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Purchasing bearings: it can be a risky business

18 December 2012

Despite some strong and successful moves to stop them, counterfeit bearings are still posing problems in the engineering industries. SKF's Phil Burge looks at how the market-leading bearing manufacturers with reputations to maintain are fighting to combat the trade in fake bearings and why it is so important for customers to remain vigilant.

The manufacture and trade of counterfeit products is a growing global problem that increasingly affects all brands and all markets. Counterfeit SKF products and those of other bearing brands being manufactured and sold in the marketplace is not only illegal but also puts the end customer at risk; the use of counterfeit bearings in an application can, in the worst case, cause a dangerous equipment failure and will almost certainly result in shorter machine life, poor product quality or damage to equipment.

For instance, a raid that resulted in the seizure of tonnes of fake SKF bearings in Istanbul was set in motion after a local SKF branch received a complaint about a supposedly SKF-marked bearing that failed prematurely, less than 36 hours after it was put into service. Such unexpected stoppage of machinery is one of the most common problems caused by counterfeit bearings.

Counterfeit bearings typically perform poorly and fail early in the modern day engineering environment, where machinery is designed to run more efficiently at higher speeds and loads. But how can customers be sure that bearings are genuine and will perform as well as the data sheet claims? 

Many counterfeit bearings are merely reworked, second-hand or poor quality imitations of branded components in ‘look-alike’ boxes, and even the most experienced judge frequently cannot tell from visual appearance the difference between what is fake and what is genuine.

The answer is to purchase your bearings either direct from the manufacturer or through an authorised distributor. This method guarantees that the manufacturer meets any product warranties associated with the bearing, and that any technical problems with the product are resolved quickly and efficiently. Cost is often the decisive factor in choosing to buy bearings from an unauthorised source but this decision could bring you the greatest cost of all.


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