SKF is a world leader in rolling bearings and related technologies. Among its product offerings in various industries, from aerospace to agriculture, SKF has identified the railway industry as a key focus sector for future growth. For rail operators, axle boxes are critical assets that require frequent maintenance to ensure reliability and high-value performance. SKF currently has several rail sensor solutions to monitor wheelset bearings and is looking for the next generation of product innovation to enhance sensor solutions to provide more functionalities and performance for longer.

Opportunity overview

Made up of complex mechanical and electrical systems, with hundreds of moving parts – maintenance of railway vehicles along its life is a considerable cost for train owners. Hence, reducing and optimizing maintenance costs is central in the industry. A proactive approach instead of a reactive or traditional approach of time- and mileage-based maintenance intervals ensures operators can better use their components’ potential service life. However, even the monitoring sensors have a limited life cycle requiring replacement, and the misalignment of the maintenance schedules of different parts often presents operators with challenges.

Today, the sensors cannot, generally, remain in service for a long timespan as the axle box bearings themselves, resulting in an inefficient scheduling of the maintenance work. Integrating modern self-power solutions into the sensors can increase energy availability without significantly increasing product size and weight. Hence, the functionalities and lifespan of the sensors can be improved to boost the solution’s efficiency. SKF is now looking for a new generation technology partner to co-develop a wireless solution to secure never-ending energy recharging in the sensor or new battery technologies to get unlimited functionalities and match-bearing lifespan.

Summary of requested solution

The solution we are looking for should enhance the energy efficiency of the bearing monitoring sensors to ultimately lengthen their lifespan to match those of the bearings themselves. Furthermore, the proposed solutions should preferably offer an innovative advantage for cost-efficiency and commercial competitiveness against existing solutions in the market.

Your opportunity with SKF

SKF is the world’s largest bearing manufacturer, with 17,000 distributors in 130 countries. As a leader in our field, we can offer outstanding potential for scaling your company’s solution in the global market. We are constantly looking for innovative solution providers who can help us make our offerings even more effective and reduce the need for costly and constant maintenance. We are open-minded towards different collaboration models, and ultimately, we are looking to integrate the innovation and launch it as a part of the entire sensor solution by the end of 2024. We want to work together and share our industry knowledge to provide valuable learnings, enabling your company to further opportunities within the industry.

Examples we're looking for

Induction-based energy harvesting

The generation of electricity through kinetic energy would be a solution to power the sensors and keep them going for longer without using larger batteries in a moving train without access to a central power supply.

Piezoelectric energy harvesting

Similarly, solutions that can transform pressure and vibrations into electrical energy to power the sensors can also be a valuable innovation in making the applications more sustainable, efficient, and long-lasting.

SKF is a world-leading provider of innovative solutions that help industries become more competitive and sustainable. By making products lighter, more efficient, longer lasting, and repairable, they help their customers improve rotating equipment performance and reduce environmental impact. SKF's offering around the rotating shaft includes bearings, seals, lubrication management, condition monitoring, and services. Founded in 1907, SKF is represented in approximately 129 countries and has around 17,000 distributor locations worldwide.

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