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Massive plain bearing links dredger to pipeline

16 September, 2019

The German bearings-maker Schaeffler has manufactured its largest-ever spherical plain bearing – a 600mm-tall, 4.7-tonne component with an outer diameter of 1.9m and a bore of 1.5m. The bearing was produced in three months for use on a cutter section dredger being built by a Dutch company, Royal IHC.

The dredger uses a vacuum to lift stones from the seabed and transport them to the shore via floating pipelines. The massive bearing is mounted on ship’s hull to allow rotary motion between the hull and the pipeline.

The application can result in severe shock loads that meant that the bearing’s inner and outer rings had to be implemented in a one-piece design. Because large forces will act unilaterally on the bearing, it was designed asymmetrically, thus saving space and weight.

Schaeffler’s record-breaking spherical plain bearing weighs in at 4.7 tonnes

A special system of lubrication grooves ensures that grease is distributed uniformly, even during small swivelling movements of around 20 degrees, thus reducing wear and resulting in a long operating life. The sliding surfaces were coated with a lubricating varnish to prevent metallic contact between the inner and outer rings, even when there is insufficient lubrication.

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