Plastic vs Metal Bearings

              top ten

Many engineers are reluctant to use plastic in place of metal in their applications. With metal having been the only choice for so long, and now the conventional material choice, it is understandable that many find themselves hesitant to turn away from the default.  At Vanderveer Industrial Plastics, we know plastic is the way to go and we think you’ll agree after you read our top reasons!

Bearings are a component that was once commonly made of metals, but with the advancements being made in plastics these days, plastic bearings are making headway. Increasing amounts of engineers are coming around to what we at Vanderveer Industrial Plastics already know - those plastics are more versatile, economical, and cleaner. Nylon, Teflon, PEEK, Polyethylene are all available as a low-cost material and suitable for use in plastic bearings. Generally speaking, plastic bearings are made of a thermoplastic alloy with a fiber matrix and solid lubricants, which accounts for their superior strength and consistently low coefficient of friction.


Below are the top ten reasons we at Vanderveer Industrial Plastics believe you should make the switch to plastic in your applications!


Many plastics are cheaper than metals.  In some cases up to 25% cheaper.


After installation, you will find plastic bearings have a lengthy lifespan and do not need to be replaced as quickly as other alternatives.  The downside to metal bearings - corrosion can cause them to freeze in place, making them virtually impossible to remove without cutting.  The upside is found in plastic bearing usage as they are easily removable. Which leads us into the next reason why plastic is better than metal!


Corrosion is the leading reason for bearing failures today. Dependent on your plastic choice, your plastic bearings will resist corrosion over time.  Plastic bearings machined at Vanderveer Industrial Plastics can be utilized in environments destructive to conventional (metal) bearings. You can even have those plastic bearings operate in such hostile environments as sea water.


Along with being corrosion resistant, plastic bearing are also chemical resistant! Plastic bearings are more resistant to various chemicals and substances than their metal counterparts. They are even resistant to the scratching and wearing that occur with metal bearings. Meaning their low coefficient of friction is maintained, moving smoothly with minimum interference.

You can find more information about the chemical resistance of our various materials in our product literature.


Metal Bearings require lubrication for three reasons - to reduce friction, dissipate heat, and resist corrosion. Plastic, as we have mentioned, is corrosion resistant. Plastic bearings have no metal to metal contact, resulting in less friction, so dissipating heat becomes less critical.

The inherent qualities of plastic bearings are noticeable once they start turning, as the plastic lubricates the bearing, reducing any delay in start-up and keeping the area clean. Microscopic bits of the bearing are worn away with friction and simultaneously serve to lubricate the bearing at the outset. You will notice a negligible change to the bearing itself.  Another benefit to being self-lubricating is the usage of plastic bearings in food applications since the FDA strictly limits the use of lubricants in food-production equipment.


Five times lighter than steel, plastics thereby reduce the weight and energy required to move them.


Plastics have the inherent ability to dampen vibrations with lubrication, becoming virtually silent. 


Plastic bearings can operate continuously at any temperature between -40°F and 500°F and withstand peak temperatures of up to 600°F. Plastic bushings can be just as strong as metal ones but with thinner walls, typically ranging from 0.0468”-0.0625” thick. The thinner walls are better at dissipating heat, leading to both the greater operating range and reduced wear.  In addition, the thin walls are lighter and less likely to deform, making them good for applications where weight is an issue.


Plastics are elastic in nature, making them better at absorbing shock loads when compared to metals.


Many times a bearing is mounted into another part, such as a plastic pulley, sprocket, wheel or a mounted block. All of which can be machined in house at Vanderveer Industrial Plastics.

There are many reasons to use plastics and plastic bearings for all your applications and this list just skims the surface. Contact our sales team today to find out how to have the best possible plastic bearings machined for you!

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