How different are bearings used in agricultural and construction equipment over automobiles?
The automobile and off-highway vehicles deal with highly different operating conditions. It is therefore the bearings and other solutions offered by our company for these two segments entirely differ. Automobiles are often used to carry load and run at higher speeds as compared to off-highway vehicles, while agricultural machines are predominantly used to pull loads, and construction equipment are used for different earthmoving operations. Through a mechanical advantage of a simple machine, the ratio between input force applied and force exerted is multiplied.
The agricultural and construction machines are high torque machines, which carries load under heavy contamination and hence requires special solutions. Keeping these challenges in mind, SKF provides application specific customised solutions across its five technology platforms - bearings, seals, lubrication systems, mechatronics and services.
In terms of performance, what is desired of them?
Off-highway vehicles are expected to work in challenging and demanding environment where maintenance and repair work is often inconvenient and also potentially costly. We, at SKF, have been looking at ways of making life easier for off-highway vehicle operators. Our products have been designed taking into consideration critical applications where the effects of contamination owing to harsh operating condition can lead to breakdown. This includes critical applications like the axle pivot joint and the kingpin, oscillating articulation joints and boom applications. The result is innovative offerings in the form of components that combine SKFs expertise in materials knowledge with advanced lubrication and sealing concepts. Our solutions include lubrication-free and environment-friendly products like Extended Life Plain bearings and SKF Y-bearings.
What is the technology involved in manufacturing such bearings?
For driven wheels, for example, we offer a range of standard and customised hub solutions that are preset in the factory and incorporate bearings and heavy-duty seals for harsh environments. We have [in fact] pioneered every major advancement in wheel-end technology since the invention of the automobile, and this has been relevant for the construction sector too. With expertise not only in bearings but also seals, lubrication, and electronics integrated into mechanical parts to control machine agility, we have been able to look at wheel-end technology from a systems viewpoint. The result is improved functionality, reliability, efficiency, and safety.
Kindly elaborate on the new-age materials and non-traditional manufacturing techniques.
With over a century of culture that nurtures innovation and research and development, our company has played a pivotal role in developing numerous technologies and products, which have created new standard in the bearing industry. We are developing specific bearing, sealing and lubricant solutions for challenging agri and off-highway equipment applications. Our engineering tools can support machine manufacturers for seamless and fast design processes, and also, new solutions that can help reduce assembly times and improve the machine operations. All this leads to increased productivity apart from providing other benefits including lower total cost of operation achieved from increased reliability, reduced environmental impact and increased operator safety.
Who are your major clients in the agricultural and off-highway equipment space?
We are technology partner to the leading OEMs in both the construction and agriculture segment. Our engineers work closely with customer design teams to arrive at the most appropriate solutions that will ensure optimised design and equipment performance for a given application. Based on wide spread industry knowledge, tradition of innovation for over a century and expertise across a range of technical areas, we are able to help our clients, both at the OEM level and at the aftermarket level, to optimise their machine productivity and efficiency. Our clients from the agricultural and off-highway segment have reaped benefits from the life cycle management business vertical.