Split roller bearings specialist OE Bearings installed 500-mm-diameter split bearings last month on the third of three stacker reclaimer bucket wheels at the Port of Saldanha Bay, in the Western Cape.
OE Bearings MD Warwick Steinhobel explains that State-owned freight utility Transnet’s stacker reclaimer bucket wheels are being used to transfer iron-ore from the stock-yard onto ships via conveyors.
The first split bearing was installed in 2013 and, following its success, Transnet decided to install split bearings from the company on the remaining three machines. He explains that it took three weeks to deinstall the bucket wheel bearing, but it only took OE Bearings four hours to fit the new bearing.
Steinhobel points out that OE Bearings is the only bearings manufacturer in South Africa that locally manufactures its split roller bearing housing and support. The company imports bearings from split roller bearings specialist Revolvo, in Dudley, in the UK.
He says this has subsequently provided an opportunity for OE Bearings to develop a good working relationship with Revolvo and to develop new product ranges.
“There are other bearings companies that manufacture housings for the fan industry, but we specialise in our split bearing product. Our opposition has to import cast iron from overseas. We have the benefit of a reduced lead time because we manufacture the cast iron housings in South Africa – to get cast iron from England to South Africa can take up to six weeks,” Steinhobel explains.
Of the split roller bearing units sold, about 50% of the complete bearing unit’s cost is local and 50% of the cost is imported. He says this ensures that funds remain in South Africa and increases the opportunity for government to procure locally manufactured equipment.
Meanwhile, OE Bearings has also supplied a new design, angled split roller bearing that has been fitted on another bucket wheel at the Kolomela mine, in Postmasburg, in the Northern Cape, which is owned by mining company Kumba Iron Ore.
“We have converted more than 300 fans from Plummer block bearings to fit our split roller bearings, to the point that, when a new fan is being built, our bearings are specified,” Steinhobel explains.
Last month, Palabora Mining Company upgraded their main vent fans and the new fans were fitted with 300 mm split roller bearings. The bearings are capable of handling the high speeds of the fan and should have a life of ten years if the vibration levels of the fan are kept under 3 mm.
OE Bearings is one of the only companies in South Africa that can provide bearings in specifically manufactured sizes to suit customer requirements, to replace existing bearing housings.
Steinhobel says this is because Revolvo started as a factory that makes discontinued bearings, particularly old inch size bearings. The low volume manufacturing is ideally suited to the manufacture of split roller bearings that are made in small batches.
“There is a lot of older equipment on the market that uses old inch size bearings. Larger manufacturers can produce only thousands of bearings at a time, but Revolvo saw a gap in the market to specialise in creating specific bearing sizes on a much smaller scale,” he states.
Steinhobel concludes that because the gold mining industry is profitable, OE Bearings is considering expansion into the West African market.