Bowman Split Roller Bearings for High Load Applications

How Bowman International Innovated a World-First Split Roller Bearing For High Load Applications

For the first time in split roller bearing history, there is a bearing specifically designed to accommodate high axial load as well as increased radial load applications across a range of heavy-side sectors including the cement, manufacturing, processing and marine industries.

Harnessing the unique component production capabilities of additive manufacturing, the new Bowman Advanced Split Roller Bearing delivers up to 75% higher radial load capacity and up to a 1000% increase in axial load capacity in both directions. 

Here, Ian Breeze, Technical Director and innovative designer of the Advanced Split Roller Bearing explains the thought process behind the design and the significance of innovating products for specific applications: 

Q: Bowman prides itself on solving real industry problems with technical innovation and creative engineering - describe what inspired you to create the new Advanced Split Roller Bearing.

Bearings are not a one-size-fits-all component and in order to optimize performance on an application-by-application basis, it is down to the manufacturers to create products that meet and exceed expectations. This is especially important for more challenging environments that are susceptible to early bearing failure and a resulting increase in downtime.  

High-load applications are a great example of this and until recently, traditional manufacturing techniques have limited how well the bearing industry could serve these environments.

These are the real industry issues we like to solve, so we decided to create a split roller bearing that could specifically accommodate higher radial and axial forces for systems such as screw conveyors, vibrating screens and propulsion shafts.  

Q: Describe how you went about innovating a ‘world-first’ bearing.

When innovating a new bearing, I prefer to use a 'blank page' design philosophy, rather than simply trying to evolve or change an existing product. This enables me to scrutinise each sub-component, and understand its strengths and weaknesses, before working out how to improve in accordance with the specific application I am designing for.

For example, a traditional split roller bearing accommodates axial load as a secondary consideration, relying on sliding contact from race lips alone. I knew that in order to innovate a bearing that would optimise performance and reduce failure in high-load applications, the axial force would need its own integrated axial rolling element - something that has long been impossible to achieve with traditional component manufacturing techniques. Harnessing new technologies such as additive manufacturing, we were able to overcome this barrier and succeed in making a bearing that accommodates much higher radial and axial forces with great success. 

When innovating a product for a specific environment it’s important to design for both the primary issue (in this case high-load capacities), but also any secondary issues too. When studying high load applications, we identified two additional issues – the lack of available space around the system which made replacement and maintenance difficult, and the importance of maintaining uptime in busy and time-critical environments.

To meet these secondary needs, we knew that our new roller bearing needed to be split to the shaft. This would enable engineers to assemble it radially around the shaft, eliminating the need to disconnect the coupling and move other equipment such as motors, gearboxes or pumps in order to complete any maintenance. The radial assembly of our new bearing delivers up to ten times quicker installation times compared to equivalent solid bearings, saving time and money on planned and reactive maintenance.                

Q: For the first time in split bearing history, 3D printing has been used to dramatically improve the performance of a new bearing product. Explain why additive manufacturing was the right method for creating the new Bowman Advanced Split Roller Bearing.

When innovating a product from scratch, material selection is one of your strongest tools, especially in relation to corrosion, wear, and load.

Bearing components, by their very nature, tend to be round objects manufactured from rings or rods and the most complex component is usually the bearing cage. We knew that as soon as there was an emerging technology that could create complex forms in resilient materials, this would likely be the answer to creating a bearing cage with enhanced performance capabilities.

Bowman International has always embraced new technologies, exploring and unlocking their potential for the good of our customers.

Additive manufacturing allowed me to create strong durable cages with highly complex geometries that could not be manufactured in any other way - the resulting cages create bearings with superior performance to other manufacturing methods, all at a reasonable price point and no tooling required. 

Q: The new Advanced Split Roller Bearing is feature-rich to accommodate higher loads, and to minimize maintenance. Share with us the three features you feel are most significant.

Existing bearings that handle radial and axial loads generally incline the radial elements to give some axial capacity - in so doing they trade-off radial capacity for axial support. 

To overcome this, and to provide the most radial and axial capacity possible, we have added additional axial rolling elements designed to handle the axial load with no radial trade-off. This means our three most significant features are:

  • The added axial roller and cage assemblies - allowing independent handling of the applied axial loads in both directions
  • A design that easily facilitates the creation of axial bearing raceways
  • Highly complex cage geometries to maintain lubrication of the highly loaded axial bearings

There are many more notable performance and maintenance enhancing features, including a patented triple labyrinth seal which can also overcome problems with worn shafts – to read about them, click here.

Q: How has the new design been received since launching globally?

As expected, the new bearing design and especially the follow-on development of our advanced split spherical roller bearing has been well received by new and existing customers all over the world. Existing split bearing customers and those using Bowman’s solid bearings have chosen to convert to the new advanced product to optimize performance and enjoy up to 500% more bearing L10 life in their high-load applications.

We also have an increasing number of businesses taking advantage of the fact that our Advanced Split Roller Bearings are dimensionally interchangeable to fit into housings from other leading bearing brands, enabling them to quickly retrofit our latest product designs for instant performance and maintenance upgrades at an affordable cost.

To find out more about Bowman Advanced Split Roller Bearings click here, or to discuss your requirements in more detail, connect with Ian on LinkedIn or call +44 (0)1902 898 560.



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