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Wind turbine bearing design - getting the full picture

01 April 2009

Wind turbine bearing designers need to take into account the whole power train system interactions on their designs, so choosing an appropriate design and analysis tool is important. The largest indigenous bearing manufacturer serving China’s burgeoning wind power market looks to the UK for design software support.

Wafangdian Bearing Group (ZWZ), China's largest bearing manufacturer, has been supplying bearings to the country’s rapidly developing wind energy industry for some time now. In an effort to reduce the design cycle and improve the reliability of its products for these large and complex projects, the company recently signed a contract with UK headquartered Romax Technology to purchase its RomaxDesigner power transmission system design and analysis software.

This suite of tools provides modelling, sizing and system flexibility analysis to enable rapid evaluation of power train concepts at the first stages of the design process, and will be used to support ZWZ's own bearing design analysis for wind energy applications. In addition, key engineers from ZWZ will receive bespoke training from the UK based technical consultancy in the use of the software. ZWZ’s technical centre director, Qu Rongjun takes up the story:

"Working with Romax Technology will allow us to develop our bearings and take into account the whole system interactions within our design. The simulation and analysis tool will prove invaluable and give us confidence in the design. Romax has specialist experience of bearings design and development and their software reflects their knowledge in the area, which makes us confident that RomaxDesigner will enable us to continue the development of our wind turbine bearings."

Technical focus
Bearing design and development has always been a technical focus and area of specialisation for Romax, which was founded by the internationally acclaimed bearings expert Dr S. Y Poon MBE some 20 years ago. RomaxDesigner is the result of many years of experience gained in consultation with OEMs to understand the factors that influence bearing life.

Although Romax has a strong heritage in automotive, aerospace and heavy manufacturing industries, its knowledge of bearing design and analysis is fast becoming a major resource for the wind energy sector, where bearing design is key to establishing the reliability of wind turbine systems.

For bearing manufacturers like ZWZ, who are leading suppliers to the wind energy industry, RomaxDesigner offers a system analysis tool for the whole transmission that can quickly and accurately assess bearing performance under the influence of shaft and housing deflection.

The accuracy of this computer-aided engineering tool enables bearing selection to be carried out and assessed without the need for extensive prototyping and testing. For ZWZ this was a key factor in its decision to purchase RomaxDesigner, and expected reduction in design time will enable the manufacturer to respond more quickly to its customers needs.

Using the Romax software suite, ZWZ will be able to define internal geometry of bearing types and adjust it according to the loading conditions. The interactions between individual components such as deformation and misalignment of the shafts and housings can be used to predict loading within the bearing to a high degree of accuracy. This will enable the Chinese bearing manufacturer to identify problems and optimise design and performance at an early stage in the design process, as well as producing the necessary analysis results for certification.

Clearly delighted that such a leading Chinese company has chosen RomaxDesigner to support its bearing design analysis, Xiaobing Hu, business development director for the Romax Wind Energy division looks forward to working alongside the ZWZ engineers in their work for the wind energy supply chain. Specialists from Romax will travel to ZWZ Head Quarters in China in the coming weeks to deliver the advanced training element of the contract, which will cover bearing design theory and manufacture.

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