2011.

From Mt. Aso, we headed back North; driving about 500 miles straight towards the city of Nagoya. This racks in nearly 2000 miles in our Japanese tour alone!

I’ll let you know where we head from here,


A Rainbow Village, a mountain pass, and a customer visit

It only took a half-hour or so of driving away from our office in Taichung before it felt like we were in the middle of the rainforest – even down to the signs warning us of killer bees!!

A Rainbow Village, a mountain pass, and a customer visit

Just past the outskirts of Taichung, close to one of our customers, we came across the “Rainbow Village.”

A Rainbow Village, a mountain pass, and a customer visit.2

Several years ago, and 87 year old veteran, known now as Rainbow Grandpa, began painting his small, abandoned village. Out of bordom, mixed with the hope of saving his village, he began painting the walls, the doors, and even the ground. After years of work, Rainbow Grandpa’s plan worked, and his little abandoned village came back to life. In cooperation with the city of Taichung, the village was named a tourist attraction, quickly becoming famous.

A Rainbow Village, a mountain pass, and a customer visit.3

From the colorful Rainbow Village, we headed into the center of Taiwan, where huge mountains separate East from West. To pass these mountains, you venture across the famous mountain roads that lead you up nearly 10,500 feet! We started up the road, and what started out as a sunny day quickly changed, facing us with high winds, heavy rain, and fog – very dangerous on a mountain pass. Our iglide bearings in the car were reliable as always. We had replaced two metal rolled bearings with our plastic plain bearings in the belt tensioner of the iglide car. The plastic bearings allowed for smooth operation of the alternator, even in environments like this!

Not surprisingly, these and the 54 other plastic bearings fared the storm just fine, and we were able to safely pass through the mountains.

A Rainbow Village, a mountain pass, and a customer visit.4

A trip up a mountain like this puts a high demand on your car. Everything needs to work well, as a small failure could have tremendous consequences in a situation like this! The belt tensioner where we installed our iglide bearings, is one component to help your car meet your demands. The tensioner provides the right amount of stress to the engine belts through a tensioner pulley. Doing this ensures other components, like the alternator or power steering, operate smoothly.

One of our customers from the area is a belt-tensioner specialist, and utilize igus products in them. The belt is located on a self-made ball bearing. The ball bearing is located on top of iglide J, which connects the bearing to the shaft. The iglide J supports the work of  the belt-tensioner, while rotating and dampening the vibration. Before the customer had used a different plastic bearing before disovering iglide, but made the switch when he found it had a better wear performance at the high-frequency motions required, and also has a lower coefficient of friction.

A Rainbow Village, a mountain pass, and a customer visit.5

I’ll update you again about the tour, we’re heading North now!


Re-introducing the ‘iglide on tour’ car!

Hi everyone! We’ve all been enjoying the exciting journey of our iglide car across India, China, and now traveling onto South Korea. We’ve enjoyed seeing exotic landscapes, interesting customers, and the fun incidents that happen with any road trip, but what about our little orange car?

If you haven’t heard, we at igus are celebrating the 30th anniversary of our iglide self-lubricating plastic bearings. Seeing as this anniversary ties in perfectly with igus’ 50th birthday, we decide to celebrate in style. Our ‘iglide on tour’ car was stripped down entirely, then reassembled before hitting the road, specially retrofit with 56 plastic iglide bearing components to be put to the ultimate test – 60,000 miles in 9 months around the globe.

The bearings our team installed into the car are working in applications from the windshield wipers and window regulators, to the throttle valve and gear shift. From now on, we will continue to follow Sascha and the iglide car on their travels, but also explore more about what those 56 iglide bearings are doing, and why they’re a great solution for cars, trucks, and tons of other applications.

Lets’s take a look at the first place we’re using iglide inside:

Before sending an orange customized car on a 60,000 mile world tour, igus replaced 56 of the car’s standard parts with iglide plastic bearings, including one bearing in the throttle valve.

The throttle takes the place of a carburetor on newer vehicles, and works by directly regulating the amount of air able to enter the engine, indirectly controlling the engine’s charge (the combination of fuel and air).

