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A new era for bearing testing

Simulating more realistic operational conditions

It is vital that large size bearings used in the shipping industry are researched and tested under realistic conditions. A test center has recently been opened for this reason and will be used to improve current simulation software.

Bearing reliability is crucial for ships to minimize downtime and machine failure. The components are used in various parts of a vessel, such as the propeller shaft or the thruster. Indeed, they can face incredibly complicated conditions, such as extreme temperatures or choppy or rough seas. This means that thorough testing is hugely important for a number of reasons.

SKF has recently opened the world’s most powerful large size bearing test center in Schweinfurt, Germany. The Sven Wingquist Test Center is home to two giant test rigs that offer significant advances in testing technology for large size bearings in the shipping industry as well as other industries.

Real testing improves simulation

The two huge test rigs, enable accurate testing methods that will support the proprietary improvements in large size bearing design. Bearings can be subjected to dynamic loads, higher speeds, and testing of extreme performance. Thanks to more detailed testing, current simulation software will be optimized and further developed. At the same time, enhanced testing conditions will dramatically reduce testing times and provide key insights into the functionality of bearings.

The smaller of the two test rigs is primarily used by the maritime industry. While less spectacular in stature, this rig offers greater versatility. It can be utilized for a variety of other industries, including the mining, cement, and steel industries. As the first one of its kind in the world, this rig allows for testing of extreme performance spanning the full range of large size bearings.


Smaller test rig for general bearing development

  • Radial load:            7 MN
  • Axial load:               3 MN
  • Bending moment  10MNm
  • Rotational speed: 250rpm
  • Bearing size:          up to 2.5m


It isn’t just the amount of force or the impressive size that makes these two new rigs so useful. These new test stations promise to offer a much more cost-effective method for bearing design and research—something that will ensure peace of mind for shipping companies and benefit the maritime industry going forward.

In addition to this, the acquired knowledge from more advanced testing capabilities can be integrated into product development. As a result, large size bearings can be constructed to be lighter in weight, more durable, and less prone to friction when in operation. Not only does this improve the production process, but the more accurate and detailed testing functions allow for further developments of simulation software in the future.

A center for a greener future

The Sven Wingquist Test Center was built in accordance with advanced environmental standards to reduce energy consumption and save resources. Waste heat is recovered and used by the heating system at a nearby SKF factory. This feature gained support from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Construction and Reactor Safety and Bavarian Ministry of Economics and Media, Energy and Technology.


Sven Wingquist

The test center, opened in mid-June, owes its name to the engineer Sven Wingquist, who invented the multi-row self-aligning ball bearing.

Thorough testing holds the key to future development

Overall, testing will always be a vital function in the maritime industry for ensuring quality and reliable products. In previous articles we have looked at developments in how ship components are tested in the ecological conditions of the sea, how marine lubricants gain approval, and how lighter shaft components are made. Thanks to this ambitious project, large size bearing testing, and the industries that rely on it, can go forward into a new era too.


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