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Analysis of the reasons why high-end bearings are difficult to make up for China's manufacturing

by:JNSN     2021-10-23

Bearings, as an indispensable core component in mechanical equipment, support the mechanical rotating body, reduce the coefficient of friction and ensure rotation accuracy. No matter airplanes, automobiles, high-speed railways, or high-precision machine tools, instruments and meters, 'all rotating parts need bearings.'

01 Bearing status

More than 70% of the world's bearing market is occupied by the top ten multinational bearing group companies, of which the United States accounts for 23%, the European Union accounts for 21%, and Japan accounts for 19%. The world bearing market is basically dominated by five major companies including NSK in Japan, SKF in Sweden and FAG in Germany, and several companies including Timken in the United States.

At the same time, the high-end market of the world's bearing industry is monopolized by the above-mentioned companies, while the middle and low-end markets are mainly concentrated in China. However, the sales of the 10 largest bearing companies such as my country's Wazhou Bearing accounted for only 24.7% of the entire industry, and the production concentration of the top 30 was only 37.4%.

Currently, our design and manufacturing technologies are basically imitated, with low product development capabilities, and there is even a blank in the research and development field of certain core technologies. Although the supporting rate of domestic mainframes has reached 80%, the supporting and maintenance bearings of important mainframes such as high-speed railway passenger cars, middle and high-end cars, computers, air conditioners, and high-level rolling mills basically rely on imports.

The development of manufacturing technology and process equipment technology in my country's bearing industry is slow, the CNC rate of turning processing is low, and the level of automation of grinding processing is low. There are only more than 200 automatic production lines in the country.

Advanced heat treatment processes and equipment that are critical to bearing life and reliability, such as controlled atmosphere protection heating, double refinement, bainite quenching, etc., have low coverage, and many technical problems have not been breakthroughs.

The research and development of new bearing steel grades, the improvement of steel quality, and the research and development of lubrication, cooling, cleaning and abrasives and other related technologies have not yet been able to meet the requirements of the level and quality of bearing products.

02 Difficulties in manufacturing high-end bearings

Our country's shaft-making technology is close to the world's top level, but the material-that is, high-end bearing steel almost all depends on imports.

'PPM' is a unit of oxygen content in steelmaking, which means parts per million or parts per million. Generally speaking, in the steel industry, 8 PPM steel belongs to good steel; 5 PPM steel belongs to top steel, which is exactly what high-end bearings require.

The research and development, manufacturing and sales of high-end bearing steel are basically monopolized by the world's bearing giants Timken of the United States and SKF of Sweden. In the past few years, they established bases in Yantai and Jinan, Shandong, sourcing low-end materials from China, using their core technology to make high-end bearings, and selling them to the Chinese market at ten times the price.

Adding rare earths in the steelmaking process can make the original high-quality steel more 'strong'. But how to add, this is the core secret of the world's bearing giants.

Recently, the material processing simulation research team of the Institute of Metals of the Chinese Academy of Sciences found out that impurities are the main source of uneven composition through physical anatomy and calculations of single-weight 100-ton large steel ingots. Based on this, they developed the purification of commercial rare earth alloys. The preparation technology and the special addition technology of rare earths in steel have broken through the technical bottleneck of the industrial application of rare earths in steel, and realized the process and performance stability after adding rare earths to steel.

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