Worldwide, renewable energy is in the ascendant – not least because of the unstoppable dwindling of resources, which requires fresh thinking on a global scale. With its know-how and commitment, Schaeffler is making a decisive contribution to assisting the economic breakthrough of energy and environmental technology as a megatrend.
For drive trains in wind turbines, Schaeffler offers almost unrivalled know-how: for more than 30 years, we have been developing and manufacturing bearing arrangements for wind turbines under the INA and FAG brands. Since we focus on the needs of our customers from the very start and our specialists in the relevant Business Unit work closely with developers, manufacturers and operators of turbines, we can achieve convincing results across the board. For our customers, this ultimately means: high reliability and efficiency with low operating costs. In specific terms, we achieve this through optimum bearing selection, precise documentation and a technically sophisticated product range – extending to Condition Monitoring systems, lubricants, mounting and maintenance tools.
In the solar power industry, our solutions provide benefits such as efficient and economical running of power generation plant – in photovoltaic as well as solar thermal systems.
With our product portfolio, we provide reliable solutions for ensuring that the mirrors and PV modules are always aligned precisely to the sun. These applications make use of rolling bearings and plain bearings as well as linear units under the INA, FAG and ELGES brands, which work precisely and without problems even under extreme operating conditions and are characterised by high rigidity and load carrying capacity.
Our commitment to renewable energy goes much further: for many years, we have worked closely as a development and partner and supplier in the classic hydroelectric power sector. Now we are also offering special solutions for the increasingly important current and wave power sectors – e. g. for turbines, floats, buoys or oscillating panels.
"For me, developing innovative solutions here at Schaeffler means being a pioneer, pushing the limits, exploring new avenues and making the technology that's impossible today possible for tomorrow."
Dr. Claus Müller, Project Manager Advance Development Modules
The innovation consists in making a rolling bearing that can "survive", in other words fulfill the relevant customer requirements, without the lubrication with oil and grease that has been common practice for decades, in other words designing it in such a way that it is capable of doing this with a "lubricating medium" such as water.
They come from the water turbine construction sector, i.e. water turbines for use in rivers and the sea, and from the shipbuilding, pump manufacturing, and offshore technology areas.
It provides customer benefits in two ways: The first is that oil and grease are no longer needed, which of course is a major benefit in ecological terms. The other benefit is that conventional hermetic seals are superfluous. Because heavy seals that cause a lot of friction are not required, the machines can be operated in a much more energy-efficient manner.
We use rolling bearing rings made of special steel that is resistant to corrosion. We also employ ceramic rolling elements. Here you can see the cage that guides the rolling elements, which is made from special water-resistant plastic, and we use light, non-hermetic seals that allow water to enter the bearing but keep the particles away from the rolling contact.
For me, developing innovative solutions here at Schaeffler means being a pioneer, pushing the limits, exploring new avenues and making the technology that's impossible today possible for tomorrow.
"For me, innovation means not settling for just one idea. With its large-size bearing test rig, Schaeffler has been able to set an innovative milestone in the development of testing technology."
Reinhold Korn, Manager Electrical/Systems Engineering Test Rig Development
In the growing wind power market, manufacturers of wind turbines are demanding verification of calculations by means of bearing tests even for bearings with outside diameters measuring more than 3 meters. This is a typical bearing size for rotor bearings in 6 MW offshore wind turbines.
Astraios, Schaeffler's new large size bearing test rig is one of the most modern, high performance and largest test rigs of its type worldwide. We can achieve more safety and cost-effectiveness for wind turbines with this test rig.
The large-size bearing test rig weighs 350 tons - the same as a jumbo jet. It is 16 meters long, 6 meters wide and 6 meters high. The weight that acts on the rotor bearing is generated by the test rig using 4 radial cylinders with 100 tons each. The wind load is generated by 4 axial cylinders controlled using sinusoidal loads each generating 150 tons. The variable drive simulates the varying speeds of the rotor.
We use more than 300 sensors for the various tests on the bearings. We investigate the rolling bearing kinematics, rolling bearing temperature, friction behavior, load and deformation, the distribution of lubricant in the bearing and the rolling bearing wear. We can verify our calculations using the test results.
For me, innovation means not settling for just one idea. With its large-size bearing test rig, Schaeffler has been able to set an innovative milestone in the development of testing technology.