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Assessment of Thin Film UHMWPE Bearings for Precision Slideways



E S. Buice, H Yang, Richard Seugling, Stephen J. Smith, R Hocken


In this extended abstract, results from tests on a novel, thin-film, Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight-Polyethylene (UHMWPE) bearing are presented. The goal of this investigation is to assess the performance and manufacture and to determine tribological condition prevailing in the contact region. The bearings comprise a thin film of the polymer stretched over a spherical brass substrate. As of writing, two bearing geometries with substrate radii of 2.38 and 6.35 mm have been tested in air to determine both smoothness/repeatability of motion at traverse speeds of around 0.01 to 1.00 mm-s-1 and durability under loads ranging from around 2.2 to 28.0 N at speeds of up to 12.0 mm-s-1. Smoothness of motion of the 2.38 mm radius bearing was assessed by using it as the counterface for traversing a carriage along an optically polished ZerodurO datum. A stylus-based measuring system was then used to profile a smooth, flat glass specimen and the repeatability of specific surface features measured with successive traces being used as a measure of both bearing noise and repeatability. While it is recognized that there are numerous other sources contributing to the measured signal, we believe this does represent a conservative estimate of the uncertainty of this bearing system. With this in mind it was apparent that features of amplitude less than 10 nm could be repeatedly measured. Durability was assessed using a custom built pin-on-disc testing apparatus. Wear of this films is a particularly difficult measurement and we have used the criteria of catastrophic failure of the film as a measure of the durability. While the 2.38 mm bearing was observed to fail in one experiment, the larger radius bearing was observed to survive after sliding distances of over 2km at loads and speeds of 28.0
Conference Dates
October 24-29, 2004
Conference Location
Orlando, FL, USA
Conference Title
ASPE 19th Annual Meeting


bearings, nanometer, polymer bearings, precision motion, slideway, UHMWPE


Buice, E. , Yang, H. , Seugling, R. , Smith, S. and Hocken, R. (2004), Assessment of Thin Film UHMWPE Bearings for Precision Slideways, ASPE 19th Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL, USA, [online], (Accessed April 23, 2024)
Created July 31, 2004, Updated October 12, 2021