In the throttle valve, a combination aluminum/plastic bearing from an unknown manufacturer was stripped out, and retrofit with a standard iglide X6 bushing. The X6 material is extraordinarily resistant against high temperatures, and has a lifetime 6 times longer than its predecessor, iglide T500, in high temperature applications. The X6 bearing is able to withstand the long-term application temperatures that a bearing would experience inside the throttle valve. The material is resistant to temperatures of up to 482ºF, and short term application temperatures of 599º are possible. Very low temperature applications are also possible with X6, as low as -148º – much lower than any car would typically encounter. The iglide X6 material also has up to 50% better press-fit with higher temperatures, meaning that it is resistant to relaxation up to 329ºF. At this point, the bearing should be axially secured, whereas iglide T500 must be secured at 275ºF. All plastics will relax once they reach a certain temperature, meaning they will shrink down to the size of the space they are pressed into.

The iglide X6 material is also resistant against a number of caustic materials, most importantly the gasoline and diesel fuels that the throttle comes into constant contact with, and it also possesses a very low moisture absorption rate to minimize the risk of the bearing swelling and eliminating necessary clearance. X6, like all iglide materials, has very low wear and friction characteristics, and is self-lubricating and maintenance-free thanks to the materials inclusion of tiny particles of solid lubricant that coat the shaft as friction occurs.

In this particular application, the bearing in the throttle valve moves in an oscillating fashion against the partner pin which is made from steel. The function of the bearing is to provide the rotational movement of the throttle valve mechanism. The iglide X6 material, like all iglide bearing materials, has been extensively tested in a variety of real-life application settings. The results from these tests have been compiled into an extensive database, which was used to create a lifetime prediction calculator for iglide bearings.

Celebrating 30 years of iglide with a tour around the world

To celebrate 30 years of their iglide plastic bearings, igus is sending its little car on a big trip around the world. Last year, 200 million iglide bearings were installed in cars and trucks, and now igus is truly putting them to the test. The iglide car has been retrofit with 56 iglide bearings in areas including the alternator, gear shift, window regulators, convertible top, pedals, and more.

Starting in India, the car will be shipped across oceans, then drive across countries, stopping along the way at igus customers, subsidiaries, partners, and trade shows, connecting igus worldwide. On July 20th, the car will arrive in the US via Anchorage, Alaska, where it will begin its journey from ocean to ocean on a ten-week North American tour before continuing on to Europe. The tour ends in Germany at the Hannover K Trade Fair, where the car will be stripped down to see how the bearings fared their worldwide journey.

For more information, visit

Fourth week of retrofitting!

The deadline is drawing near…

…and our car for “iglide on tour” is just entering the last phase of the retrofitting! The windshield wiper mechanism bearings still need replacing, sliding blocks for the convertible top still need to be manufactured, and… the car still needs to be reassembled! We’re getting short on time, but the flight to India is booked for January 20th; there’s no turning back now!

Here are some details of what’s still ahead for our little car:

1.)   The sliding blocks that guide the convertible top have been redesigned with CAD, and 3D drafts have been printed; now comes the time to investigate whether the 3D printed draft bearings the team redesigned will fit properly, or if it’s back to the drawing board. If the new iglide parts don’t fit well, the convertible top will not be functional, and it would be nice to have a breeze on the roads of Brazil, and through the desert in the western US!  The part of the sliding blocks that give clearance to the top was a real challenge for the team, as the piece the team redesigned and remanufactured was not quite flexible enough. Through a stroke of genius, however, they came up with the idea to use a steel spring with a sliding layer.

First picture: the trouble replacement in the convertible top is marked with an orange arrow.

Second picture: The piece enabling clearance to the top is marked with an orange line

2). The windshield wiper mechanism bearings that are to be replaced allow the wipers to move. Our team will replace to original bearings with iglide here.

3.) The car is still naked!!! It needs its shiny orange exterior replaced before it can go anywhere!

Four bearings to be replaced are circled above in orange.

Though there’s still a lot to do and time is not on our side, it should be mentioned how much has been accomplished since our last post!  Here’s what the team has gotten done in the last week:

Gear module: In the gear module, 4 bearings have been replaced. Two thick-walled metal bearings that lock the gears in place have been substituted with iglide bearings. These bearings will not only move around the standing shaft, but also endure changing radial forces. For the shaft, the team had to take low mechanical properties into account, as the new bearings are made from plastic. Usually, this plastic-on-plastic combination leads to a high rate of attrition, and a great deal of heat is created with no way to dissipate it. The team chose iglide P210 material bearing as a replacement, which can handle this hostile environment.

Two bearings at the upper part of the gear shift have also been replaced. The original lubricated clip bearings have been swapped out for iglide dry-running replacements. These bearings balance the forces that emerge at a swivel angle when shifting between reverse and the forward gears.

