Past opportunity

Self-power Technology for Sensorized Rail Axle Boxes with SKF

Energy harvesting
Ambient power
Rechargeable battery for sensor













SKF is a world-leader in rolling bearings and related technologies. Among their product offerings in a range of 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 a critical asset that require frequent maintenance to ensure reliability and performance of high value. SKF currently has several rail sensor solutions to monitor wheelset bearings and is now looking for the next generation of product innovation to enhance sensor solutions in order 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 that operators can make better use of 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 components often present operators with their own challenges.

Today, the sensors cannot in general remain in service for the long timespan as the axle box bearings themselves, resulting in an inefficient scheduling of the maintenance work. By integrating modern self-power solutions to the sensors, the energy availability can be increased without needing to significantly increase product size and weight. Hence, the functionalities and lifespan of the sensors can be increased, to boost the efficiency of the solution. SKF is now looking for a new generation technology partner to co-develop a wireless solution that can secure never ending energy recharging in the sensor or alternatively 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 the solution of your company 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 would like to work together and share our industry knowledge to provide you with valuable learnings enabling your company further opportunities within the industry.

Focus Areas

Examples of solutions we’re interested in

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 the use of 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.

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