Energy efficient bearings from SKF

Materials World magazine
1 Mar 2007

A new family of energy efficient bearings is to be introduced by the Swedish company SKF. The bearings use 30% less energy and have the same service life as ISO rated products. The company is initially introducing this range in deep groove and tapered roller types, the most used category. Lower friction generates reduced operating temperatures, improving lubrication conditions.

The energy savings are design related - a combination of surface topography, raceway profiles, optimised internal geometry, a special polymer cage, lower friction grease and, in the case of the tapered roller bearing, an optimised set of rollers.

Tom Johnstone, President and CEO of SKF, was unable to reveal any proprietary information relating to the polymer cage, 'We want to protect our advantage,' he says, adding, 'The improvements are down to a combination of materials, design and optimisation.’

The company will focus on industrial sectors where applications exceed 1MW power consumption, such as transmissions in heavy industry, rail and shipping, wind energy, conveyors and extruders. First use is expected to be in wind turbines.

SKF claims that if all the wind turbines operating in the world at the end of 2006 incorporated these new tapered bearings in their gear boxes, they would generate an estimated additional 770 million kWh per year.

Deep groove ball bearings are mainly used in lightly loaded applications and the first uses will be industrial electrical motors.

SKF has also developed a web-based application that can support a significant reduction in energy consumption and ensure cost savings in process plants and manufacturing industries.

Johnstone says, 'The United Nations report a couple of weeks ago on world climate shows we have a problem. There are many views and discussions on the subject, however, each of us has to make their own contribution and this is the start of [ours]. We have developed and can offer technical solutions that can significantly reduce energy consumption. In addition, we are addressing our own energy consumption, to reduce this and CO2 emissions.

David Marks of the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment explains that the USA-based university has a long established partnership with SKF. He echoes Johnstone's comments saying, 'Climate change is here', and there is a tremendous amount that can be done to reduce it, but 'we must take action now'.

Marks added that, in a 'less certain world', the ability to store energy will become ever more important. 'Universities can offer new materials, but industry will offer information from the shop floor.' The new bearings were announced as SKF celebrates its 100-year anniversary. It was originally founded in 1907 by Swedish engineer Sven Wingquist, following his invention of the self-aligning ball bearing - a product that is still widely used today.

Further information: