Bearing maker helps industrial customers with custom innovation
TOKYO - Saturday, February 28th 2015 [ME NewsWire]
(BUSINESS WIRE) -- Unless you are a mechanical engineer, you probably don’t wake up in the morning thinking about bearings. More likely, you never even notice that bearings – working away unseen – are the critical components in everything mechanical that moves: from jumbo-jets to nano-tools, kitchen blenders to concrete mixers. To meet the vast scope of “Motion and Control” needs, NSK (TOKYO:6471) – the world’s #3 bearing manufacturer – must offer over 200,000 different bearings, from microscopic to mammoth. And each year customers bring new challenges to NSK researchers: needs for new bearings to meet specific performance constraints. Here are two challenges that NSK researchers successfully overcame in 2014.
Wind turbines: reliable rotation under the harshest conditions
Since the dawn of the new millennium wind energy has grown full-sail from fringe power source to grid mainstay in countries around the world. NSK has been a key player in the expansion of global installed generation capacity from 17.4 gigawatts in 2000 to more than 305 gigawatts by the end of 2014 – but its role may not be obvious to the casual observer.
Anyone seeing images of a giant offshore wind turbine might naturally assume its giant blades are the critical technology involved. But the real key to the success of these gargantuan machines is in the bearings, which must function reliably for years under extremely adverse conditions: massive and rapidly shifting loads; dramatic fluctuations in temperature; and salty ocean air. Their location atop high towers in windy seas makes even inspecting an offshore turbine an arduous task. So swapping out heavy components is a huge undertaking. That is why bearing durability and reliability is the critical factor in the economic viability of wind power.
With the benefit of two decades’ experience in the challenge, NSK engineers achieved increased durability and reliability for white structure flaking in the roller bearings used in the gearboxes of large wind turbines, as well as in giant mining, construction and steelmaking equipment.
NSK’s solution was a specially developed material combined with a proprietary heat treatment process that dramatically increases the service life of the bearings. Incorporated in a new large-size roller bearing (AWS-TFTM) launched in May, 2014, the innovative technology offers longer service life than previous products by, several critical measures:
7 times longer without “white structure flaking”
3 times longer without “surface originated flaking”
Twice as long without “subsurface originated flaking”
Twice the fracture toughness
1/50 the dimensional change rate
This advance is expected to contribute significantly to the long-term economic viability of wind turbines. NSK expects sales of the new bearings to reach 1 billion yen (roughly $8.5m) in annual global sales by 2017.
For more information, see: www.nsk.com/company/presslounge/news/2014/press0527a.html
Heavy-duty spin for more laundry without more space
While wind turbines are exponentially larger and more sophisticated than your household washing machine, they share a similar need for a reliable spin cycle over many years. Here again bearings are the key component.
For European appliance makers, the home laundry spec has become more challenging in recent years. Today’s front-loading washer buyers want more laundry capacity, but in the same space occupied by their previous machines. That is a challenge because what makers would normally do with a larger, heavier laundry drum is simply fit larger, heavier-duty bearings. This led to a conundrum: larger bearings would mean lower energy efficiency, but fitting the previous bearings on a larger drum would result in shorter product life. So the manufacturer came to NSK for help.
As with giant wind turbines, the obstacle to overcome was a tendency of the non-metallic inclusion in the bearings to flake or crack after years of vibration. The larger the load, the greater the tendency. As well, there was a harsh environment to consider: heat, moisture, soap, dirt and mold to contend with.
NSK’s solution, released in December, 2014, is the BNEQARTET™ Long Life Bearing for Front-Loading Washers. Even under heavier loads, it achieves more than twice the product life of the standard bearing used for drum support in front-loading washers, but takes up no more space.
NSK leveraged one of its core material technologies in developing the material for this new bearing, through a combination of alloy component optimization and proprietary cleaning control technology to counter the possibility of contamination. The result:
Twice the rated fatigue life
Suppression of surface-originated flaking due to stress concentration from dents caused by contamination
Suppression of “white structure flaking”
Suppression of flaking in high-temperature environments
NSK is targeting 1.5 billion yen (roughly $12.5m) in annual global sales for this new product in 2018.
For more information, see: www.nsk.com/company/presslounge/news/2015/press0114b.html
Here’s the final ‘spin’ on these two stories. As a result of NSK’s efforts, many washing machines will soon make more efficient use of energy – sustainably produced by the wind.
In 2016, NSK Ltd. (NSK; Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan; President and CEO: Norio Otsuka) will celebrate a century of innovation since its founding as Japan's first bearings manufacturer. With the theme “Motion & Control” at the core of its business, NSK today is a global enterprise with 213 facilities in 31 countries that serve a diverse range of industrial customers with a wide range of precision components in addition to bearings. The company provides customers with total solutions through its world-leading technologies, sales force and customer service capabilities.