Smarter Bearings Mean Smarter Condition Monitoring


Groundbreaking wireless technology integrated into critical components takes away the suspense.

Bearings have long been considered the heart of rotating machinery. Going forward, in the words of SKF, they can also be “the brain.” With new SKF Insight™ intelligent wireless technology integrated into the company’s bearings, these components (i.e., “smart bearings”) communicate their operating conditions continuously via internally powered sensors and data-acquisition electronics. 

According to Tom Johnstone, SKF President and CEO, these innovations are set to revolutionize condition monitoring for bearings, especially in critical machinery and technically challenging applications. “SKF Insight technology will make condition monitoring more widely available,” he says, “especially in applications where it was previously impossible or impractical. With our integrated diagnostic technology, our customers can get even better control over the life cycle of their machinery, leading to lower total costs with higher reliability and machinery uptime.” 

Monitoring directly on the bearing
The company notes that prior to the introduction of SKF Insight, condition-monitoring techniques could only detect damage after it occurred. However, by sensing directly on the bearing, SKF is able to monitor the damage from the first microscopic effect as it is happening, and with this information, customers can take remedial action to reduce the reason for damage in the bearing (i.e., adding lubricant, mitigating transient overloads, etc.). 

In addition, by monitoring the load directly on the bearing, Insight technology makes it possible to measure the load that the bearing actually experiences, rather than what it was designed for. This information can be routed back into the design phase to improve both the system and bearing design. Benefits include better operational knowledge, better maintenance planning, optimized manpower and spare-part management—which can all lead to lower operating costs.  

Notable features/characteristics/capabilities 

  • Miniaturization: Sensor-technology packaging allows the measurement of critical parameters like RPM, temperature, velocity, vibration and load, among others.
  • Self-powered: Using the application environment itself, smart bearings can generate the power needed to operate.
  • Simplicity: Intelligent wireless communication capabilities inside the bearing allow communication in environments where traditional WiFi can’t operate. 
  • Smart networks: Communicating through each other and via a wireless gateway, bearings with SKF Insight form a “mesh network” that sends information relevant to their condition for analysis. 

The future of ‘smart’ is now
SKF Insight application-specific solutions are under trial with key customers in industries including wind energy, railways and metals, and the company is actively developing more application trials in others. MT

Philadelphia, PA


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