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An education in bearings - what does it translate to in the job market? Part 2

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An education in bearings - What does it translate to in the job market?

Part 2 of 2

Written by our guest Bearings Expert, Dave

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A few may, but not everyone will be able to work for one of the big bearing manufacturers at the cutting edge of the technology - so for example as a Bearing Research Engineer. As I mentioned, I myself have touched on this indirectly, although I did have colleagues who did research directly for bearings in the university. As I mentioned, the big bearing manufacturers have their own research centres, but other companies do collaborate with universities to have research done into their bearings, especially where they are custom made as I mentioned I have dealt with earlier. For those wanting a good challenge, bearings in wind turbine gearboxes may tickle your fancy, and companies in the Sustainable Energy industry will certainly be pioneering research into them.

The key for the remaining budding bearing engineers lies in the applications. Good selection, and the sort of analysis mentioned in the second paragraph are good fundamental skills in any engineering sector. Automotive, process and other industries will require you to have a good handle on these. This will be the job of a Bearing Design Engineer. The manufacturers have in their product catalogues a wealth of bearing arrangements to consider. [This site may serve as a hub of access to them.] However you may be called on to come up with a unique bearing arrangement. You may or may not have to do this by hand calculations, as there are software applications these days that aids with design of bearing arrangements. If you get to work directly with the software developers this will be as an Applications Engineer. Notable amongst these are Romax and Masta. They even have bearings from the bearing manufacturers catalogues directly embedded in the software to select from.

Self Education

I found that a way to get some exposure to bearings outside of my education was to get hold of trial licenses and play around with these programs. Getting self-taught in this and any other similar way demonstrates keenness and can bolster your chances of getting into the job market. If you have the funds, you may even purchase a cheaper program to train yourself with. MIT Calc and MDesign come to mind. Some certification on say Udemy may also help.

I mentioned bearing dynamic analysis earlier. Another consideration which you may not have been exposed to in your education which is very important in the choice or design of bearings, is the alignment of the bearing within your system. If this is not paid particular attention to, or is missed, it may result in premature failure of the bearing well before the life provided by the manufacturer. This is a common cause found in machine failure investigations.

Maintenance is as important as design, going by the discussion about costs earlier. Machinery fault diagnostics and machine condition monitoring comes under the Service Engineers. To detect faults due to bearings, ideally before they lead to failure, there is normally some form of frequency analysis and signal processing involved. Service sampling of the lubricant to see if bits of bearing have worn away is another way, so good knowledge of the materials used is important. An education related to bearings should cover these aspects as well.

As lubricant analysis is a big focus in service detection of bearing failure cause detection, quick re-visit to the comment earlier about the lubricant being part of the contact in the discussion about Tribology, which as mentioned is the science governing bearing operation. The lubricant is taken as part of the contact because the mechanism it uses to keep the separation of the ball and ring surfaces is by entrainment action of the rotation from the rings. This causes a shearing of ‘layers’ of the fluid which reacts into the balls (with very high pressure under the system load), so the force through the fluid ‘connects’ the rings and the balls in a contact system. There is actually some friction in the shear of the fluid layers but this is much less than pure metal contact rolling friction.

Testing and Measurement (sometimes referred to as Metrology) is another area where people who are educated on bearings could find their place. Bearings are made to very tight tolerances and fits. Good selection is a must, but they really need to be tested in the system where they are to be applied, to ensure they are fit for purpose, before being put into service, as not every variable in the system environment can be accounted for in design. Factors are included to account for contamination of the lubricant for example, but this is not entirely predictable and may vary widely for different systems. This is good practice not only in industries which are more closely regulated (although more so), but for any application really, as failures due to bearings could be catastrophic and cause harm to people.

So there you have it - an insight into the job market with the valuable and highly sought-after education in bearings!

This article was written by our Bearings Expert Dave.