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Manufacturers across Europe are experiencing the economic pain of rising energy bills, which creates a dilemma: absorb the cost or pass it on to valued customers. Neither is particularly easy. As a result, now is the ideal moment for companies to reduce their running costs with correctly aligned machines and energy-efficient bearing solutions from NSK.

There appears to be little relief from soaring energy costs. For this reason, an increasing number of industrial companies are turning to the latest motion control technologies as a means to improve efficiency levels and cut bills. Bearings are a pertinent example of components that can directly enhance the energy efficiency of machinery, while the same goes for the optimised set-up of shafts and belts. Optimal alignment between a machine and an electric motor, for instance, promotes more energy-efficient operation.

Alignment matters

Estimates suggest that over 50% of machines and industrial equipment run out of alignment in reference to ISO standards. But what is the cause of misalignment? Well, problems usually begin when coupled shafts are positioned so that their gaps or offsets are beyond acceptable limits. Shafts subsequently run off-centre, leading to higher loading, excessive heat generation and greater energy consumption.

Indications of misalignment include increased temperature, high vibration, loose coupling bolts and excessive lubricant leakage at bearing seals. Any machines or systems showing these signs will almost certainly have a negative effect on bottom-line profitability through higher power usage.

NSK offers advanced laser alignment tools for shafts (LAS-Set) and belts (LAB-Set) that help to ensure quick and perfect alignment every time. LAS-Set uses dual line lasers for easy set-up, even at larger distances, along with high-resolution digital sensors for precise results. LAB-Set houses two line laser transmitters, making alignment far more accurate than single laser head solutions.

Adopting these tools not only contributes to energy efficiency, but also reduces wear on critical machine parts such as couplings and seals, subsequently minimising machine downtime and maximising productivity.

Plants leveraging the benefits of NSK laser alignment tools have recorded energy savings of up to 17%, leading to a rapid return on investment (ROI).

The net-zero challenge

Energy efficiency is presently in the spotlight as industry faces pressure to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. While the road to net zero poses many challenges, the transition has the potential to drive investment, innovation, earnings and job creation. Electric motors and the systems they support account for more than 40% of global electricity consumption. With this thought in mind, some fairly easy wins are available.

NSK manufactures several energy-efficient bearings that not only save money via low machine running costs, but also cut CO2 emissions and contribute to more sustainable operations. A case in point is NSK deep groove ball bearings, which reduce energy loss by up to 80% when deployed in electric motors. In comparison with conventional deep groove ball bearings, NSK’s high-efficiency bearings demonstrate 60% less friction when using a steel cage and 80% with a plastic cage.

Another innovation is NSK’s EA7 grease, which reduces internal friction, increases energy efficiency and doubles the service interval of electric motors. Along with optimised grease fill, this low-viscosity and friction-reduced lubricant delivers the perfect solution for any plant looking to reduce torque, minimise power loss and cut carbon emissions. In addition, compared with conventional grease, EA7 offers better lubricating properties in the presence of micro-vibration.

A further contributor to energy-efficient bearing performance is NSK’s non-contact seal technology. When engineers set about designing energy-efficient drive systems, they should be attentive to rolling bearings because it is easy to compromise drive efficiency through the inherent friction that derives from conventional seal contact. NSK has products that deliver efficient sealing properties without increasing frictional torque or operating temperature.

Benefits for industry

Those that can benefit most include automotive manufacturers, which are always seeking further gains in the energy efficiency of their on-vehicle drive mechanisms. Further market demand for low-friction bearings arrives from segments such as washing machine production, where manufacturers achieving a favourable efficiency class tend to enjoy higher sales.

To indicate an emerging market, bearings from NSK are also in demand for improving the high-speed rotational performance of electric vehicle (EV) motors. Here, innovations such as plastic cages are lighter in weight than steel cages, offering reduced mechanical losses, excellent self-lubricating properties and a low co-efficient of friction. All of these characteristics contribute to energy efficiency and sustainability.

Among the very latest developments from NSK is the world’s first bearing equipped with a cage made of 100% plant-derived bioplastic for use in air conditioner fan motors. These ultra-sustainable bearings help the fan motor to rotate smoothly, reducing electrical use and saving energy.

Solutions that contribute to sustainability not only protect the planet for future generations, they also save money and boost bottom-line profitability. NSK, with its raft of environmentally friendly product innovations, is committed to realising a carbon-neutral society.

About NSK Europe

NSK Europe Ltd. is the European organisation of the Tokyo-based bearing manufacturer NSK, which was founded in Japan in 1916 and today employs nearly 30,580 people in its worldwide operations. The products and solutions provided by the industrial and automotive supplier can be found wherever things move. In addition to nearly all types of rolling bearings, the company’s portfolio includes housed bearings, linear technology, wheel bearing units, transmission and engine bearings and steering systems. The company is oriented to perfection in all of its business activities. Its aim is quality leadership in its industry, which it strives for through a continuous process of improvement, excellent product development, optimised production processes and customer-oriented service processes. In fiscal year 2021, the more than 4,250 employees of NSK Europe Ltd. generated sales of over € 818 million.