Posted at 19 June 2019

When Small Machine Issues are Symptoms of a Bigger Problem

Paul Skade
By Gareth Pollard
Product Manager, Bearings

I started work at ERIKS UK in March 2001 after being on a temporary contract at Ball Packaging Europe. 

My life at ERIKS began as a Junior Inside Sale...

Read full bio

Sometimes it’s easy to miss the big picture because you’re focussing on the small details. That’s why a failing mill classifier – essentially a “rock sorter” – caused so many problems for a plaster and plasterboard manufacturer at their site in Nottinghamshire. At least it did until ERIKS know-how sorted the problem. 



ERIKS’ bearings and belts experts were called to the site when the mill classifier failed for the second time due to a collapsed bearing. Close inspection revealed that the bearing problems were only symptoms of larger issues. In fact the machine, only commissioned around 6 months earlier – had never been able to run at full output.    

This second bearing failure also only just stopped short of a health and safety disaster.

The 45kW motor – weighing over 300kg – was ripped off its mountings, but fortunately hung on by a thread instead of dropping 20 feet to the ground, where a large hole would have been the least of the outcomes. 


Bigger, not better

In discussions with the German OEM, it came to light that the asset was a larger version of an otherwise identical machine already in use elsewhere. However, the specification had simply been upscaled, without considering resulting increases in forces and stresses on individual components. 

Compounding the problem were a number of installation errors spotted by the ERIKS engineers.

Firstly, the spherical roller bearing at the lower end of the shaft, and the spherical roller thrust bearing at the upper end, were fitted at the opposite ends to where they should have been. Severe radial load on the spherical roller thrust bearing was causing its inner ring to “climb” up the outer ring, placing extreme edge loading on the outer ring and cup. At the same time, the spherical roller bearing at the opposite end was experiencing severe axial load to the top set of rollers, which was causing spalling and – ultimately – bearing failure. 

Meanwhile, because the bearings were not sitting properly in their seats, they had been over-greased: treating the symptoms rather than the cause. Flooding in grease resulted in an increased running temperature, made worse still by the incorrect positioning of the grease escape holes at the top of the bearing arrangement. 


Power mad

The last weak link in the chain was the power arrangement. Although the drive was only rated for 30kW, it was being driven by a 45kW motor, controlled by an inverter to run at half speed. The drive was also operating 8 budget belts which were under-rated for the power, though the OEM’s engineer was proposing to reduce these to 5.

With the current set-up of the asset, this would only have lead to more problems and an even greater risk of failures. 

After their inspection, and after running the specification through the Fenner® Drive Designer, ERIKS’ engineers came up with the following recommendations:

  1. Swap the relative positions of the bearings, to ensure the right bearings were taking the right loads.
  2. Place a radial bearing above the spherical roller thrust bearing to take the radial load, relieve the thrust bearing of belt tension, and stop it “climbing” out of its cup.
  3. Fit the bottom spherical roller bearing as non-located, allowing the shaft to expand freely without affecting the top bearing arrangement.
  4. Reduce the belts from 8 budget belts to 5 Quattro Plus belts – comfortably accommodating the drive power and speed, but also lowering the end loads to reduce stress on the bearings. Using standard wedge belt drives has the added advantage of reducing lead times for belts from two weeks to two hours (from stock).
  5. Relocate the lubrication escape holes to prevent flooding of the bearings.


Finally, when a fault developed on a Saturday due to a warped nut, an ERIKS engineer attended immediately and set up sensors to determine if vibration had caused the nut to loosen. When the monitoring proved this was the case, affected nuts were swapped for replacements which actually tighten through vibration.

That the customer is now getting full production from their asset with no drive issues is one testimonial to ERIKS know-how.  The other is the fact that the OEM has changed the design of the machine, based on ERIKS’ recommendations. 


Liked this article? You might want to read Know+How Magazine Issue 37, packed with related articles and more!

It's not just external surroundings that contribute to an aggressive environment, materials that are being processed and what goes through your equipment can also put assets under strain. 

We take a look at some of the issues you face on a daily basis and how to mitigate some of the risks. 

Related Articles

Join the Conversation

Subscribe to our News, Products & Services

Latest Articles

Take a look at our latest updates...

Full steam ahead - Scottish distillery with Grundfos

Nick Lees

There’s steam and there’s high-quality steam. There are pump solutions and intelligent pump solution...

Delivering for the dairy - greater milking efficiency with ERIKS and Spirax

Nick Lees

Leaking control valves were leaving a dairy product manufacturer feeling pretty cheesed off. Fortuna...

How to Contact ERIKS

Get in Touch

For all general enquiries use the Enquire Online form - we'll connect you with the best member of our team for your query.  Alternatively, look up your local service centre...

Got a Technical Question?

We are proud to boast a strong team of technical specialists in each of our product and service areas. If you have a technical question a member of our team would be happy to help. 

Share Your Thoughts

At ERIKS we strive to deliver the best quality service and products. As part of this goal we encourage customers to submit feedback on their experiences so we can resolve any issues and concerns.