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Mechatronics is becoming increasingly important in the development of innovative rolling bearing solutions. Through increased functionality, it allows further increases in the productivity, cost-efficiency and reliability of machinery. With the development of new rolling bearings with integrated sensors and an integrated or adjacent energy supply, Schaeffler offers new possible solutions for numerous industrial sectors – for example for e-bikes, machine tools and medical equipment.

Megatrend: Mechatronics

Rolling Bearings with Integrated Sensors

Example - e-bikes: pedal cycles with electronic support mechanisms are becoming increasingly popular and intelligent bearing solutions for use in these are becoming increasingly important. In this sector, we offer an extensive portfolio of sensor bottom brackets that combine bearings, sensors and electronics in a compact unit with a very small design envelope. In order to detect precisely the level of assistance required by the rider and control the power feed accordingly, the data required for precise control and regulation of the electric drive are detected directly within the bottom bracket itself: speed, torque, direction of rotation and angle of rotation – with convincing results for the rider: optimum assistance is given in any riding situation. This increases comfort and efficiency, thus improving range.

For machine tools, Schaeffler has developed an angular measuring system integrated in the bearing that is matched to the requirements of highly dynamic, precise rotary axes with direct drive. It gives a convincing combination of high measurement speed, accuracy and robust design – all achieved within a very small design envelope. In addition, it is insensitive to contamination and offers a free central passage through the rotary axis. In comparison with optical systems, it gives significantly better performance both in economic and in design terms.

For the specific case of ceiling mounts in operating theatres, Schaeffler has developed a bearing unit with an electromechanical brake. The angular contact roller bearing AXS is designed for high axial loads and facilitates the secure mounting of medical equipment with smooth adjustment characteristics. The integrated electronic brake ensures absolutely secure location in the ergonomically optimum position. Due to the compact construction, the system is not only lighter but its closed design also facilitates disinfection in the operating theatre.

Sensor Bottom Bracket

The (R)evolution of the Sensor Bottom Bracket - Interview with Markus Neubauer

Markus Neubauer,  Project Manager Advance Development Systems

"For me personally, innovation means taking a proactive attitude to solving conflicting issues in development."

Markus Neubauer, Project Manager Advance Development Systems

What was the starting point for the development of the sensor bottom bracket?

The market for bottom brackets has too many identical products, which made it difficult for us to stand out from other companies supplying this market. We succeeded in asking the right questions and finding out what the demands of tomorrow's customers will be in terms of mobility.

Please describe the main features of this innovation and its technical implementation:

The product's additional functions are a particularly innovative aspect. The sensor bottom bracket doesn't just support and guide the movements of the rider, it also monitors them and adjusts the output of the electric motor accordingly. And it does all of this without requiring any additional space.

The rider applies three physically measurable variables to the sensor bottom bracket: Torque, speed, and direction of rotation.

Speed and direction of rotation are recorded by a speed encoder. The torque measurement is at the heart of the sensor bottom bracket. This is done by magnetizing the corresponding section of the shaft. The magnetic field changes when the rider applies torque to the bottom bracket, and it is very easy to measure this change and thus determine the torque.

What customer benefits does this solution provide?

Both manufacturers and riders benefit from this solution: Manufacturers receive a compact unit that provides all of the data needed to perfectly regulate the pedelec, while riders always receive optimum support.

What does innovation mean for you personally?

For me personally, innovation means taking a proactive attitude to solving conflicting issues in development. This involves not blindly rushing into new tasks and then trying to find the answers, but first of all asking the right questions. Because only those who ask the right questions can overcome these obstacles and make real progress.

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