SKF marks a century for leading bearing solution

An SKF spherical roller bearing during installation.

The spherical roller bearing, which helps engineers accommodate heavy radial and axial loads in applications prone to misalignment or shaft deflections, celebrates its 100th birthday this year.

Originally developed by SKF engineer Arvid Palmgren in 1919, the spherical roller bearing (SRB) has made its mark worldwide in the century since.

Created to complement the self-aligning ball bearing, due to its ability to accommodate misalignment under heavy loads, the initial SKF design has become part of the largest family of products in the industry.

On the fabled Las Vegas Strip in the United States, the High Roller ferris wheel contains two of the largest SRBs ever produced by SKF, each weighing 8.8 tonnes.

SKF spherical roller bearings can be found in many applications, including some where you might not expect them.

A good example is the Bahrain World Trade Center, where three tower wind turbines, each 29 metres in diameter, are architecturally installed between the two 240-metre-high (50-storey) towers and generate 1300 megawatt-hour per year.

The main shafts of the turbines were equipped with SKF spherical roller bearings. The turbines went online in March 2008 and are operational 50 per cent of the time, depending on wind conditions.

Another alluring application fitted with SRBs is the rebirth of the Zeppelin after 60 years of absence following the Hindenburg airship disaster.

SKF was brought in by ZF, the gearbox manufacturer for the Zeppelin NT, to help the new and improved airships to propel forward.

SKF’s extensive SRB range delivers a range of benefits for specific operating conditions. For example, operators in contaminated environments in heavy industrial applications have increased their bearing rating life by up to four times with sealed SKF spherical roller bearings.

Those working in the harshest of environments have benefitted from SKF’s three-barrier solution that delivers cost-effective, optimised rating life, minimal maintenance spherical roller bearings.

New dimension gearbox design has even become possible thanks to SKF Explorer SRB’s long service life and high performance.

SKF product line manager, self-aligning bearings, Petra Öberg Gustafsson, comments: “From the very start, SKF has taken the lead in the development of self-aligning bearings.

“We introduced spherical roller bearings in 1919 and have been consistently improving them ever since. Building on Arvid Palmgren’s original design, we now offer engineers the widest range of both open and sealed spherical roller bearings in the industry.

“With the continued push for high performance in ever more challenging environments, it will be interesting to see what the next 100 years of development generates.”

This article also appears in the August edition of Australian Mining.

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