Areas in focus

Encouraging an innovative culture is vital to SKF and every year a number of projects are selected and rewarded for their exceptional contribution to business, innovation and sustainability.
SKF’s technology strategy focuses both on the development of its core technology areas and to bring new ideas to market.

Securing a customer centric innovation

SKF’s strategic approach to technology has both a short-term and long-term strategic focus to fulfil current and future customer needs. Technology innovation brings new solutions to the market and responds to current customer requirements, and via technology exploration new core technologies are developed responding to future market trends.

A stronger focus on using application driven innovation has been introduced, to strengthen SKF’s position in the market. With a more customer centric approach in R&D and innovation, technology needs are tailored to customer needs. A key factor for having a customer centric innovation flow is establishing a corporate process evaluating new ideas directly from the customer, where demands are processed and cascaded throughout the value chain of innovation. In recent years, SKF has successfully implemented a central corporate programme for bringing innovative ideas to market.

The most important projects in this programme, involving several business units and technologies, receive the utmost focus and attention by the company’s senior management. Encouraging an innovative culture is vital to SKF, as is developing new knowledge and embedding new technologies into SKF’s products to fulfil customer requirements. One example of recent research findings is in tribology science, the development of the SKF Generalized Bearing Life Model, a concept released in 2015 and which will be ready to use externally in 2017. The SKF Generalized Bearing Life Model is an innovative new bearing rating life model designed to help engineers calculate bearing rating life more realistically. The new model is a major step forward for the industry and will play an important role in enabling OEMs and end-users to better match bearings and applications, resulting in improved machine life and reduced operating costs.

Apart from the SKF Generalized Bearing Life Model, other examples of application driven innovations is the development of polymer hub bearing for the automotive market, and the development of self-powered, intelligent wireless sensor technology, SKF Insight, for the wind and railway industry.

Areas in focus are:

Materials and heat treatment

SKF leads the field in material knowledge and application, and is at the forefront of understanding the interaction and exploitation of steel and heat treatment combinations for meeting the ever-increasing demand for load-carrying capabilities and energy efficiency. Through its unique heat treatment processes, SKF achieves exceptional steel properties by controlling its microstructures and residual stresses. The continual strive for optimizing the interaction between material and heat treatment is now focused on making heat treatment equipment smaller and more energy-efficient, while still attaining the material properties required for different applications. New computerbased techniques are used to understand deformation behaviour and the response of hardened steels under extreme load conditions.

Technological development in non-metallic materials, such as polymers and ceramics, is also important. SKF focuses strongly on their friction and weight reduction properties, enabling them to support market trends and maintain the sustainable strengths of SKF’s products. The Advanced Manufacturing Lab has been set up at the SKF Research Centre in the Netherlands since 2012 to speed up the process of testing solutions for products and processes, helping
the validation of the advanced ideas and simplifying the transfer to the Product and Process Development activities. A crucial role in this development is played by high-level cooperation with key Universities, including UTCs, and through close relationships with the business areas.

Integrated sensing solution

SKF has developed wireless, self-powered technologies for “smart” bearings by combining its core bearing design skills with its expertise in condition monitoring. Data can be transmitted to local devices and onwards via the internet using sensors embedded in the bearing. The bearing can also capture the operating conditions to which it is exposed, for example, loads, temperatures and lubrication. A smart bearing can therefore detect deviations from expected design conditions and initiate corrective action, before any damage is done. This can be done locally and automatically, for example changing lubrication conditions, or remotely, informing the operator about conditions requiring a certain intervention to ensure the machine’s reliable operation. Examples of such technologies into a product are SKF Insight and SKF Enlight.

SKF Insight is a revolutionary bearing health management technology, and has been successfully applied in several high-end industry applications. The technology, which uses a self-powered, intelligent wireless sensor in the SKF bearing to provide instant condition monitoring data via the internet, is undergoing trials in challenging projects in the wind turbine and railway industries. By using dynamic bearing data provided by SKF Insight, bearing health management is an innovative new approach being developed, which will determine how actual conditions affect bearing health and trigger corrective action to cure it – such as automatically adding lubricant or altering machine conditions. Results have successfully proved the applied technology and the value for customers

Life cycle management research leading to sustainable solutions

SKF focuses strongly on new products and services that have a positive impact on the environment, and support the SKF BeyondZero strategy. The target is to improve the environmental performance of customers’ applications, considering the environmental consequences of a product or manufacturing process, no matter where in the product’s life cycle these consequences occur.

SKF collaborates with renowned universities and industrial expertise centres in this area. Methods for environmental assessment have been developed to suit industrial needs better and improve knowledge about products’ environmental performances and manufacturing processes. These methodologies have been a key enabler for launching and expanding the SKF BeyondZero product portfolio.

Simulation engineering

SKF has very comprehensive, powerful sets of modelling and simulation products, ranging from easy-to-use tools based on the SKF General Catalogue formula, to the most sophisticated calculation and simulation systems. The company’s strategy is to develop a wide range of software packages that satisfy a large number of customer requirements, from simple design checks to complex investigations involving the most advanced simulations for bearing and machine design. One example is the SKF Interactive Engineering Catalogue, an easy-to-use online tool for bearing selection and calculation, for open use at skf.com.

Some of these capabilities are also offered on apps for tablets and smartphones, supporting the greater use of these devices by SKF’s customers to also carry out engineering tasks. SKF is also embedding ICT technology in mobile devices for its employees, making it possible, for example, to retain, capture and make knowledge easily accessible for the SKF manufacturing community.

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