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Innovations, Engineering Practice

A new wave in shaft bearing

A modern take on a maritime classic

They typically last the full lifespan of a ship and are easy to install. The new generation of short plain bearings is causing a buzz around the shipyards of Asia. And now it is on its way to Europe.

There are several stages to the assembly and installation of short plain bearings in ship construction. Firstly, in the drydock, the propeller shaft is inserted into the bearing. Only after the ship has been lowered into the water can the system be balanced, aligned, and secured. Because of this, ship builders are increasingly seeking more flexible assembly processes.

The new intermediate shaft bearings are more robust, safer, and simpler. And they are built especially to prevent assembly errors. The control side of the bearing can still be changed once it has been fitted to the ship. Previously, configurations had to be clearly outlined in the order and things became difficult if the details of the construction plan were changed. That’s why mirrored pre-configurations are now available on both sides of the bearing.

The new, fourth generation from SKF is also more flexible in terms of assembly and is considerably lighter. It has undergone a considerable cosmetic overhaul. Former iterations of the bearing shell weighed up to 700kg. Now, it is significantly lighter, more compact, and blends in seamlessly with the design of a modern ship. The short plain bearings are a clear step forward because of their material quality and ease of implementation.

SKF Simplex New Shaft Design

SKF Simplex New Shaft Design

A positive response from shipyards

The new model’s development and quality-testing phases lasted around a year and a half. Initial on-site presentations at fifteen South Korean shipyards in early 2016 were met with a positive response. In the face of a struggling economy, many of them have been forced to take on less staff, resulting in a loss of expertise in assembly. This makes the latest shaft bearings all the more valuable to ship builders around the world, as installation is much easier, more flexible, and more secure. The updated design also proves its worth in ship operations, ensuring straightforward and safe maintenance.

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