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Technologies move at dramatically different speeds and it is never easy to predict the future. Electronic technology tends to move much faster, as illustrated so powerfully by the rise of smartphones, GPS and the whole communications revolution. Some technologies barely move at all because what has been established is so hard to improve upon, such as the SKF self-aligning ball bearing. Of course, there have been enhancements;for example, E2, a range of energy efficient deep groove ball bearings from SKF, features a host of technical innovations that reduce friction. However, the technology is essentially the same as it was over 100 years ago.
What drives change is, of course, our human desire and the ability of imaginative engineers to see over the horizon and capitalise on the potential of new technological developments to satisfy those requirements in the near future. The economic pressure to reduce energy consumption, coupled with our shared human need to believe we are tackling the sustainability issue seriously, means that energy efficiency is a key driver in all current and future technological development. It is likely that this need will cause the fast-moving electronics and communications technologies to converge upon the more sedate world of mechanical technology, resulting in some powerful innovations.
Wireless technology could result in the development of ‘intelligent’ bearings that send messages every time something happens to them, from the moment they are transported to their destination, triggering warnings if installation is incorrectly carried out and the maximum load is exceeded, and giving a regular update on their condition until their eventual replacement. Considering what we already know about the potential and capability of wireless electronics and, bearing in mind the improvements to efficiency and energy management that technology like this would offer, it seems likely that we will develop these kinds of products over the coming years.
Efficiency has to improve, particularly energy efficiency now that resources are ever-more scarce; and wireless electronics will continue to accelerate the speed of evolutionary change. We are moving towards a more responsible industry, where specialists and innovators are valued more highly than ever before and technological developments that improve performance, ease of use, and, of course, energy efficiency and sustainability will be highly prized.
More articles such as this, alongside further company information can be found on the SKF blog and website