Amongst manufacturers, the stances on sensing technology in bearings are as diverse as the types of bearings themselves. Some companies make it an R&D priority, some pay it no mind altogether while others still, are stepping back and seeing how consumer demand plays out.
Recently, at the MD&M West show in Anaheim, Bearing Tips spoke with Miles Riley, the person in charge of New Business Development at NSK Americas. Riley spoke with us about the history of NSK, its present sensing technology and where it plans on going.
Miles Riley: “This is NSK’s 100th anniversary. We’ve been in business since 1916. About 60% of our business is automotive, 40% is industrial. We make radial bearings for many different applications on the automotive and industrial side, and then we also make linear bearings for applications in machine tools, robotics, factory automation, laboratory automation, and so forth. We are also the largest ball screw manufacturer in the world and one of the largest precision linear rail manufacturers.”
Bearing Tips: What is new, and where are you seeing the highest demand for your components?
Riley: “Just this last year, we released a new type of precision linear rail, which has the highest dynamic load ratings in the industry– it’s also significantly faster, lighter, and smoother. More importantly, it’s not a special product. It’s our new standard, completely interchangeable with older products and with most other components as far as dimensions.
BT: In what applications are engineers using this component most often?
Riley: “Machine tool, quite a bit of factory automation and some laboratory automation. One in particular I can mention is we supply the linear guides for MRI scanners. They’re actually used on the patient bed, so in any medical application where smoothness and quiet operation is important for the patient comfort. For example, maneuvering or moving the patient into the scanning apparatus.”
BT: What about sensing technology for NSK? How relevant is that to the business right now?
Riley: “Well, we’ve looked at it on the linear rail and right now in it just feels that there isn’t enough of a need for us to integrate it. There’s plenty of other companies that make linear scales that do a great job in the custom work space. If there’s enough of a need for us to put it on the rail, to integrate it in the rail, then we could look at doing it. We haven’t seen it yet.
On the other hand, from the bearings side, we certainly have bearings that have integrated sensor technology. One of our biggest products is making wheel haul bearings for cars and so we make the whole unit, with the studs and ABS unit and all. So we have the ABS sensor integrated then. That’s something we make in huge volume.”