Bearings are never boring

People at thyssenkrupp | Whether making hospital MRI exams less of a noisy ordeal, or designing parts for giant telescopes in the Atacama Desert – it’s all part of the job for Klaus Pantke, developer of large-diameter slewing bearings.

There’s no doubt about it: Nobody much enjoys magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. In order for the uncomfortably narrow tube not to be too noisy, I’m running some tests in a soundproof chamber. I’m trying to find out if there is any way to make the tomograph quieter. Most of the noise that accompanies an MRI is caused by the slewing bearings. Large-diameter slewing bearings – that’s our specialty here at thyssenkrupp Bearings. Almost everybody will have come across a slewing bearing on a bike or in a car before. The difference with ours is that they are a bit bigger. Our R&D department in Lippstadt, Germany, is completely focused on these bearings. That may sound a little boring, but actually it’s the opposite. Our large-diameter slewing bearings are incredibly versatile. In wind turbines, our bearings are used to move everything from the individual blades to the rotor through to the entire nacelle. For us researchers, the task is to keep optimizing the components, for example, by increasing their service life.

That’s why we try to find out what happens when we alter individual factors, such as the diameter or rigidity of the track surface. We have developed our own software for experimenting with these kinds of parameters, but naturally, practical tests are also very important. This means we end up subjecting our slewing bearings to several tons of weight, or to excessive temperatures. We also have a special testing system where we can simulate the 20-year life cycle of a rotor bearing over the space of just a few weeks.

Our smallest bearings have a diameter of 30 centimeters, and our biggest bearings – well, there basically is no limit. The radio telescopes which are used for the scientific exploration of deep space built in the Atacama Desert feature slewing bearings of ours that have diameters of up to 12 meters. If the bearings were to shift even just a few thousandths of a millimeter as the telescope is swiveled, the deviations in the observed space images would be enormous – the researchers wouldn’t even be looking at the same stars anymore. Projects like this one is what attracted me to thyssenkrupp two years ago.

 

If I only ever did scientific research, I’d never get away from the theory.

Klaus Pantke (35)Postdoctoral Industrial Engineer at thyssenkrupp in Lippstadt, Germany

I’m still in touch with my university, too: We are currently working on a cooperative partnership with TU Dortmund. We already have such partnerships with other universities in Germany, such as in Aachen and Dresden. In addition, we provide supervision for international students. I’ve already had students from Mexico and Japan working in my department, and currently, I’ve got a French student. This also helps me to brush up on my language skills.

Like I’ve already mentioned, this job is anything but boring.

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