Top trends to watch for in bearing industry

Last few years have been more dynamic than before for bearings industry. Vikas Manral highlights a few trends that might play a significant role in shaping the industry’s future.
Top trends to watch for in bearing industry
Last few years have been more dynamic than before for bearings industry. Vikas Manral highlights a few trends that might play a significant role in shaping the industry’s future.
Bearings are critical components of every machinery. They not just reduce friction but also support load, transmit power and maintain alignment and thus facilitating efficient operation of equipment. Global Bearing market is around $ 40 billion and is expected to reach $ 53 billion by 2026 with a CAGR of 3.6 per cent. 
Bearing sector may be considered as a traditional industry dominated by companies in the business, operating efficiently for multiple decades. Last few years have been more dynamic than before, few industry trends are prominent and may play a significant role in shaping the industry in this decade.
There is a growing trend in industry (particularly automotive & aerospace) for “Integrated Bearings” where the surrounding components of the bearings become integral part of bearing itself. Such types of bearings are developed to minimize the number of bearing components in the final assembled product. As a result use of “Integrated Bearings” reduces the equipment cost, increases reliability, provides ease of installation and boosts service life.
Requirements for ‘application specific solution’ are gaining worldwide momentum and driving customer interest. The bearing industry is shifting to developing new types of application specific bearings. Bearing suppliers are thus offering specialised bearings to suit specific requirements in applications like agricultural machinery, weaving looms in textile sector and turbocharger in automotive application. 
Life prediction & condition monitoring
Bearing designers are using sophisticated simulation software tools to better match bearing designs with actual operating conditions. The computer and analysis codes used for bearing design and analysis can now predict, with reasonable engineering certainty, bearing performance, life and reliability beyond what was achieved a decade ago without undertaking expensive time-consuming laboratory or field tests.
As greater demands are placed on existing assets in terms of higher output and increased efficiency, the need to understand when things are starting to go wrong is becoming more important. Unexpected equipment failures can be expensive and potentially catastrophic, resulting in unplanned production downtime, costly replacement of parts and safety & environmental concerns.  Bearing Condition Monitoring is used to dynamically monitor various equipment parameters and helps in detecting the faults before a catastrophic failure occurs. 
Bearing OEMs are continuously working towards development of sensorized ‘Smart Bearing’. The technology that enables bearings to communicate their operating conditions continuously with internally powered sensors and data-acquisition electronics.
Materials & coatings
Advancements in materials have extended the operating life of bearings, even under severe operating conditions. The bearing industry is now using hard coatings, ceramics and new specialty steels. These materials, not readily available few years back, boost performance and improve efficiencies. Specialised bearing materials in some cases enable heavy equipment to continue to operate under conditions where no lubricant is able to effectively operate. These materials along with specific heat treatments and specific geometry are able to handle extremes in temperature and cope with conditions like particle contamination and extreme loads.
Improvement in surface texturing and the incorporation of wear-resistant coatings in rolling elements & raceways have accelerated significantly in last few years. For example, development of Tungsten carbide coated balls that are both wear and corrosion resistant is a significant development. These bearings are well suited for high stress, high impact, low lubrication and high-temperature conditions. 
As global bearing industry grapples with regulatory requirements of emission, improved safety norms,  lighter products with lower friction & noise, improved reliability expectations and  global steel price fluctuations, spending on R&D seems to be a strategic decision to lead the market. Also most organisations continue to focus on accurate demand forecasting and incorporating digitization in manufacturing to gain advantage globally.
About the Author:
Vikas Manral, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer of SolBuggy Connect Pvt Ltd, is a bearing expert with significant experience in global bearing industry. Presently leading a growth start-up SolBuggy Connect Pvt Ltd, he works closely with manufacturing sector and helps entrepreneurs to grow and run businesses efficiently.
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