Plymouth, MI--On a drizzly winter day, I arrive for a tour of SKF's new $10 million North American Technical Center. My guide for the day is Director Dave Pine, who can barely contain his eagerness to show me around this world-class bearing lab and test facility.
As we don safety glasses, Pine explains that the center provides support for a whole range of products, such as precision bearings, seals, and bearing-related systems.
Our first stop on the tour is the noise and vibration lab. Measurements are made by applying a small load to the bearing and sensing the vibration of the outer ring. Pine explains that noise is a hot issue these days.
The noise output of a bearing that is installed and maintained correctly is of little consequence. People typically run into noise problems, says Pine, when there is a force imbalance or dirt and debris get into the bearing.
We briefly pause to peer into the window of a lab with a new scanning electron microscope. Here, a mere sliver of metal can be magnified over 10,000X and its surface studied. In ad-joining labs, bearings are shaken, sliced open, diced apart, and analyzed.
The last stop on our tour is the test lab, which resembles a sort of torture chamber for bearings. In row after row of test rigs, bearings are subjected to a combination of high radial and axial loads, excessive speeds, and outright hostile conditions. Most will go until they fail.
Pine, whose daughter recently caused $1,200 worth of damage by ramming the family car into a curb, demonstrates a simple test rig designed to evaluate the integrity of car and truck hub units. The test basically involves dropping a stack of weights onto the hub. A semi hitting a curb at high speed may be impacted by a half-ton of force.
I stop to watch as an engineer submerses a truck hub unit into a particularly vile-looking goo. He explains that this is a mud slurry test, which will determine whether the seals on a new hub design will hold up.
The center is involved in a host of other activities, including development of clutch bearings for automobiles and seal life testing with various bearings. The point of all this, says Pine, is to help design better products for customers.
For more information, contact SKF North American Technical Center, 46815 Port St, Plymouth, MI 48170, (313) 414 6800