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eastern alloys, inc.

BOX Q. MAYBROOK. N.Y. 12543 (845) 427-2151


First used in wartime Europe in the 1940s as substitutes for bronze bearings, zinc-aluminum alloy bearings have maintained a rather low profile in the engineering universe until recently. Now, their low cost and longer life are again attracting attention-this time in the U.S.

WILLIAM MIHAICHUK Eastern Alloys Inc Maybrook, N.Y.

ALTHOUGH zinc alloys have been used in Europe for many years for plain bearings, U.S. design engineers are only recently beginning to recognize these metals as possible alternatives to traditional bronze. The key engineering advantages of zinc alloy bearings are lower cost, longer life, a higher load-bearing capability, and better emergency (dry-running) characteristics. Zinc also offers benefits to foundries in the form of pollution-free handling and significant energy savings in melting and casting

operations. The zinc alloys now being used in the U.S. are generalpurpose foundry alloys, developed for gravity casting of structural components. But by coincidence, their compositions closely approximate the alloys developed in Germany specifically for bearings during World War II. The alloys are generically identified as Zn-8, Zn-12, and Zn-27. They are available from several sources in the U.S. as

This array of nested, zinc-alloy bearing products shows some of the size variations manufactured by Voest-Alpine AG, Linz, Austria.

well as in Canada, Europe, and Australia. During the past few years, two of the alloys, Zn-12 and Zn-27, have been identified as good bearing materials. The introduction of zinc foundry alloys for bearings is timely in light of recent concerns over bronze. One concern centers on the high cost and price fluctuation of copper, the base material of bronze. The other problem is that bronze bearing producers are reporting increasing difficulty in meeting OSHA air-quality standards for lead. (Lead is an important alloying element in most bronze bearing grades.) Some bronze bearing foundries are being forced out of business by the high cost of compliance w i t h e n v i r o n mental regulations; others are refusing to handle leaded bronze alloys. Bronze bearing buyers are thus facing the prospect of having fewer

suppliers and of paying higher prices for traditional bronze bearing products. Cost of the zinc alloys, on a volume basis, is about onethird that of bronze alloys. The cost difference is even greater for special, high-tin bearing bronzes. Furthermore, the melting-energy requirements for zinc alloys are substantially lower than those for bronze, the world supply of zinc is abundant, and the price is relatively stable. With all these advantages, it would appear that the zinc alloys would be expected to displace all bronze bearings in the near future. Not so. The zinc alloys are temperature limited, so bronze will continue to be used in applications involving service temperatures of 300F and higher. Bronze will also be the choice where maximum corrosion resistance is required and where abusive service con-

Block bearing in an 800-hp Ingersoll-Rand industrial compressor, sand-cast in zinc alloy Zn-12 from Bunker Hill Co., operates continuously at 120F and is lubricated with a flood-type system. The equipment cycles at 168 rpm, and the bearing is loaded to 5,100 psi. A micrometer reading taken at 4,000 h of service detected no measurable bearing wear. Cost of the zinc bearing, which has been operating continuously for nine months, was 30% lower than the SAE 660 bronze bearing it replaced.

ditions warrant the toughness of the aluminum-bronze alloys.

Zinc-alloy properties
Research on bearing performance of the zinc alloys is currently underway at Battelle Columbus Laboratories under the auspices of ILZRO (International Lead Zinc Research Organization). ILZRO is a zinc-industry-sponsored organization that identifies, conducts, and manages research projects for the benefit of its membership. An early screening at Battelle comparing Zn-12 to

A switch from SAE 64 bronze to zinc alloy Zn-27 provided equivalent wear and cut the cost of this gear cover/wear ring almost 50%. The cover, which is used on a Ridge Tool Co. portable power drive, is subjected to high radial and thrust loadings from a steel face gear as the drive is used in threading heavy-wallsteel tubing. The part has been in production for three years.

An eight-month test showed that bushings of Zn-12 for a hot mill runout table had double the life of SAE 64 bronze bushings, had superior dry-running characteristics, and cost 20% less. In comparative runs when both types of bushings were lubricated weekly for four months, the Zn-12 bushings showed no measurable wear; the bronze bearings wore 0.030 in. (diameter). All the runout-table bushings at Crucible Stainless and Alloy Div. have since been converted to Zn-12 except those where slow-moving hot steel would heat the bearings enough to soften them.

