case studies bronze to plastic

Project Details

Application: Metal-to-plastic needle bearing replacement


Customer: Multi-billion dollar powertrain component manufacturer for the automotive industry

Industry: Automotive


The Objective

Convert a metal rolling element bearing to a one-piece, high-performance plastic bearing. The customer was currently purchasing a metal rolling element bearing from a related entity. The metal rolling element bearing had a shaft going through its inside diameter (ID) and the bearing was falling off the shaft during preproduction tests by the automotive OEM.

The customer was looking to improve bearing retention — so the bearing would not fall off the shaft — and lower per unit costs.

The Challenge

At the time, Allegheny Performance Plastics has successfully designed many metal to plastic conversions, but the idea to convert a metal rolling element bearing to a one-piece, high-performance plastic bearing was a first-of-its-kind.

Allegheny Performance Plastics engineering and design team went out to meet the customer with its in-house tribology data in-hand to immediately narrow down the material selection.  From there, a collaborative design effort began.

There were many challenges to design this needle bearing, including how to design oil channels for appropriate cooling, how to build a mold because of the unique geometries of the part and how to build in a feature the would prevent the plastic needle bearing from falling off the shaft.

Allegheny Performance Plastics utilized in-house research and development and testing equipment to support prototype design and material selection, to validate new part designs (axially and radial retention) using finite element and to perform rapid prototyping — machined and delivered within 3 weeks.  Machining prototypes also took a lot of know-how and capabilities as 3-axis machining was required because of the contours in the part.

The Solution

The result was a revolutionary product development — the first metal rolling element bearing replaced with a solid, high-performance plastic bearing in this type of application. Allegheny Performance Plastics also achieved significant savings for its customer totaling over $2,000,000 over the past 10 years. Part savings totaled over $2 million and a one time savings in non-recurring engineering (NRE) expenditures of $200,000.