SKF in cooperation with SJ, the Swedish national rail operator, recently started to run SKF Insight on a railway vehicle. This pilot demonstrated the technical and commercial advantages of SKF Insight intelligent bearing technology when retrofitted to the wheelset axle box assemblies used in passenger rail vehicles.

These advantages include the ability to improve the in-service availability of passenger rail vehicles, while reducing maintenance costs gradually and safely extending wheelset bearing maintenance intervals.

SKF Insight is a new generation of bearing technology, which integrates an intelligent, self-powered sensor and wireless device within a conventional bearing envelope. In the new rail system, this is combined with a node and gateway wireless infrastructure, enabling data from each wheelset to be gathered and transmitted in real time to a remote server for analysis. The system can easily be retrofitted to existing wheelsets without the need for modification.

This enables railway engineers to move safely from a reactive or scheduled maintenance approach, where bearings are changed at regular intervals regardless of condition, to a predictive maintenance regime, when bearings are only changed when they have reached a defined level of wear.

Other advantages include the ability to minimise in-service incidents and the costs associated with false hot-box detection.

“Although wireless monitoring systems have been tested in the past they lack the intelligent, self-powered technology of SKF Insight. Just as importantly, no other supplier has the depth of knowledge and experience found at SKF, as we have been manufacturing and fitting wheelset bearings and condition monitoring tools in the rail industry for many years,” says Maurizio Giovannelli, Project Manager at SKF.

“This pilot project is a part of SJ’s effort to find new technical solutions, says Pär Söderström, Technical Specialist at SJ’s Vehicle Division. “We are moving towards condition based maintenance of our vehicles in the future, with further improved reliability and cost control. Here we see a big potential in the wireless technology that SKF offers and that we together will evaluate after the pilot.”