Industrial Motors

4 reasons bearings are on a roll

Sheila Kennedy says food-safe solutions, engineered surfaces, hydraulic handling, and inspection tools lead the innovations.

By Sheila Kennedy

Bearing-related innovations are driving improvements in industrial operations. The latest food-safe bearings and lubricants meet necessary standards while withstanding harsh conditions. Engineered surface options enhance bearing reliability and performance. Hydraulic capabilities simplify bearing maintenance tasks. Intuitive tools to measure vibration and bearing conditions help to control costs, improve uptime, and extend equipment life.

Food-safe solutions

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Extreme cold, rapid temperature changes, excessive contaminants, and harsh washdowns can compromise bearing service life, putting equipment uptime at risk. SKF’s Solid Oil bearing technology protects against these conditions. It consists of a polymer matrix saturated with lubricating oil, filling the bearing’s internal space and encapsulating its cage and rolling elements.

“Bearings with SKF Solid Oil are well-suited to perform in food, beverage, and other processing applications where cold temperature extremes will be encountered,” says Mark Cutler, applications engineering manager at SKF USA. “They do not have to be relubricated and they can help prevent potential ingress of contaminants that would threaten service life.”

Lubricants used in food processing must be USDA- and FDA-compliant because of their potential to be indirect food additives. NTN Bearing’s new food-grade solid lube bearing units are designed to increase bearing life and reduce downtime. The maintenance-free mounted bearing units avoid contamination risks caused by purging grease from the bearing. The solid lube series includes three classifications, which support corrosive fluid environments, as well as dry particle applications.

"Through the use of food-grade solid lube, bearing unit life can be extended by as much as 400% over standard bearing offerings,” says Matthew Paciorek, manager of product line management at NTN Bearing. “This effectively eliminates the need for routine bearing lubrication and maintenance, providing huge productivity boosts to food processing and similar plant operations."

NSF category H3 lubricants are subject to food contact and must meet the highest international standards for safety. NSK recently announced the development of an environmentally friendly lubricant grease made entirely from food-based ingredients. The registered NSF category H3 lubricant grease is injected in rolling bearings, which reduces leakage and improves durability, even in environments exposed to water. The solution has been added to the company’s SPACEA series stainless steel rolling bearings for special environments.

Engineered surfaces

Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics.Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at

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Enhancing and coating bearing surfaces provides protection against vibration, extreme operating environments, and improper maintenance. Timken’s Engineered Surface treatments for bearings enhance the properties and overall performance of the components. Timken offers topographical modifications that reduce surface roughness and friction, as well as extremely hard coatings that provide high abrasion resistance and low friction.

“Engineered Surface technology is an important tool in the toolkit of bearing product enhancements designed to bolster performance in difficult applications,” says Tom Baker, chief application engineer for process industries at Timken. “Our customers are realizing the benefits of our enhanced surface finishes and special coatings where thin lubricant films and debris contamination reduce bearing reliability and increase maintenance costs.”

Hydraulic handling

Installing and removing bearings in large bulk handling conveyors tends to be difficult, time-consuming, and costly. Baldor’s Dodge large-bore ISAF pillow block bearing uses a patented hydraulically assisted mounting system to expedite bearing installation and removal. Normal installation and removal takes 15 minutes or less and doesn’t require feeler gauges or special tools.

“The Hydraulic ISAF incorporates a hydraulic piston on both the mount and dismount nut that uses pressure from a standard hand pump to push the bearing up the tapered adapter sleeve during the mounting process and down the sleeve for dismounting,” says Greg Hewitt, Baldor’s senior development engineer for Dodge bearings. “The axial displacement of the bearing is measured during the installation process to make sure proper reduction in internal clearance of the bearing is achieved.”

Inspection tool

Vibration and bearing condition readings reveal mechanical conditions that can potentially lead to failure. The Fluke 805 vibration meter is a portable, handheld tool that simplifies vibration screening and troubleshooting. Its sensor tip design and green-light indicator essentially teach the user how to take accurate, repeatable readings.

“The Fluke 805 has a customized sensor that measures high-frequency bearing noise without mechanical attachment; a bearing fault algorithm that correctly identifies damage severity; built-in force compensation to adjust high-frequency measurement from the amount of user-applied pressure; and an overall machinery vibration severity scale shown on the interface,” says Rand Peterson, engineering program manager at Fluke.

Read Sheila Kennedy's monthly column, Technology Toolbox.