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Polymer plain bearing for flight altitude world record

Light and fail-safe components in almost oxygen-free atmosphere

India: Industrialist and flyer Dr. Vijaypat Singhania established a new world record for flight altitude in a hot-air balloon. Precisely 21,290 meters.
The decisive factor for the tremendous altitude (for the design engineers as well) was the light, fail-safe iglidur® polymer plain bearings from igus® GmbH, Cologne, the polymer researchers and bearing specialists.

Plastic bearings in pressure capsule, escape hatches and lower seat structure

A conventional hot-air balloon has a large overhead valve. If the balloon is to go down, the pilots pull a cord to open this parachute valve. This mechanism is now accommodated in the pressure capsule, where two hand wheels have been installed on either side of the pilot's seat. These are linked to a drum outside the capsule through a shaft mounted with iglidur® plastic plain bearings. Pilot Singhania could open and close the parachute valve using the cranks.

Second, plastic plain bearings from igus® were used for the operating lever of the main and emergency escape hatches. Last, the iglidur® bearing enabled Elson to construct a lightweight, gliding lower seat structure, built-in with a pair of variable, gas-operated struts, which could absorb major part of the impact in case of a rough landing. This reduced the risk of the pilots getting injured.

Pilot landed safely with the pressure capsule after breaking the altitude record

Pressure capsule in which the plastic bearings were used

 
Wear resistant in high loads and strong vibrations

The director of the project, Andy Elson, Flying Pictures Space ltd.: For our project we needed plain bearings that were completely fail-safe and extremely lightweight. They also had to cope with extreme temperatures and the dirt and mud on the Indian fields during takeoff and landing. "The iglidur® G plain bearings were used, over 650 dimensions supplied from the igus® stock, universally applicable at extremely high loads and strong vibrations, as well as insensitive to dirt, and the iglidur® W300 bearings which are extremely wear-resistant, even with coarse shafts or in extremely abrasive environmental conditions.

5,000 plain bearing tests are conducted every year

Tilt test stand at the igus® factory in Cologne

 
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Further interesting applications from extremely diverse areas can be found here