SKF LTU UTC is represented by three divisions at the university: EISLAB, Operation, Maintenance and Acoustics and Machine Elements. Together we have the goal to create a smart bearing. Machine Element has tribology which is about lubrication, abrasion and friction. EISLAB develops electronics, which include sensors, energy storage and wireless communications. Operation, Maintenance and Acoustics decides on appropriate maintenance procedures when we know something about the bearing's condition.
In addition to senior researchers eight PhD-students, from different parts of the world, are working at SKF–LTU UTC in their respective projects. The projects can be divided into different clusters which means that some projects are closely working together.
Successful cooperation with SKF
The cooperation with SKF works very well on all levels, from management to the R&D-departments. The status in the different projects are presented monthly. We have daily contact with Per-Erik Nilsson, Head of New Technology at SKF CMC in Luleå, who together with the Technical Committe of experts from SKF handle issues that arise. All students also have an industrial supervisor at SKF, which is linked to their respective projects.
Through the Marie Curie program iBETTER, implemented in collaboration with Imperial College, there is the opportunity for our researchers to travel to SKF's research center in the Netherlands or to the SKF CMC in Livingstone, Scotland. Within iBETTER, an annual conference on "Improvement in Bearing Technology" has recently started.
Condition monitoring saves money
The area advanced condition monitoring, the smart ball bearing, is a current topic. You get a machine that can tell when it has problems, and in some cases fix the problem by itself. As companies get a more reliable operation and better monitoring of their resources a lot of money can be earned. Another advantage of advanced condition monitoring is that it is possible to sell the data. If you for instance monitor ore cars, you can also sell data of the railroad track to Trafikverket. To keep track of companies' vehicle or machinery is excellent if you want to sell functions rather than products, so-called functional products.
Our main challenge now is to bring more companies aboard. It would mean that you get the whole chain from the bearing to the machine where the bearing is located. Then we would be able to demonstrate finished products in real applications. It will take a while before we have small cheap bearings that are able to talk with our mobile phones, however, I believe that applications on existing systems may already come in a few years time.