Due to changing market conditions, a shift in customer requirements and an expected increase in worldwide demand for turbocharger ball bearings, Schaeffler transferred production to Llanelli in early 2017. Over the last 18 months, Schaeffler has invested time and resources in training its workforce and preparing the Llanelli turbocharger bearing production line.
Alena Useinovic, vice president automotive at Schaeffler UK Sales, said: “With tighter legal restrictions on engine CO2 emissions and an increasing mismatch between energy consumption and available resources, improvements need to be made to existing automotive technologies and to developing reduced friction, more energy efficient, greener alternatives.”
Turbocharger ball bearings are angular contact bearings that utilise ceramic balls, metallic cages, anti-rotation device, an outer ring, a compressor inner ring, a turbine inner ring and a series of oil flow control jets. The bearings rotate far beyond 150,000rpm. In hot shutdown conditions, these bearings can also reach temperatures of up to 400°C. The bearing is designed to be cooled by the lubricating oil flow and the bearing materials must resist extreme conditions at all times over the complete life of the turbocharger.
Dr Dave Bate, plant manager at Schaeffler UK added: “Reaching this start-of-production has been an important milestone to safeguard the future of the Llanelli plant and its workforce, as well as providing benefits to the Welsh economy as a whole, particularly with regards to local businesses that support the plant and our supply chain partners.”
The Llanelli plant produces mechanical tappets for the automotive industry and employs 250 people. Of the 20,000m2 floor space, around 5,000m2 has been transformed into production space housing a variety of new plant and machinery to support the production of turbocharger ball bearings, including turning, face grinding machines, bore grinding, honing, washing, as well as state of the art assembly and inspection equipment.