Linear Motion Control - 2011-09-22
Bearings and linear technology made in Europe
Where are the products that NSK supplies to the European machine tool industry made? Some clients and industry insiders may be surprised to learn that many of the high-precision bearings and linear guides are produced at the company’s plant in Newark (UK).
Established in 1916 as Japan’s first bearings manufacturer, NSK started penetrating the European and US markets in 1962/1963. Thanks to its extensive range of high-quality bearings and linear systems, the company was able to complete this process almost entirely with its own resources and establish itself in the new markets. As demand increased, it made sense to set up production plants in Europe. In 1976, NSK therefore built its own production plant in Peterlee (UK), which primarily manufactures products for the European market. It also took over the bearings manufacturer RHP in 1990 along with the firm’s plant in Newark (UK).
Manufacturing products for the European market
In order to boost the Newark plant’s productivity, its capacity and processes have been constantly expanded and improved since 1990. New product groups have also been added to its production programme. Now, the Newark site, including manufacturing, logistics &the local Technology Centre has a total workforce of approx. 500. Amongst other things, these employees produce the several sizes of the NSK high-precision angular-contact ball bearings that are needed in Europe.
NSK supplies standard high-precision angular-contact ball bearings and its Robust series to clients including leading European machine tool manufacturers. As a part of this series, hybrid angular-contact ball bearings with ceramic balls are also produced in England. These components are used for highly stressed applications, such as main spindles in machine tools.
As it is close to the European market and in touch with the needs of customers, the Newark plant recently added two new product groups to its portfolio that are important for the machine tool industry. One of these is the Robust Shot series of bearings with relubrication through-holes in the outer ring, which was specially developed for high-speed applications. The other is the BSBD series, which consists of a two-row fixed-bearing unit with ‘O’ preload for ball screws.
NSK is also active in the linear technology segment. This division is similarly represented in Newark, where NSK linear guides are produced.
Identical production processes worldwide
NSK’s activities here highlight that the company strives to manufacture its products close to its customers clients’ sites to simplify logistics and minimise delivery times. At the same time, all production processes – including testing – are structured in exactly the same way at every NSK site around the world and use identical machinery and systems to the company’s original plants in Japan.
Investing in quality and component purity
Several thousand units are produced in Newark every day. Over the last few years, the plant has invested heavily in new machines and processes in order to further improve the quality of its output. For example, the component cleaning systems have been upgraded and achieve extremely high standards. This goes a long way towards ensuring that the bearings have a long service life.
Local NSK technology centre
The company also has its own large technology centre in Newark covering an area of over 5,600 m2. At the facility, engineers conduct extensive tests to develop new NSK products and improve existing ones. The team helps to provide application technology-related advice when examining bearings that have already been in use. The technology centre boasts metrological specialist analytical equipment covering everything from simple tension tests to spectrum analysis and even comprehensive metallurgical investigations. Real operating conditions, stress tests and special operating environments are simulated at many test benches. These capabilities enable NSK to offer its clients 360-degree support for new product developments, from the design to series production.
The Technology Centre in Newark was heavily involved in the market launch of the new Robust Shot and BSBD series of products. All the development work for the BSBD bearings was conducted there, and the Robust Shot series was made ready for series production in Newark.
Expansion of the European Technology Centre
At the same time, the development facility in Germany is being expanded. For approximately one and a half years now, NSK has been pooling development and testing capabilities from its Europe-wide sites at the European Technology Centre (ETC) in Ratingen (Germany). The company is extending the testing centres’ systems and ramping up its facilities for conducting virtual computer-aided tests and simulations.