UK partnership to meet demand for lightweight material  

Posted on 29 Aug 2017 by Jonny Williamson

Leading specialist in plastic bearing solutions, BNL, has partnered with the University of Bradford to better take advantage of increasing demand for lightweight material in automotive industry.

BNL is known for innovative design and integrated bearing solutions – image courtesy of BNL

The growing interest in using plastic components in automotive structures and applications has led the company to partner with the University of Bradford to form a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP).

With decades of experience in the automotive industry BNL is known for innovative design and integrated bearing solutions and count many Tier 1 companies as existing partners.

KTPs promote collaboration between businesses and universities, facilitating the exchange of technical know-how, new technologies and skills and establishing centres of commercially relevant research and training.

BNL have partnered with the University of Bradford, employing a dedicated KTP Associate in Polymer Engineering to research and develop (plastic) polymer rolling element bearings, specifically focussed on expanding their use in automotive applications.

In exchange, the university has access to a well-established polymer manufacturing process, to undertake in-process studies of the relationship between production and the final component structure and properties.

Mark Goldsmith, engineering director at BNL, said: “We are working closely with Bradford University in a partnership that will enable us to accelerate our R&D projects and stretch the boundaries of the material and design capabilities of polymers for bearing applications, especially in the challenging world of automotive engineering”.

BNL’s current portfolio includes the use of plastic bearings in steering wheels, steering columns and automotive controls. Other automotive applications can have wider operating ranges of loads, speeds and temperatures and the KTP challenge is to investigate the ability of polymer rolling bearings to meet these requirements, by undertaking additional development and testing to broader specifications and with a variety of materials.

Goldsmith described that BNL’s own generic automotive product specification has been defined by company, market and customer research and has assisted in the development of a bespoke, advanced computational/characterisation methodology that is specific to BNL.

Goldsmith: “This enables us to have higher confidence in the characterisation of current and advanced materials composition and performance under simulated conditions. This data, in conjunction with the defined specification, will be used to identify standard, blended, or a combination of dissimilar materials, which can be used to injection mould our bearing designs that must meet increasingly stringent customer requirements in the automotive industry.”