Posted at 05-Nov-2019

Identify problem bearings with SmartCheck from Schaeffler

Paul Skade
By Gareth Pollard
Product Manager, Bearings

I started work at ERIKS UK in March 2001 after being on a temporary contract at Ball Packaging Europe. 

My life at ERIKS began as a Junior Inside Sale...

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Knowing how much longer your rolling bearings will run sounds like something only a fortune teller could help with. But the new SmartCheck diagnostic system from Schaeffler not only automatically identifies potential bearing problems, but also provides valuable data for calculating the bearing's remaining useful life.


Rolling bearings are a key component of motor gearbox units. And those units are critical to a huge range of plant and machinery – from machine tools to steel rolling mills to conveyors. Many of these operate virtually non-stop, so downtime can be exceptionally costly, and preventing it demands intensive maintenance.

To make that maintenance as effective as it can be, operators need to know as much as possible, as early as possible, about the condition of their bearings.  

That’s where Schaeffler SmartCheck does more than a crystal ball can.

Calculating in the cloud

SmartCheck identifies the threat of bearing damage, wear and irregularities (such as imbalance and misalignments) by spotting vibration pattern changes. Using raw SmartCheck data uploaded to the cloud, together with other useful data (from the machine control system, for example), the system creates an automated diagnosis. But it doesn’t stop there. 

Because the data is stored in the cloud, it’s readily available to use for other calculations. So if you want a drive train and rolling bearing simulation relating to their static and dynamic strength, it’s relatively quick and easy to do.

All of which means you can have an accurate prediction of the remaining useful life of your rolling bearings, at any time, based on real load spectra recorded during operation. And that gives operators and machine builders an efficient solution for reducing not only Total Cost of Ownership, but unit costs too.

Optimum maintenance for optimum efficiency

Condition monitoring only provides unformation about a machine's current condition: which is useful, but limited. Predictive maintenance based on the Schaeffler SmartCheck, on the other hand, looks at a machine's most likely future condition too.

This makes it possible to predict the optimum time for maintenance, and enables optimised production planning. For example, production can be increased if the order book demands it and machine capacity is available. Alternatively, production can be reduced when there are fewer orders pending, in order to match a specific maintenance interval.

In this way, production machine maintenance can be carried out based on the load conditions and according to requirements, instead of at specific time intervals or when there's an acute malfunction.

This correlation between the level of capacity utilisation in production and the condition of the machine elements naturally leads to increased productivity.

In addition, being able to order replacement parts just-in-time reduces stock and warehousing costs. Optimum utilisation of maintenance intervals reduces overall operating costs. And even if there's incipient bearing damage, predictive maintenance can still help. Because when you know how long a bearing is going to continue functioning, you can make an informed decision on whether or not to continue production.

Show your workings

The remaining useful life calculation is driven by a combination of:

  • machine-mounted sensors matched to the application
  • macnhine control system data
  • a BEARINX model of the machine
  • a connection to the Schaeffler Cloud

With the real load spectrum data available, Schaeffler’s BEARINX tool makes an automatic calculation of the nominal rolling bearing rating life, via the Cloud-based software platform. Then – by subtracting the current runtime from the calculated rating life – the nominal remaining useful life of the bearing can be predicted.

Of course the customer doesn't see any of the calculations. They just seee what they really want to know: the life expectnacy of every individual bearing in the machine. And they can view that information on any Internet-connected device. But not via a crystal ball.

Calculated benefits

When a customer has access to a continuous calculation of the remaining useful life of their rolling bearings, it opens up a range of possibilities, including:

  • active control of machine capacity utilization, with a view to predictive maintenance
  • higher-capacity utilisation for individual axes and entire machines.
  • requirements-based maintenance intervals, according to real load conditions
  • use of real field data and load spectra, for improved design optimisation and re-engineering of machines by the manufacturer

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