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Spherical roller and spherical plain bearings from the Schaeffler Group are continuing to ensure that the London Eye keeps turning safely and reliably after more than 10 years of operation.

At the centre of the wheel are FAG rolling bearings, originally supplied by Schaeffler in 1999/2000.

The London Eye, which was constructed using around 1,500 tonnes of steel, rotates with the help of two FAG double-row, radial spherical roller bearings, which are fitted as a locating and non-locating bearing set at the hub of the wheel.

Firmly located on the shaft, the locating bearing has an outside diameter of 2.66m and weighs 6.3 tonnes.

The non-locating bearing, which has an outside diameter of 2.62m and weighs 5.2 tonnes, moves back and forth on the shaft in order to compensate for thermal expansion.

These two spherical roller bearings have a rated life of more than 50 years.

Engineers from FAG Industrial Services carry out regular inspections to ensure the defect-free, reliable functioning of the bearings.

These checks include endoscopic inspections of the raceways and rolling elements in order to ensure the early detection of any problems.

Lubricant samples are also taken at regular intervals to check for particulates and abrasion.

If at any point during the wheel’s lifetime the bearings require dismantling, Schaeffler devised a cost-effective, time-saving solution.

As the non-locating bearing has a larger bore (2.1m) than the locating bearing (2.04m), it can be pulled over the locating bearing seat, enabling both bearings to be dismantled from one side.

Dismounting would be carried out on the river side, as the observation wheel only has a support on the land side.

As well as supplying bearings for the central hub, Schaeffler also provided large Elges spherical plain bearings that hold the London Eye in an upright position.

During the original installation of the wheel, these spherical plain bearings enabled the wheel to be moved from its horizontal mounting position across the Thames and into its final vertical position.

Since installation, the function of the bearings has been to compensate for micro-movements caused by the wind.

Schaeffler has also supplied spherical roller bearings for other observation wheels around the world, including the Beijing Wheel in China.

The Beijing Wheel measures in 208m in height and the bearings supplied have an outside diameter of 3.2m, a bore of 2.6m and a ring width of 630mm.

Each bearing weighs more than 11 tonnes.

Schaeffler’s new, 1,100-page technical compendium on large-size bearings (catalogue GL1) is now available.

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