Properties of the bearing alloys

Zinc alloys Zn-12 Zn-27 Sand Sand Sand Perm mold SAE 660 (CDA 93200) Bronze alloys* SAE 64 (CDA 93700) SAE 40 (CDA 83600)

*Properties of sand-cast components. Heat Treated: 3 h at 610F and slow furnace cool. 80.5% offset.

SAE 660 and SAE 40 for wear resistance shows that the zinc alloy outperforms the bronzes by a wide margin (up to 3 to 1) in antifriction characteristics and wear resistance. The only limiting factor appears to be that of service temperature. The aim of an on-going Battelle study is to provide complete design guidelines for the application of Zn-12 and Zn-27 as bearing materials. The investigative methods employed parallel those used by

the Cast Bronze Bearing Institute in the development of its technical data. Testing is presently being concentrated on the low-speed (to 90 fpm), high-load applications, where the alloys are expected to perform best. The test method employs 2-in.-ID sandcast bushing samples, installed in a test jig in which bearing loads and shaft speeds can be varied. Shaft material (AISI1045, Rc30) is ground and polished, and the bearings are

well lubricated with grease. Bearing clearance is nominally 0.005 in. Results of these tests show that the Zn-27 alloy exceeds the load capabilities of 660 bronze over the entire speed range investigated and appears to have superior wear resista n ce. Zn -1 2 ma y a lso b e superior to 660 bronze under certain low-speed conditions. The report further indicates that the superior load-bearing capability of the zinc alloys is

the result of the lower coefficient of friction of zinc alloys compared to that of 660 bronze. These results confirm earlier European findings and clarify the reasons for the superior bearing performance of the U.S. alloys in some industrial applications.

Emergency operation
When unlubricated, dry bronze bearings generate considerable heat, causing intermittent seizures and short recoveries prior to complete bearing failure and total seizure. The frictional heat usually causes fusion of bronze to the steel shaft and, sometimes, deep grooves and score marks. Under similar conditions, zinc-aluminum alloys usually perform satisfactorily. The bearings wear, but shafts are not damaged. When intermittent seizures occur, zincaluminum bushings can recover and return to normal running. However, if heat generation is too great, full seizure occurs as temperatures reach the 700 to 800F range. At these temperatures, however, the zinc does not fuse to the steel. Although layers of zinc alloy may adhere to the shaft, they can be easily scraped off and the shaft reused. Scoring of the shaft is unlikely and, if grooves do form, they are shallow. Another factor that helps emergency running characteristics is that zinc alloys have a greater affinity for lubricants, which can promote longer bearing life under dry conditions. The low coefficient of friction and the low melting point of zinc alloys account for their excellent emergency running characteristics. Ironically, the low melting temperature of zinc alloys is also their greatest limitation. Maximum operating temperatures for zinc bear-

ings is in the range of 250 to 300F.

Longer bearing life

Several applications have shown that Zn-12 and Zn-27 provide longer life compared to bronze alloys such as 660, 64 and manganese bronze. Sometimes the life is several times longer. The zinc alloys are not normally considered for selflubricating bearings, but where lubrication cannot be tolerated or where bearings are inaccessible for lubrication, the zinc alloys wear less and stand up longer than bronze. The lower coefficient of friction and the higher hardness of Zn-12 and Zn-27 appear to account for this performance. In addition, the wear residue of bronzes is generally more abrasive than that of zinc. Bronze bearings are made primarily from continuously cast shapes, sand castings, and centrifugal castings. Zn-12 and Zn-27 bearings can be produced

by these same methods, with the exception of the centrifugal casting of Zn-27. (Preliminary studies show alloy-segregation problems.) However, these castings normally require extensive machining to provide finished bearing dimensions. More precise casting methods can be used with the zinc alloys, and this can drastically reduce machining. These methods include die casting, permanent-mold casting, and graphite-mold casting (a new permanent-mold process that provides tolerances similar to those of investment casting). These manufacturing methods can be used not only to make bushings themselves but also to produce cast-to-size, onepiece designs of complete assemblies that incorporate bushings. The combined effect of cast-to-size technology and low metal costs opens many possibilities for one-piece designs eliminating or reducing secondary machining and assembly costs.

