High-volume production of turbocharger ball bearings in Wales

The Schaeffler UK automotive plant in Llanelli, South Wales has become the global location of choice for the production of turbocharger ball bearings. Start of production is planned for Week 21, 2017.

Due to changing market conditions, a shift in customer requirements and an increase in worldwide demand for turbocharger ball bearings, production has been transferred to Llanelli - a plant that is deemed more suitable to high-volume, high-speed, lower-cost production of high-precision components.

Mr Klaus Cierocki, President Business Division Engine Systems at Schaeffler comments: "The trend in the automotive industry towards cleaner powertrain solutions requires multiple steps and technologies. The fundamental foundation in achieving CO2 reductions at an economical cost-benefit ratio is still by optimising the conventional internal combustion engine. Downsizing of the engine leads to more opportunities for turbocharger applications."

Schaeffler UK's world-class manufacturing plant in Llanelli produces mechanical tappets for the automotive industry. The plant, which was established in 1957, employs 250 people. A recent investment programme in new plant and machinery worth tens of millions of Pounds has now allowed Schaeffler to supply surface coated engine components that lower fuel consumption and reduce CO2 emissions, whilst using an environmentally friendly vacuum process (no CO2 is produced). Of the 20,000 square-metres of floor space at Llanelli, around 5000 square metres has been transformed into production space for turbocharger ball bearings.

As Dr Dave Bate, Plant Manager at Schaeffler UK Ltd states: "We expect the demand for turbocharger ball bearings to increase over the next five years to reach millions. This demand will come from multiple turbocharger customers worldwide. This is therefore a great opportunity for the Llanelli plant to secure its future by expanding its portfolio of products. This is just the beginning of the plant redefining and repositioning itself for the future."

Global trends

With tighter legal restrictions on engine CO2 emissions and an increasing mismatch between energy consumption and available resources, improvements need to be made to existing automotive technologies and to developing reduced friction, more energy efficient, greener alternatives.

Bate says: "Manufacturers of turbochargers are being asked to provide more compact, higher-efficiency turbocharging systems that are more reliable, durable and affordable. Originally, these turbochargers were required for just high-end passenger cars, light duty and heavy duty trucks, but we are now seeing a shift in demand to include passenger cars with smaller, highly efficient engines with lower CO2 emissions and improved fuel consumption. This has led to an increase in global demand for ball bearing guided turbochargers."

Turbocharger ball bearings are angular contact bearings that utilise ceramic balls, metallic cages, anti-rotation device, an outer ring, a compressor inner ring, a turbine inner ring and a series of oil flow control jets. The bearings rotate far beyond 150,000 rpm. In hot shutdown conditions, these bearings can also reach temperatures of up to 400degC. The bearing is designed to be cooled by the lubricating oil flow and the bearing materials must resist extreme conditions at all times over the complete life of the turbocharger.

Increased power and torque

Compared with traditional joined bearing turbocharger systems, ball bearing-guided turbochargers offer numerous benefits that stem from the fundamental change in the friction mechanism present in the system. Multiple rolling elements replace a thin oil film in high shear, significantly reducing friction. This results in a significant improvement in system friction (typically up to 50 per cent) at operating temperature and even greater improvements during the first minute of an engine cold start.

With the more conventional hydrodynamic, oil-filled turbocharger systems, the oil is very viscous in cold conditions, particularly during engine start up. The time taken to heat up the oil means that engine emissions will suffer during this period. With ball bearing turbochargers, the air is available to the system immediately on cold start up, resulting in a more energy efficient system with reduced emissions. Overall, this leads to an increase in power, an increase in torque, a reduction in CO2 emissions of 2.5 per cent and an excellent transient response of the engine.

Over the last year or so, Llanelli has invested much time and resources in preparing the new turbocharger bearing production line and in training its workforce. As Bate states: "Training has been critical. Following a rigorous selection procedure, we chose five people to lead our turbocharger ball bearing production at Llanelli. This team has a unique blend of skills that we believe are important. These are the guys who will set up and operate the machines. However, as demand for the bearings increases, they will take a step back and become supervisors of the new members of the team, training and supporting them as required."

Many other Schaeffler employees have been involved in the transfer of production from Plymouth (Barden) to Llanelli. The Schaeffler locations in Plymouth, Llanelli and the headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, worked closely together to ensure a successful start of production.

Cierocki concludes:"Schaeffler's innovative ball bearing solutions can improve fuel efficiency by up to 2.5 per cent. Very tight tolerances combined with innovative manufacturing processes have been established to support this newly developed market segment. We have therefore extended our production portfolio in our Llanelli plant, which offers highly committed, experienced and talented employees to make this a real success."

For more information about turbocharger ball bearings, please go to www.schaeffler.com.

Schaeffler (UK) Ltd

Unit 308, Fort Dunlop
Fort Parkway
B24 9FD

+44 (0)121 313 5830



More news
17 hours ago
WDS reinforces stock availability with production machine upgrade
WDS Components has strengthened its stock availability of standard parts and components by upgrading its on-site production machinery.
1 day ago
Bostik present details of new 2K cyanoacrylate prototype
Bostik’s Born2Bond R&D team has released details of a new cyanoacrylate-based adhesive prototype at the ‘in-adhesives’ event, proving how products are being developed for a near-future that will see instant adhesives used for long-term critical applications.
4 days ago
Virtual factory and showroom tours provide access to best practices
Mitsubishi Electric is opening up access to its factory automation sites and showrooms through virtual tours with the aim of overcoming the restrictions on in-person visits caused by the pandemic.
4 days ago
Food-safe, tribo-optimised coating increases packaging throughput
A packaging and processing machinery builder has reduced drag, improved rigidity, increased throughput and raised hygiene standards on one machine family by applying an iglidur IC-05 tribo-coating on a mitre bar application.
4 days ago
Unlocking the benefits of micromotors at Design Engineering Expo
Small DC motor supplier EMS will be exhibiting the Faulhaber BXT-SC series and the AM3248 stepper motor at this year’s Design Engineering Expo, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham on June 8 to 9, 2022.
4 days ago
Advanced Engineering partners with SMMT and ADS
At this year’s Advanced Engineering UK, held at the NEC, Birmingham on 2-3 November, automotive and aerospace businesses will have the opportunity to meet with buyers from the sectors’ leading OEMs.
5 days ago
Telford based supplier has a handle on Truckman Tops
One of the UK’s best-known brands in the automotive aftermarket industry is Truckman, and the company’s new Truckman Classic hardtop for the Isuzu D-Max now features Vector T3 locking handles supplied by Industrilas.
5 days ago
Digital appraisal service reveals energy saving opportunities
A new digital service from ABB will enable industrial operators to maximise energy efficiency and boost sustainability by identifying motor-driven equipment in their facilities with the best energy-saving potential.
5 days ago
BCN3D and Henkel announce collaboration on VLM technology
BCN3D Technologies and Henkel Adhesive Technologies have announced a collaboration to develop formulations for the recently released Viscous Lithography Manufacturing (VLM) 3D printing technology.
6 days ago
Whitepaper details how smart sensors enable the Intelligent IoT
Farnell has published a free-to-download whitepaper to support electronic design engineers in their Internet of Things (IoT) journey. The paper, titled ‘Smart Sensors – Enabling the Intelligent IoT’, takes a deep dive into the world of sensor technology and how cutting-edge trends are taking the IoT to the next level.

Login / Sign up