When an iconic Queensland brewery approached the end of life for the Schaeffler INA linear ball bearings installed on their Krones labelling machines, they contacted CBC as their trusted on-site bearing supplier to help source the replacements.
Ben O’Connor, the CBC Key Account Manager who oversees CBC’s service and product support for the customer, says Schaeffler bearings are used extensively by leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the food and beverage industry.
“Krones is just one of the global OEMs that use Schaeffler bearings extensively on their product range, including across their industry leading packaging, bottling, and labelling machines. Our customer had three Krones labelling machines installed in their plant and the Schaeffler INA bearings had not been replaced since the machines were purchased several years ago,” says Ben.
“After having a conversation with our customer to understand their requirements, we then liaised with our partners at Schaeffler and were able to source the bearing from Germany and deliver them to the customer within a short lead time to meet their maintenance schedule,” he adds.
While the brewery was relieved to receive the replacement bearings from CBC in time for their routine maintenance schedule, there was more reason for them to benefit from the bearing change.
As Andreas Pieper, Engineering and Quality Manager at Schaeffler Australia explains, the Schaeffler INA linear bearing technology – like every other product in the Schaeffler product family – has undergone significant design and manufacturing improvements over the years since the brewery first purchased their Krones machines.
The improvements, part of the Schaeffler X-life performance upgrades for both INA and FAG branded product series, are characterised by higher load ratings compared to conventional products, giving the Schaeffler products performance advantages over their counterparts.
“The Schaeffler range of linear bearings and guideway assemblies has grown over time. What started with the introduction of the double-row linear ball bearing system was followed by the introduction of the four-row and the six-row ball bearing systems as well as a roller-type linear bearing for heavy-load applications,” says Andreas.
“In terms of design improvements, Schaeffler has created a design that is unique in the bearing world. By adding additional grease grooves next to the raceways inside the carriages, we have provided additional greasing space for the bearings. This helps extend the re-greasing interval so that even if the bearing is not re-greased regularly, or even neglected completely, the bearing will still last for a long time.”
Another design feature in the four-row Schaeffler INA linear ball bearings, as Andreas explains, is the seals incorporated on the end faces of the carriages.
“The seals on the end faces of the bearing protect the rolling element systems against contaminations. Schaeffler is also the first company in the world to introduce corrosion resistant coating on the carriages and rails of the linear systems. In food and beverage processing plants where there usually is a lot of water washdowns and spillage, this is a beneficial feature.
“Over the last eight to ten years, Schaeffler has also introduced a rolling bearing grease that is certified for use in both Halal and Kosher food processing environments. So, where there is any risk of grease leaking out of the bearing (which is very rare), the manufacturer will not need to worry about the food getting tainted with regards to religious considerations.”
While Schaeffler has discontinued the production of double-row linear ball bearing systems, Andreas says replacing an older generation linear bearing with an X-life four-row system is easy.
“In some processing plants where the earlier generation double-row ball type linear systems are still in use, these are easily interchangeable with four-row systems featuring the additional grease reservoir and corrosion resistant coating. You can simply take the original system out and install a linear system with enhanced features and that will improve the sealing or coating features without taking any additional space.
“Similarly, the linear modules, which are linear systems with additional drive units attached, can replace older type linear modules featuring the four-row system one-to-one. This is quite easy for the customer as they do not have to do any modification of their machines.”
Back to context, Ben says the brewery is satisfied with the quick service provided by the CBC team to ensure minimum downtime in its operations.
“The iconic brewery has been a key client of CBC for the past 15 years. As a supplier of bearings and other industrial components to major industries, our clients trust us to be able to source products for them that they struggle to find elsewhere,” he says.
“Only recently, when the maintenance team at the brewery required a U-joint for a driveshaft urgently, the CBC team sourced the U-joint on Sunday to make sure the customer could resume production come Monday morning. This is the kind of service that we pride ourselves on providing, making sure that our customers have easy access to their required products, anytime and anywhere.”