The brake pedal: Here, the team changed 2 bearings. When the driver brakes, the pedal slides along 2 iglide plastic bearings on a bolt that connects the pedal to the rest of the car’s body.

The seat: Because we couldn’t change things in the car that might affect the driver’s safety, the team only changed bearings in the unlocking mechanism that serves to adjust the seat. iglide bearings are guiding the bar that unlocks the seat in order to move it forward or backward.  From the size of the car I don’t think we’ll move it forward much!!

The window regulator: Before the remodeling, the pulley that guides the regulator cable was directly located on a bolt. Now, an iglide bearing is connecting the pulley to the bolt, allowing frictionless movement.

Handbrake: The team went through the same process as with the window regulators. The hand lever was originally attached directly to the bolt connecting the lever to the car’s body. Now, the lever is gliding over an igus bearing that was placed between the two.

Throttle valve: Last but not least, the throttle valve has been placed on a moveable bolt embedded in 2 iglide bearings.

Will the car be finished on time? We’ll let you know at the press conference January 20th from our Cologne office.  Until then, keep your fingers crossed for the team!!

Third week of retrofitting

Now we get to the good stuff!!

Our smart car for “iglide on tour” shows us what´s inside

The retrofitting now goes one step further!

Now it is time to start dealing with the starter. One one hand, it is used to crank the engine to get it started, and on the other hand, is used to produce electricity. In this car, the starter is fixed to a movable bolt. Allowing the bolt to move enables radial and axial movements to balance out vibrations. This ensures that the strap, which connects starter and crank shaft, is under tension at all times. The bolt, holding the starter, is fixed by two bearings. They enable the movements and are going to be replaced by iglide plastic bearings.

The metal bearings that will be substituted by iglide

The bolt that carries the starter

Also, the suspension strut, which so kindly prevents the driver from smashing their head on the ceiling after hitting a bump, is brought to focus. More precisely, we are going to examine the rolling bearing, which is located above the suspension to ensure its axial alignment. As it is frequently in use, it has to be able to endure pressure and friction over a long period of time.

This bearing is planned to be replaced with an igus bearing specifically manufactured to endure pressures up to about 2,420 pounds.  Nevertheless, there are two challenges with this bearing: The original bearing was not the same size, which leads to the question: can this iglide bearing be used, or does a new one have to be specially manufactured? Furthermore, the suspension is bolted the rolling bearing. Thus the iglide bearing has to be adapted. Will the suspension works afterwards or shall we pick out a helmet to wear in the car? And will we still be able to steer the car after the bearing has been replaced?

The original bearing (right) and the possible igus bearing (left).

Johannes Thomé is showing where the bearing is located

The throttle valve got examined too! Throttle valves are located in the air-intake manifold of a car. Modern engines not only need fuel, but the right ratio of fuel to air. How much air is being sucked in is determined by how fast we accelerate and drive. It is placed on a shaft, which is moved by a small electro engine, and embedded in two bearings. These will be replaced by iglide plastic bearings.

The throttle valve

Last but not least, this week we looked at the handbrake (also called an emergency or parking brake by our international friends). The brake lever is connected to a module located on the car body. It is going to be investigated if the lever is connected through a replaceable bearing or just a metal bolt. The results from our investigation will decide whether or not we replace it with an iglide bearing.

The handbrake (emergency/parking brake)

Interview with Johannes Thomé

Johannes Thomé is in charge of the retrofitting and preparation of the iglide car for its round the world trip.

Johannes Thomé began his career with an apprenticeship as an automotive mechatronics engineer before attending college. After acquiring his Bachelor’s degree at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences in Automotive Engineering, he decided to deepen his knowledge with a Master’s study. Simultaneously, he works as a research assistant at the Institute of Vehicle Safety, Technology and Design.

Hi Johannes, thanks for giving this interview. You have been working on the car for weeks now. What parts have you replaced so far?

So far bearings at the brake pedal, control gear, seat bracket, handbrake lever, starter, throttle valve and all bearings of the convertible top.

You guys have already done a lot. I guess there are also challenges and problems occurring when remodeling a car in a way like this. What has been the biggest challenge so far? 

It’s hard to say what has challenged me most. I kind of like challenges, and I´m thinking positively, always following the phrase: “The impossible gets done at once, but miracles take a bit longer.” Seriously I think that the main challenge has been the convertible top. It’s been very difficult and a lot of work to assemble it so that it works properly again. The kinematics has to be very precise so that the convertible top doesn´t jam while moving. To disassemble the top to its smallest fractions was risky, as we later have to put it perfectly together again. Nevertheless, the lifting mechanism is already incorporated and working well. In this context I would like to mention Mr. Michael Krug of igus, who is doing a great job in the framework of this project by adjusting bearings and helping us to always choose the perfect product. The cooperation is really great!

