Using a programme of material substitution and long life lubrication technology, NSK has achieved savings for a manufacturer of micro wind turbines.
Moreover, the manufacturer is also benefiting from extended product life, improved reliability and reduced maintenance, as a result of replacing mixed brand bearing products with NSK's premium brand bearings and long-life grease.
A major bearing supplier to the wind turbine sector, NSK became involved in the micro wind turbine project because the customer was experiencing problems due to the prohibitive cost of bearings. The manufacturer was facing a stark choice: improve the purchasing and manufacturing costs for the project, or it would not continue.
An NSK Engineer visited the customer to review the machine design. This highlighted several areas where unit build cost could be reduced substantially. Following the visit, a supporting design justification report, and bearing and grease life calculations were produced. These not only underpinned the design cost reductions, but also promised benefits such as simplified assembly procedures, and improvements in overall bearing performance, reliability, and bearing life.
The customer acted upon NSK's recommendations; substituting NSK premium brand single row radial ball bearings, where before there had been a selection of mixed brand products, including single row radial ball bearings and angular contact bearings.
The NSK bearings are lubricated by NSK's long life grease, which delivers a grease life of over 200,000 hours compared to a grease life of 22,400 hours for the mixed brand bearing package. This improvement in grease life has enabled major reductions in maintenance to be achieved, helping to keep the micro turbine in service substantially longer. The quantification of this improvement, in conjunction with the additional improvements gained from the NSK package, has been calculated by the customer to exceed $495,000.
NSK is producing similar cost saving results across all industry sectors. The company's Asset Improvement Programme looks at all aspects of bearing systems: design, specific problem applications, lubrication, and even training issues.
The process often starts with a site survey, which is very detailed. NSK engineers visit a customer's premises, talk to them and get to understand what the difficulty is. Data acquired from the visit is subsequently analysed, leading to recommendations for improvements. These improvements are then quantified in cost terms, demonstrating the level of savings that can be expected by the customer as a result of adopting the solution proposed by NSK.
NSK in Wind Energy
As a major supplier to manufacturers of wind turbines, NSK understands the specific application problems of bearings used in all areas of wind energy generators. The company is at the forefront of developments to produce bearings that reduce size and save weight in the latest generation of multi-stage planetary/helical gearboxes that extend the development of wind energy plants into the multi-megawatt area, i.e. up to 5MW and above.