The Schaeffler UK automotive plant in Llanelli, South Wales has commenced volume production of turbocharger ball bearings.
Due to changing market conditions, a shift in customer requirements and an expected increase in worldwide demand for turbocharger ball bearings, production was transferred in early 2017 to Llanelli – a plant that is deemed highly suitable for these high precision components.
Over the past 18 months, Llanelli has invested much time and resources in training its workforce and preparing the new turbocharger bearing production line.
Dr Dave Bate, Plant Manager at Schaeffler UK, comments: “The eagerly awaited volume production of turbocharger ball bearings has commenced, which represents a huge step forward for this plant in terms of redefining and repositioning itself for the future. It demonstrates the manufacturing performance of this plant and the commitment of its employees in helping to make this transition.
“Reaching this start-of-production has been an important milestone to safeguard the future of the Llanelli plant and its workforce, as well as providing benefits to the Welsh economy as a whole, particularly with regards to local businesses that support the plant and our supply chain partners.”Schaeffler UK‘s plant in Llanelli produces mechanical tappets for the automotive industry.
The plant, which was established in 1957, employs 250 people. Of the 20,000 square-metres of floor space at Llanelli, around 5,000 square metres has now been transformed into production space for TCBB.
Schaeffler has invested in a variety of new plant and machinery to support the production of turbocharger ball bearings, including turning, face grinding machines, bore grinding, honing, washing, as well as state of the art assembly and inspection equipment.
Paul Richards, Segment Leader, TCBB Production at Schaeffler UK, comments: “The production systems, machine tools, fully automated assembly, handling and inspection systems that we’ve introduced here at Llanelli are some of the most advanced production systems you’ll come across in the world. This huge commitment and investment from Schaeffler, combined with our highly motivated, skilled workforce means we are in a very strong position to serve this fast-growing, global marketplace for lower-friction, more energy efficient, 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 150,000rpm.
In hot shutdown conditions, these bearings can also reach temperatures of up to 400°C. 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.
Alena Useinovic, Vice President Automotive at Schaeffler UK Sales, says: “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. Manufacturers of turbochargers are therefore being asked to provide more compact, higher efficiency turbocharging systems that are more reliable, durable and enable higher fuel efficiency.”