Manufacturing companies throughout Europe are suffering from rising energy costs. However, there are levers that can limit this ever-increasing cost pool with manageable effort - for example, energy-efficient rolling bearings and correctly aligned machine drives.
Many industrial companies are optimizing the drives of their machines in order to increase production efficiency and reduce energy costs. Possible starting points for considerable savings at low cost are the use of low-friction rolling bearings and the optimum alignment of belt drives and drive shafts.
Alignment is the key
Practitioners estimate that - based on the requirements of ISO standards - the drives of around 50% of all machines are misaligned. In some cases, drive shafts or belts are already incorrectly positioned during assembly and run off-center, resulting in uneven loading, excessive heat generation and increased energy consumption.
Signs of misalignment include increased temperature, severe vibration, loose coupling pins and lubricant leakage from bearing seals. Any machines or equipment where this is noticeable could run more efficiently if the alignment of the drives in question is improved.
For this task, NSK offers advanced laser alignment tools for shafts (LAS-Set) and for belt drives (LAB-Set) that enable perfect alignment. With the LAS-Set, two line lasers and high-resolution digital sensors ensure fast and precise results. The LAB set also has two line laser transmitters. Therefore, the belt drive can be aligned much more accurately than with just one laser head.
The use of these tools not only contributes to energy efficiency. It also reduces wear on couplings and seals, for example. This minimizes machine downtime and increases their productivity. Operators using these laser alignment systems have achieved energy savings of up to 17% and a rapid "return on investment" (ROI).
The "net zero" challenge
Another challenge from the perspective of manufacturing companies comes from improving the efficiency of electric motors, which (including the systems they support) account for more than 40% of the world's electricity consumption. There are some effective levers here that can be used with manageable effort.
For example, NSK has developed various series of energy-efficient rolling bearings, the use of which reduces the energy consumption of the respective drive and thus also the CO2 emissions it generates. One striking example is high-performance deep groove ball bearings that reduce energy losses generated by friction by up to 80% (with plastic cage) or 60% (with steel cage) when used in electric motors. Non-contact sealing technology developed by NSK also helps to increase the efficiency of rolling bearings and reduce friction losses.
Another innovation is NSK's EA7 grease, which reduces internal friction, increases energy efficiency and doubles the service intervals of electric motors. Combined with an optimized grease fill rate, this low-viscosity, low-friction lubricant offers a good approach to reducing torque, minimizing power losses and lowering machine-related CO2 carbon emissions. In addition, EA7 offers better lubrication properties in micro-vibration compared to conventional greases.
Benefits for industry
The developments described here in the direction of efficiency-optimized rolling bearings are being used intensively by automotive manufacturers. They are constantly looking for measures to improve the energy efficiency of drives in vehicles. There is also great demand from manufacturers of "white goods", especially washing machines. Here, from the end consumer's point of view, the lowest possible efficiency class is a decisive purchasing argument.
A rapidly growing market for highly efficient rolling bearings - in which NSK has been active for more than twenty years - is electromobility. New generations of bearings achieve very high speeds with high performance. They are lightweight and offer excellent self-lubricating properties with low coefficients of friction and low mechanical losses.
Among NSK's very latest sustainable innovations is the world's first bearing with a cage made of 100% plant-based bioplastic. Developed for use in air conditioning fan motors, it contributes to minimal power consumption thanks to low friction. It also operates very quietly. NSK supports tdamit OEMs in the development of CO2-neutral products.
All the solutions described here are not only beneficial from the point of view of environmental protection and sustainability. From the user's point of view, they also save energy costs and thus increase profitability. Irrespective of this, NSK is consistently committed to achieving a CO2-neutral society at all levels.