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Machines of the future repair themselves

Published: 21 December 2011

Svenska kullagerfabriken (SKF) is establishing a University Technology Center at Luleå University of Technology. The purpose of the initiative is to develop the next generation of bearing and machine components. Machines will operate more independently and costly downtime wil be avoided.

This is the world’s fifth SKF University Technology Center, an exclusive group including high-world ranking universities as the University of Cambridge.

"Luleå University of Technology is at the forefront of research in several areas that are of interest to SKF. Our customers wish to reduce costs associated with downtime in production, and our collaboration with Luleå University of Technology will improve our capability to provide customers with advanced services for Condition Monitoring and control", says Dr Alan Begg, SKF Senior Vice President Group Technology and Development.

Condition Monitoring refers to the monitoring of the condition of a bearing, or an entire machine, during operation.

The purpose of SKF’s initiative at LTU is not to solve any urgent research demands at SKF, but rather to invest in future-oriented research into advanced concepts for status control of machinery and operating reliability. Machines will be designed to be more ‘intelligent’ and independent.

This will have great significance for the reliable operation of complex mechanical systems such as papermaking machines or electrical generators, where downtime has a negative impact on financial outcomes.By developing advanced subsystems that are able to monitor the overall operation of the larger systems of which they are a part, machine systems that are more independent can be created. Via signals related to various limit values, a machine can receive information that enables self-diagnosis and, thereby, remedial action and self-repair. Bearings and systems will no longer be passive; instead, they will be active and independent. Machines will be able to repair themselves during operation.

The formalized, five-year agreement between SKF and LTU concerns the development of smart technologies, in keeping with SKF’s vision, and builds on SKF’s leading position as a supplier of systems for Condition Monitoing and control, as well as on the longstanding cooperation with LTU in the areas of Condition Monitoring, tribology. Sensor technology will now also be included in the collaboration.

“We are excited about this opportunity to make our centre in Lulea a focal point for collaborative activities involving SKF industrial customers. In addition to advanced research activities, another objective of this collaboration is to extend activities from the theoretical area to practical implementation,” says Johan Sterte, Vice Chancellor at Luleå University of Technology.