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Easily bearing an increasing grinding load

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Feb 16,2023


Located in Honley, West Yorkshire, HB Bearings is celebrating its 50th year in business in style, investing in the latest Kellenberger grinding centres from DF Precision Machinery. The latest addition, a K100 grinding centre with a Wenger automation system has cleared a backlog of two months’ work in just two weeks. PES reports.

HB Bearings specialises in the manufacture of special and standard metric and imperial bearings that are hard to source. This can include precision radial bearings, deep groove ball bearings, cylindrical roller bearings, angular contact bearings, duplex as well as many other types of bearing and housing.

Katrina Wood, product manager for Gamet Bearings at HB Bearings says: “HB is a bearing manufacturing company that has been running for 50 years now, manufacturing bespoke bearings as well as a standard Gamet Bearings product range.”

The company has recently installed a Kellenberger K100 grinding centre supplied by DF Precision. The machine has been installed with a fully automated Wenger loading system that has revolutionised the way the company manufactures large volume runs of taper bearings.

“This part is a super precision taper roller that goes in the Gamet taper roller bearings,” Ms Wood explains. “These can be used as high load bearings and where customers require super precision, for example, headstock bearings.

“There are many operations that are included in making the complete bearing. In the early days of production, it was difficult to get a whole batch quantity out for the customer, but the new machine and loading system has been revolutionary. It’s had a massive impact on the roller side of manufacturing at the company.”

Universal flexibility

The Swiss-built Kellenberger K100 is a universal CNC OD/ID grinding machine for use across medium to large-scale universal grinding applications. It is highly configurable and offers a wealth of options to accommodate the widest range of universal grinding operations. It is the combination of flexibility along with a proven track record at HB Bearings that has kept the West Yorkshire manufacturer buying Kellenberger machines.

For its latest investment, HB Bearings specified the Kellenberger K100 with a Wenger WeStep 650 automation solution. The WeStep 650 is capable of loading shaft parts up to 650mm long and up to 260mm diameter. HB is optimising this capability to run components from 7mm up to 38mm diameter in high batch quantities. The parts are fed in pallets that are drawn in and processed by a chain conveyor. Pallets are indexed under the line gantry and when a pallet of parts has been processed, it is placed on the upper finished parts conveyor and removed at the operator's side.

“This machine has significantly sped up the number of rollers we are making in a day,” Ms Wood adds. “We were making around 90 and this machine can do 400 to 500 depending on the size. If the size is smaller, we can do a bigger batch within a day. It’s had a massive impact on the business. I don’t have to worry about the roller quantities or quality when I’m issuing jobs or when I’m thinking about the deliveries anymore.”

She continues: “The machine has made life easier. I do the sales, but I also come down to issue all the jobs and expedite them. Thankfully, this headache is now gone. Customers are approaching us and being confident in the fact that we can deliver big quantity batches. We’re getting repeat orders, but it’s not just a case of the quantity – it’s the quality and the customer service. It’s the whole rounded service that we give here at HB Bearings.”

Trustworthy technology

The company has placed its faith in DF Precision and the Kellenberger brand over the years, with more than eight machines on the shopfloor. The company has a number of Kellenberger Kel-Vista grinders, one machine being more than 22 years old.

Commenting on its performance, Darren Mawhinney, technical director at HB Bearings says: “The old Kel-Vista is making the same parts as it was 20 years ago. We are still grinding bearings to an accuracy of around 5µm if not better on these kinds of machines. On the job it’s running on at the moment, it is running with a repeatability of 3µm.”

Another of the recent purchases at HB Bearings was a Kellenberger K10.

“We decided to buy this machine to complement the production of our Gamet Bearings standard products,” Mr Mawhinney says. “This machine offered us the opportunity to streamline that side of production and we’re finding the repeatability to be 1µm which is fantastic. When the bearings are in operation, they are extremely quiet, and this is because they are super precision bearings. They need to have a running accuracy to within half a micron, so we needed a machine that’s capable of producing this precision, quality and repeatability.”

Attaining micron repeatability and micron run out on the bearings is daily practice for HB Bearings.

“We produce these bearings in a variety of quantities from one-offs to hundreds,” Mr Mawhinney explains: “On the Gamet side alone, it’s 25mm bore up to 700mm OD and on the HB bespoke bearings, we handle 6mm bores up to 1m OD. The additional machine has just given us so much capacity allowing us to keep up with our customers’ requirements. In fact, it is letting us get ahead so we’re building up good stock quantities enabling us to offer shorter lead-times.”

Production advantages 

With both CNC and manual grinding centres, HB Bearings uses its manual machine tools for F1 bearings, vintage vehicles, reverse engineering and bespoke products. “This is why we keep the manual machine shop going,” Mr Mawhinney adds. “But on the production side, it’s CNCs all the way.

“We’re manufacturing super precision taper rollers and process these in batches of tens of thousands. They come back from heat treatment and then we finish grind them through the Wenger loading system and the K100 to a precision and repeatability of 1µm. It’s our second automated loader – when we saw what’s available from Kellenberger and Wenger, it was an obvious choice for us. We had to move forward, and we had to make sure that we could deliver for our customers.”

He concludes: “Kellenberger has been here with us for the last 20 years, so we’re expecting the same again. Our shopfloor operators are well used to the machines, the operating system and they all know their way around them so there’s no reason for us to look elsewhere. Everybody’s happy with the machines and the support we get. Kellenberger has been an ideal partner for us.”

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