Equipment & Technology

Keeping gearboxes rolling

Bearings play a critical role inside industrial gearboxes. ABHR speaks to Graham George-Davidson, Sector Manager, Power Transmission at Schaeffler, to find out how the company’s X-life range keeps this equipment rolling.

Mining is a tough industry that requires some of the largest machines in the world to operate in harsh conditions. The gearboxes used to power these machines are no different.

Graham George-Davidson, Sector Manager, Power Transmission at Schaeffler, says that during the COVID-19 pandemic, equipment was pushed as hard as possible to enhance throughput.

“When you need to drive the equipment as hard as you can, you want the toughest bearings that can support any additional loads.”

Schaeffler’s range of X-life bearings have been designed to handle this kind of pressure. They are designed to have dynamic load ratings up to 15 per cent higher than previous generations, with an increase in rating life of up to 60 per cent under the same operating conditions.

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George-Davidson says, “For example in Industrial Gearboxes, X-life bearings contribute significantly to improving the overall profitability of the application in the sense of total cost of ownership”.

The X-life range achieves this with advanced manufacturing technologies and optimised internal designs. This produces uniform surfaces and contact areas and an optimised load distribution within the bearing. Friction behaviour is improved, and the basic dynamic load rating is considerably increased, leading to an increase in basic rating life.

“This all leads to greater cost effectiveness, longer service life, higher reliability, increased performance, reduced weight, reduced grease and oil consumption which are all clear customer benefits when using X-life products”.   

Digitalisation is incorporated into Schaeffler’s manufacturing process and has become a core part of the business’s offering as well.

Online condition monitoring of industrial gearboxes

George-Davidson says one feature that has become vital among industrial gearbox manufacturers and end users is online condition monitoring. Utilising Industry 4.0 technology allows users to link up their equipment to gather live data on how the equipment is functioning.

Traditionally, operators may incorporate offline condition monitoring technology which would be collected physically and periodically and often sent off site to be analysed. This would only provide a snapshot of the situation, making it hard to see if any trend was emerging.

With Scheffler’s smart online-connected products, end users have access to a vast amount of data about what is going on inside a machine. The company can predict and avoid unfavorable conditions that can cause damage, so operators have less machine downtime due to failures or unpredicted maintenance intervals.

The company provides tailor-made solutions to suit end users’ needs for both new build equipment and repaired equipment.

George-Davidson says the technology has been proven to work and is already up and running in the wind turbine sector for many years.

“Turbines are often in remote locations, so the data is sent via the cloud to our diagnostics team locally, who can then alert the customer if there is anything they need to know,” he says.

“Schaeffler has a deep understanding of its bearings and specific application knowledge and can really pinpoint the important defects that are or may cause problems.”

The next development Schaeffler is working towards is sensorised bearings, which would see the sensors used to measure the speed, torque and wear incorporated into the bearings themselves.

“In the future, we hope to have predictions that can pinpoint specifically how much time is left before a bearing requires servicing, which could then link to Schaeffler’s own supply chain and tell the factories to begin building a certain amount to meet demand,” George-Davidson says.

“By enhancing the knowledge, we have at our fingertips, we can further improve the equipment used to keep vital industries rolling.”

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