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A new bearing solution has been developed for supporting the main rotor shafts of wind turbines.

The combination of tapered roller and cylindrical roller bearings with angular adjustment capability enable extremely narrow axial guidance of the wind-turbine rotor shaft, which means that shaft displacement and the effects of vibration are significantly reduced.

Schaeffler’s new bearing comprises a combination of tapered roller and cylindrical rolling bearings with angular adjustment facility.

The solution combines the excellent characteristics of tapered roller bearings as locating bearings and cylindrical roller bearings as non-locating bearings.

In addition, the design of the bearing housing enables the required angular adjustment to be made in order to compensate for any misalignment between the bearing positions.

Spherical roller bearings are able to compensate for any angular misalignment of the shaft and support the high radial and axial loads that occur in wind turbines.

However, the design of spherical roller bearings is such that relatively high radial internal clearance acts on the locating bearing side.

This results in high axial internal clearance that is typically six to seven times higher than the radial internal clearance.

If high axial loads occur at low speeds, during a sudden gust of wind for example, the spherical roller bearing moves in an axial direction.

This leads to sliding movements between the rolling elements and raceway, which can damage the bearing over time.

Axial displacement must occur via the bearing housing on the non-locating bearing side.

This requires significant forces that increase the load on the bearing.

Schaeffler’s new tapered roller and cylindrical bearing solution prevents high axial clearances that are found in spherical roller bearings.

Double-row tapered roller bearings in ’X’ or ’O’ arrangements are said to be ideal locating bearings.

The bearings can be set with very little clearance or even with preload.

The contact angles of the rows of rolling elements in the bearing are optimally adjusted to match the load conditions.

The distribution of loads on both rows of rolling elements is therefore more uniform.

The bearing supports the high axial forces acting on the shaft without any lateral sliding movement.

Damage to the rolling bearings is therefore prevented and at the same time, tighter guidance of the shaft and rotor is possible.

In the second position, a double-row cylindrical roller bearing is used as the optimum non-locating bearing of the main shaft.

Here, the radial internal clearance is also reduced.

The load distribution of the rows of cylindrical rollers is also more uniform.

Axial length compensation no longer occurs via the bearing housing, but via the rolling elements within the bearing, which means the bearing is subject to significantly reduced loads.

An angular adjustment facility is also required for the bearing position of this bearing arrangement in order to compensate for shaft deflections.

In a conventional solution, this is normally achieved by using a spherical roller bearing.

If tapered roller bearings and cylindrical roller bearings are used, static angular misalignments are compensated for by the spherical surfaces between the outer ring and housing.

Both bearing outer rings have a spherical outside surface that is located in the concave locating bore in the housing.

These spherical surfaces slide on one another similar to spherical plain bearings.

Coating the surfaces improves the sliding characteristics and prevents fretting corrosion.

Calculations and simulations have been completed and comprehensive test stand runs have already started.

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