60 Years of Data + AI = New Innovations at Igus

The igusGO app is the result of 60 years of polymer research, hundreds of thousands of test results and millions of applications. | Source: igus GmbH

Rhode Island-based igus Motion Plastics reports rise in customers as it showcases new products at Hannover Messe trade fair.

After two years of rapid growth totalling 57 per cent, igus was able to maintain its billion-euro turnover in 2023 despite the challenging global economic situation. In 2024, the company will invest in 247 new motion plastics products and digital services. More favorable and better solutions for lubrication-free movements, low-cost automation and CO2-reducing products are the focal points. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) has now made it possible to bundle hundreds of thousands of test data and millions of applications from 60 years of igus experience into a simple solution finder for the “Zero Lubrication” goal: the igusGO app. 433m of investment in the last three years, around half of it in Germany alone, is accelerating this technical progress and delivery from stock worldwide. This trend is set to continue in 2024.

Despite the tense global economic situation, igus increased the number of its active customers by 6.7 per cent in 2023 and achieved an annual turnover of 1.136bn. This means that the company only recorded a slight decrease of 1.65 per cent compared to the previous year. “Declines in regular customers due to the economic situation were largely offset by new customers and new applications. We are confident that we will continue our growth in 2024. The first quarter was difficult, but the annual forecast for 2024 is good,” says Tobias Vogel, Managing Director of Bearings and Linear Technology at igus. “With major projects such as the shore power supply for container ships in the Port of Hamburg, we are looking positively to the future,” adds Michael Blass, Managing Director of e-chain systems at igus. “The requirements and wishes of our customers are constantly driving us to create new internal start-ups. We combine our core technology of motion plastics with digitalisation and AI. We are well on the way to establishing digitalisation as an equal technology at igus. This was the only way to achieve successes such as our smart plastics, the RBTX robot marketplace and the igusGO app for zero lubrication.”

247 innovations: From solutions for battery production to autonomous robotic arms

This year, igus is presenting 247 new products at the Hannover Messe. Among this, high-load bearings for heavy machinery, crucial for the “Zero Lubrication” range. Three new materials, which have already proven themselves with users such as excavator manufacturers, are coming onto the market. “’igus, make the excavator lubrication-free!’ can already be realised via voice control in the igusGO app,” says Vogel. “This is where material technologies and AI come together and offer simple and secure access to a wealth of information and suggestions for all industry professionals around the world via AI chat.” The app is based on hundreds of thousands of test data and millions of applications from 60 years of igus successes. But sustainability goes beyond avoiding lubrication: with a new slewing ring bearing made of 50 per cent wood and 50 per cent high-performance plastic, igus is taking the integration of renewable raw materials into industrial production one step further. The wide range of PTFE- and PFAS-free solutions for linear and plain bearings and the comprehensive 4-year guarantee for all igus products with online service life calculation also represent progress towards genuine sustainability. The strategy of many companies to build battery factories in Europe is also sustainable.  Batteries are manufactured in dry rooms, and this requires machine components that are lubrication-free and do not become brittle. igus now supplies a wide range of products for this purpose, all tested in specially built dry labs. And the fact that state-of-the-art automation can be affordable for almost any factory is demonstrated by the “ReBeL on Wheels”. The ReBeL robotic arm on a low-cost autonomous vehicle as a solution for SMEs is available from 17,999, while the education version for universities and schools is available for 14,699.

433m in investments in three years – the pace continues

The fact that igus is constantly expanding the motion plastics product world, always with the aim of “improving what moves”, is a consequence of the long-term corporate strategy. Following the breakthrough to the first billion euros in sales in 2022, igus set a new target: 1m industrial customers per year. At the time, this represented a 5.5-fold increase. “We are therefore pleased that we have at least come a little closer to this goal in a difficult year,” says Blass. “We have invested 433m in this plan over the last three years, 210m of which at the Cologne site.” This includes the new 22,000-square-meter factory, machines, systems and IT innovations, and the GO Zero Lubrication apps for example. The figure includes a strategic doubling of global stocks of catalogue parts. “In lieu of the technological revolution, customers want deliveries within 1-3 days and at favorable prices,” explains Blass. “Thanks to our investments, we are doing this better than ever before, even worldwide.” The median delivery time worldwide is currently six days, including numerous engineering projects with long lead times. Investments will continue at the same pace in 2024 and in Germany. New machines and automation solutions are purchased for the new factory in Cologne where many of the internal start-ups are based, forming a motion plastics tech centre. Additionally, the conversion of a 2,800-square-meter office building into a further start-up and training centre which will be open to customers, will soon begin. Expansions are continuing around the world, with a focus on fast delivery times. Decisions with construction measures have already been made for China, Taiwan, India, Italy, Spain, Poland, the USA, Mexico and Turkey. “We are investing wherever our customers are in the world and in Germany,” says Vogel.