In this episode
Thanks for joining me for the 14th episode of the Australian Power Transmission Podcast, one of the top twenty podcasts devoted to the mechanical power transmission industry. I can say that with some authority, as I’m not sure exactly how many other PT podcasts there are out there. In fact, I can’t find any others, so this one must at least be in the top 20.
It is Monday, May 21st, 2012. My name is Damian Harris and I’m coming to you from a cold Melbourne.
*Germany has long attracted the best engineers in the world for its industrial manufacturing efforts, coming from different places at different times. For the past half-decade, it is China who has provided a bevy of industrial engineering talent, trained domestically, aware of Western manufacturing demands and very attractive to the best companies. Well, more and more, China wants them back.
Hanover Messe’s recent occurrence brought into sharp focus just how quickly Chinese manufacturers are catching the West, not so much in quality but definitely in ingenuity. Many of these manufacturers happen to be subsidiaries of Western multinationals, but many aren’t. Increasingly, the wages earned for engineers in China is climbing, with the gap to Europe steadily closing. The Germans know that its status at the top of the industrial engineering tree is reliant upon maintaining the cream of the engineering human resource. How much more will it cost each year to retain this supremacy?
*Timken’s earnings climbed 38% for Q1, citing an increase in demand for its four core product offerings: process industries, mobile industries, aerospace and defence, and steel. Sales for the quarter were $1.42 billion, with net income $155 million.
A significant portion of the growth in revenue can also be attributed to Timken’s strategic acquisition policy, which has added numerous businesses to the process industries portfolio and we are beginning to see the benefits realised.
*As predicted by the Australian Power Transmission Podcast – as well as every media outlet in Australia – QANTAS has announced the closure of its Melbourne maintenance facility, consolidating both Brisbane and Melbourne’s Avalon workshops. Efforts by unions to limit the impact have eventually come to nought, although even they were probably aware they were on a hiding to nothing.
Overall job losses from the closure at Tullamarine amount to 422. Some positions have been made available at the other facilities but there seems to be limited take-up.
*Hansen Industrial Transmissions is set to incorporate maintenance activities for the Paramax range of gearboxes from new parent Sumitomo into its European assembly centre in Antwerp. Sumitomo Heavy Industries acquired Hansen last year, and the rationalisation of resources such as this is an obvious move. Sumitomo and Hansen also have service centre overlap in other jurisdictions and product ranges that are somewhat complimentary. It would make sense if further rationalisation efforts were on the agenda.
*Something from South Africa is the fifth annual PneuDrive Challenge, aimed at bridging the gap between businesses and engineering students. Sponsored by Festo and SEW, the PneuDrive Challenge is a travelling road show which will visit universities throughout the republic and put students through their paces.
The theme for competitors for 2012 is ‘Engineering a Better Life for Communities in South Africa’, which tests students across a range of disciplines and with a number of specific outcomes, from economic viability and energy efficiency right through to relevance to South Africa’s broader community demands.
If nothing else, for their investment Festo and SEW get their products in the heads and hands of South Africa’s next generation of design engineers, as well as scout some of the talent that will soon be in the employment pool.
*Like it or loathe it, junk mail is a fact of life. Direct marketers love it, and it comes as a shock to hear that printing and distribution company PMP has issued profit warnings, sending its share price tumbling, only to see it take off again after rumours of an acquisition hit the market.
PMP’s main revenue stream is junk mail, and direct marketing companies have all experienced the same downturn in demand experienced by advertisers operating in other markets.
*CSR’s new Gyprock facility in Yarraville was opened by Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu on the 9th of May. The total investment by CSR is $160M, and employs 160 in the manufacture of plaster sheeting used domestically in the housing construction sector.
*SKF has opened its first Solution Factory in Australia, with Perth selected because it is the closest capital city to the heart of the mining industry. It is the 18th such Solution Factory in the world and implies that other SKF sites cannot solve problems, but actually refers to the broad range of products and services offered; bearings, seals, services, lubrication systems and mechatronics.
*ABB Australia has acquired Bob White Electrix and LE Jarvis, both electric motor rewinders and manufacturers, for an undisclosed sum in a deal is expected to be completed in July.
The Geelong-based Bob White Electrix started in 1946 and has grown to handle a capacity of 85 tonne rotors in its balancing pit. LE Jarvis opened its doors in 1967 in Perth and now boasts 25 staff, handling a broad range of applications itself.
ABB is serious about increasing its capacity, with growth through acquisitions dominating their last 24 months, so much so that consistent purchases in the US now make that market ABB’s biggest.
One potential conflict from the acquisition of LE Jarvis that will need to be addressed in the fact that Jarvis is a WEG distributor and test/repair facility. I’m not sure how WEG sits with the ABB purchase.
*The maker of Devondale butter has already had some layoffs this year, but unfortunately is due for another round. Murray Goulburn is matching its business with the demands of the market, which has seen global prices drop on the back of significant milk oversupply.
300 staff will be made redundant, with around 60 coming from head office and the balance in processing and distribution, in a move that represents a further 12% of the total Murray Goulburn workforce.
*Development in materials technology will always be the way forward in pushing for more performance out of existing designs. The alloying of metals for gears, shafts and rolling elements has always lead the way, with composites also becoming more important for larger components. In a vicious circle, the more performance derived from a design, the more that is demanded by future applications.
In extreme applications (such as bearings in gas turbines and for man’s adventures into space… the final frontier), ceramics have become increasingly popular, mainly because they are the only thing that can do the job. Known as hybrid bearings because the rolling elements are ceramic whilst the bearing retainer, inner ring and outer ring are made out of metal, they can withstand the extremes of temperature generated by high speeds.
Further to high speed applications and the thermals involved in turbines (which frequently average more than 30,000 RPM and 600 degrees Celcius, the gases themselves are very hot - we are talking temperatures over 1100 degrees Celcius.
For the most part, it is the demands of jet engine development that have driven development of ceramics, with engineers looking to capitalise on their temperature characteristics and low weight when used in bearing form. There is an obvious drawback in ceramic material which has been the focus of development, in that it can be considered weak and brittle when compared with some specialist alloys that can perform a similar role but just can’t handle the temperature. Additionally, ceramics are not readily receptive to secondary-process machining.
Bearing grade silicon nitride, Si3N4, is the current standard material for ceramic rolling bearings, which enables design engineers and manufacturers across the globe to specify a known quantity with confidence. This also assists global R&D efforts. Hot Isostatic Pressed silicon nitride features self-reinforcing properties, where its two ceramic phases; alpha-silicon nitride and beta-silicon nitride, have different crystal shapes. R&D has focused on matching alpha and beta to increase strength and toughness.
The elevated temperatures that silicon bearings are asked to operate in naturally call upon special lubrication. In most cases, the lubricant used is solid, with a very high melting point, not unlike the moulded oil bearings marketed by NSK. There are no other issues with the lubricant affecting the silicon.
Ceramic hybrid bearings are going to feature more prominently in high-value and high-performance applications, as development and increased usage bring about higher quantities in operation. Ceramics will also feature in other applications as the bearing development knowledge filters through to other areas in engineering.That’s it for episode 14 of the Australian Power Transmission Podcast.
If you’d like to contact the show, send me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org.Visit the show’s website, www.australianptpodcast.com.
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I’m Damian Harris. I appreciate you taking the time to listen, and I’ll catch you again in two weeks.