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Bearings are 'first' with built-in load-sensing fibre optics

04 March, 2020

SKF has developed what it claims is the world’s first commercial bearing to incorporate a fibre optic sensing technology that can measure loads on the bearing. The components, designed to be used in pumps and compressors, will take the guesswork out of product development, helping to speed up the designs by giving instant access to a variety of data.

For example, it will be able to compare axial and radial loads, generate strain spectra, and measure load directions, speed of rotation and temperature.

The load-sensing bearings are interchangeable with conventional bearings. OEMs and end-users will be able to use them when testing and installing new equipment, and to check that loads are not being exceeded and that and lubrication requirements are being met. The benefits, according to SKF, will include optimised designs, lower development costs, shorter design cycles, and the ability to digitalise the design and verification process.

“Understanding bearing loads is essential in the design of rotating equipment such as pumps.” explains Lars Kahlman, senior applications expert at SKF’s Drives Competence Centre in Gothenburg, Sweden. “Our load-sensing bearing gives access to data that has been very difficult to access so far because it takes accurate strain measurements directly within the bearing.”

SKF says that its load-sensing bearing will help to speed up product designs

The new bearings are safe to use in hazardous environments because their signal data is transferred at high speeds via optical fibres, rather than as electrical signals. The system is also immune to electromagnetic interference. In addition, it allows robust remote monitoring where wireless technologies cannot be used because the fibres can transmit the signals over long distances.

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