Celebrating a Century of Innovation

The SKF self-aligning roller bearing is a hundred years old and celebrated in style at the Sheraton Hotel in the San Siro district of Milan. SKF Explorer upgraded is the top of the range: it features improved resistance to ware and double service life even in conditions of inadequate lubrification and contamination.

by Silvia Crespi

The SKF self-aligning roller bearing is a hundred years old! To celebrate this landmark, SKF Italy invited clients, dealers and the press to the Hotel Sheraton San Siro in Milan.
Managers from across the globe, including Erik Nelander, President of Industrial Sales Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Ezio Miglietta, CEO of SKF Italia, reviewed the evolution of these bearings, a product which has become the jewel in the crown of the multinational company’s production range.
Ezio Miglietta welcomed his guests underlining the importance of an undisputable fact: “The SFK name is typically associated with bearings especially the self-aligning roller bearing. Designed and manufactured since 1919, this bearing has held a position of leadership in the market ever since”.

The multinational’s strategy: a digital, electric and green future
The European market, with special mention for Italy, will continue to be SKF’s main market. So said Erik Nelander, who looked at group strategy from a broad perspective. Market approach has changed greatly.
Today focus is on system performance, not that of a single bearing. The client “pays” for equipment efficiency – the machinery producer’s aim meets that of the component supplier in a perfect dovetail. When speaking of efficiency, we are equally focusing on sustainability; efficiency is automatically linked to CO2 emissions. Going green is also a question of lubrification. SKF can boast savings of up to 80% of the lubricant consumed.
Digitalization is another area of progress for SKF, with the enormous potential it encompasses when correctly exploited.
Erik Nelander ran through the KSF automation evolution, all the way to the implementation of Industry 4.0 concepts in the Gothenburg plant, where this shift in working style has achieved excellent results: energy savings of 30% per production unit, condition monitoring systems on production lines; automatically driven vehicles (ADV); reset times reduced to zero, a 30% increase in productivity; greater skills among its professionals and a more rational use of the workforce… to name but a few of the most exciting changes.

A century of experience and innovation in self-aligning roller bearing
Originally designed for railways, today the SFK Self-aligning roller bearing is suitable for all kinds of heavy machinery of large size that require particularly hard waring components like the cement industry or mining, paper manufacturing and metallurgical industries.
Its evolution was presented in detail by Petra Oberg, Global Product Line Manager at SKF. “In 1999, the Explorer bearing revolutionized the sector – she explains. Today, it can be highly customized, perfectly in line with our strategy that focuses on solution supply that precisely fit client needs. This is an application driven approach where development is a consequence of the needs of each single application.
Another important step in its evolution is bearing digitalization. Today, bearing use fiber optics to monitor their ware and condition, allowing the client to completely manage their machinery at micro levels.
Let’s go further into detail in the company of Michele Poloni, Application Engineer Specialist at SKF Italy.
Self-aligning roller bearings are aimed at heavy industry, a challenge to be faced on many fronts. “The first, Poloni confirms, being cutting downtime which on machinery under stress, temperature pressure etc. translates into a relevant cost. In order to achieve this, the geometry of the self-aligning roller bearing is a central theme meaning load can be perfectly spread that extends the machinery service life. There are, of course, other factors which positively influence these bearings, the highest quality steel, with the best possible heat treatment used in their production, being one. (the use of austempering gives exceptional hardness to the raceways and toughness at the core…). The SKF Explorer upgraded version, “tells this story” in depth, with details of how bearings can be brought to even higher levels of performance: improving the equilibrium between resistance and toughness, resistance to ware, doubling service life even in conditions of scarce lubrification and significant contamination, finally getting to better solidity and reliability…
In applications where contamination is particularly relevant, the sealed solution is a must: on top of service life (quadrupled) and drastically reduced maintenance, the consumption of grease (and its subsequent disposal costs) is radically lowered, thus, not forgetting the cut in negative environmental impact.
Bearings are in line with the group’s global strategy. “Ahead with innovation” confirms Ezio Miglietta during the reserved specialist press meeting – “in the widest terms possible: whether that be in our production methods or sales channels, digital is the key”.