Reprinted from MACHINE DESIGN December 10, 1981

Copyright 1981 by Penton/IPC. Inc. Cleveland, Ohm 44114


Another Success Story from Eastern Alloys

ZA-12 zinc runout tab/e bushings replaced bronze in a steel hot mill environment. Table rollers are seated in ZA-12 bearings and support fast moving hot steel from break down mill similar to above. Zinc bearings provided service life double that of bronze.

Typical split flanged ZA-12 steel mill tab/e bearings now used by Crucible Inc., Mid/and, Pa. Zinc bearings provided longer service life and superior emergency running (no lubrication) characteristics at lower cost than bronze

A tough steel plant environment for a bearing is at Crucible inc., Stainless & Alloy Division, Midland, Pennsylvania, in their hot rolling merchant mill, where problems have persisted with SAE 64 bronze bearings in their runout tables. A year and a half ago, Crucible tried zinc bearings and the service life was found to be double that of bronze. As a result, Crucible is replacing the bronze bearings with zinc bearings. The zinc alloy which is now being used IS Eastern Alloys new high strength ZA-12 (zinc-aluminum) foundry alloy. The bronze bushings were high maintenance items having a life of from one week to three years, depending upon location and lubrication frequency. These simple lubricated split flanged bushings see service when hot steel from Crucibles 10-12-14-inch rod breakdown mill passes over rollers, which are seated in the bushings, The steel crashes into the rollers at speeds up to 600 ft./minute and the 2-15/16 and 3-inch ID bushings must carry intermittent impact loads in excess of 520 Ibs. Controlled bearing tests revealed that when greased once a week for four months, ZA-12 showed no measurable wear and SAE 64 bronze wore 0.030 inches. The same four month test using an automatic oil lubrication system showed no measurable wear with ZA-12 and 0.005 inch wear for bronze. Under dry (no lubrication) conditions bronze tended to rapidly heat up and wear out.

ZA-12 zinc under these emergency conditions, where excessive heat from the steel was not a problem, performed well. The zinc alloy held lubrication longer and developed a smooth glaze which wore less. The result was longer service life with ZA-12 bearings and a reduction in maintenance costs. But thats not all! The zinc bushings are priced 20% lower than the identical bronze parts. Albco Foundry and Machine, Inc., Lisbon, Ohio, are specialists in steel mill bearings and supply Crucible with their ZA-12 sandcast bearings. Gary Staffeld, Vice President of Operations, states, We are getting similar feedback from other customers on the good performance of zinc. However, zinc should not be considered as an across-theboard substitute for bronze bearings. But, as we found with Crucible, there are many areas where zinc does work well and at lower cost than bronze. We like zinc foundry alloys advised Albcos Mr. Staffeld. They give us a competitive edge because zinc alloys are much less expensive than bronze alloys. In addition, zinc takes less than half the energy to

melt compared to bronze and provides nearly pollution-free handling in our foundry. Albco worked with Crucible for eight months on a test program before Crucible switched to zinc. The only area where ZA-12 zinc could not be used was where hot steel was moving too slowly, which allowed heat to build up and soften the zinc bearings. (Zincs melting point is about one-half that of bronze.) In Crucibles case, the hot application accounts for about 50% of the usage. The remaining 50% of the table bushings have been changed to zinc. Want to learn more about zinc alloys for bearings or other engineered applications? Come to the technical experts on zinc foundry alloys. Find out how high strength ZA zinc casting alloys (ZA-12, ZA-27 and ZA-8) are being applied as sand castings, permanent mold castings, graphite permanent mold castings and die castings. Well work with your engineers and designers to develop cost-saving ZA alternatives. Just call or write Derek Cocks. (Complete technical literature and case histories on bearings and other applications available upon request.)

eastern alloys, inc.

Box Q Maybrook, N.Y. 12543 (845) 427-2151