Above, Thomé replaces an original bearing with an iglide plastic bearing in the convertible top.

Which parts make you skeptical and question their durability?

To be honest, the strut bearing gave me headaches. We thought about replacing it with an igus standard bearing, but due to the high dynamic forces it would have to endure, we decided against it. It is not that I don´t have confidence in igus plastic, but I think that an around-the-world tour is not the best scenario for a first test. That this bearing works is crucial for the safety of the driver, and safety is always the main priority. We don´t want to risk it without testing it before. After the world tour we will come back and do some testing on this.

The bearing at the suspension strut, which was eventually left with the original bearing.

What areas do you still have to replace parts?

In the upper part of the convertible top are two bearings on each side that we will replace.

Furthermore, the convertible top is guided by sliding blocks. Currently I’m working out by hand with CAD a new, adjustable version of these parts. The initially planned 3D scan is, due to the complexity, not feasible. With the help of the CAD-models, the parts are then going to be printed with a 3D printer in conventional ABS plastic. Afterwards we will test their accuracy of the fit. Last but not least, we have the window mechanisms, where we will change the guide pulleys that guide the cable.

Second week of retrofitting!

What’s going on here??

Our car for “iglide on tour” has been stripped down!

Over the course of the next few weeks, the car will be completely dismantled. For the initial step, the car will put on a lift, so the engine may be lowered and the team can examined to determine if we can replace any bearings in the starter.

Simultaneously, the areas that have been already dismantled are going to be examined closely as well. In cooperation with the German Technical Control Board (TÜV), igus employees investigated which original smart car parts are replaceable with iglide bearings, and which bearings would be the most suitable.

Some of these changes are no challenge at all for the specialists at work from the University of Applied Sciences; for instance the bearings in the brake pedal. These were easily switched out for iglide standard bearings.

The brake pedal, where two bearings will be replaced

On the contrary, other parts offer surprises and challenges,  for instance with the convertible top:

A surprise: The convertible top contains steel bearings! They will be substituted by iglide plastic bearings, joining the other iglide bearings chosen to travel on a 60,000 mile journey. By doing this, we are proving that we have confidence in our products, and that our plastic bearings are on a par with their steel counterparts.

Some of these changes are no challenge at all for the specialists at work from the University of Applied Sciences; for instance the bearings in the brake pedal. These were easily switched out for iglide standard bearings.

The convertible top, and a set of iglide bearings

A challenge: Bearings in the convertible top are riveted into place, and therefore can only be replaced forcefully. Furthermore, those bearings, which are guiding the convertible top, aren’t standard catalog parts; meaning that igus substitutes need to be manufactured! Will the convertible top still work? Will it still protect us from rain, mud and extraordinary weather conditions on this incredible trip? Only time will tell!

First image: The area of the convertible top containing riveted bearings
Second image: Students examine the bearings that guide the convertible top

The driver and passenger side door window regulators used rivited bearings. Will the doors and windows work after replacing the original bearings with iglide? Is it also possible to recreate the sliding carriages and to adapt them to the system?

The window regulator with riveted bearings

First week of retrofitting!

Around the world in 9 months!

Our car for “iglide on tour” is going to drive not only on conventional roads, but also on rougher terrain along fields, mountains, forests to visit customers, branches and applications of iglide bearings. India, China, South Korea, Japan, the United States, Canada, Brazil and almost all of Europe are destinations on this extraordinary tour.

At the Cologne University of Applied Sciences in Germany, students are working under the instruction of Johannes Thome to prepare the car for its trip. Over the course of the next four weeks, various bearings will be replaced by igus parts, which will be put on the ultimate test when travelling more than 60,000 miles around the globe. At the 2015 K fair, the car will be disassembled on-site at the show to truly see how these bearings stood up to the round-the-world challenge.

Currently, students have already removed the car’s body panels to access areas to be worked on. Next, they will analyze how certain bearings in the car could be replaced. The back of the car’s body, as well as the doors had been removed too. There, iglide bearings will replace the standard parts in the window regulator and door.

The body panels of the car (left) and the front of the car where will work on the linkage of the windshield wipers and the gear shift

The doors had been removed to access the window regulator