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Southern Manufacturing

Farnborough, Hants(GU14 6TQ)

20/04/2021 - 22/04/2021

Southern Manufacturing and Electronics is the most comprehensive annual industrial exhibition in the (more)

PPMA Show 2021

NEC, Birmingham(B40 1NT)

28/09/2021 - 30/09/2021

PPMA Show 2021 will be the UK’s largest ever event dedicated to state-of-the-art processing and (more)

Advanced Engineering 2021

NEC Birmingham(B40 1NT)

03/11/2021 - 04/11/2021

Join us in our 12th and most important edition to date, as we invite engineers and management from all (more)

Smooth movement of kinetic sculptures

Smooth movement of kinetic sculptures Combined needle roller/axial ball bearings are playing a key role in ensuring low friction, smooth, quiet movement of kinetic sculptures.

Popular UK sculptor David Watkinson has opened up a new line of business by creating kinetic sculptures. "I've been a full time sculptor for the last 18 years, working from my home studio in Leeds," he explains. "Although most of my pieces are static, over the last four years I've developed three kinetic sculptures that are powered by the wind and small currents of warm air. All of these rely on combined axial and needle roller bearings, precision manufactured by Schaeffler."

Inspired by the great American artist and kinetic sculptor George Rickey (1907-2002), David's work is sold either to private individuals as garden displays, or to organisations and charities for display to the general public. David has sold sculptures to customers all around the world, from New York to Switzerland. "Kinetic sculptures are about form and movement," explains David. "The natural world inspires the form of my work and the unseen forces of nature (such as the wind) dictate its movement. Humans expect movements to be linear, whereas my pieces appear to defy gravity and have very unusual patterns of rotation.

"My pieces are delicately balanced on precision bearings, where small air currents cause large forms such as leaves and seed pods to tip and move in reaction, carving a path through the air before returning to a balanced position. These sculptures represent a perfect combination of art and engineering, with the bearings supplied by Schaeffler being a vital component in the motion system."

For his first kinetic piece, the 'Kinetic Seed Sculpture', David spent 18 months experimenting with different types of bearings. Eventually, due to the complex angles of motion needed for the sculpture, he selected a combined roller/axial bearing that would meet his design requirements and so searched on Google for a suitable supplier. "I came across a bearing on Schaeffler's website that I thought was suitable and started to examine the bearing drawings in more detail. My sculptures are high quality precision-engineered art pieces that sell for between £8,000 and £12,000 each. I therefore needed precision-made, high quality, reliable bearings that would also provide longevity."

After speaking to Schaeffler UK, David was put in touch with a local distributor of Schaeffler bearings based in Bradford, which provided David with additional technical data and drawings of the bearings. "The first bearings that I fitted to the sculpture worked perfectly. All I needed to do was make some minor adjustments to the Y-piece of the sculpture. I've never had a single problem with any of the Schaeffler bearings since," states David.

The Kinetic Seed Sculpture revolves gently in warm air currents and moves more dramatically in strong winds. The sculpture feathers in the wind and constantly moves smoothly and silently to 'avoid' the wind.

David's latest kinetic piece, Orbit, is currently on display near the Visitor Centre at the Royal Horticultural Society's Hyde Hall in Essex. The sculpture, which stands 4m tall by 3m across, took six months of development effort, prototyping and planning. Orbit consists of two seed-like pods, which gently dip and weave around one another in a slow, graceful dance. The structure of the pods is exposed and the aluminium fins are angled to catch the breeze. Precision manufactured lead counterweights are also provided for perfect balance, as well as three sets of combined needle roller/axial ball bearings from Schaeffler. These bearings are positioned at the junction inside the Y-piece and in each of the arms near to the aluminium plinths.

The bearings supplied to David Watkinson for all three of his kinetic pieces are NKX35Z (35mm inside diameter) and NKX25Z (25mm ID) combined needle roller/axial deep groove ball bearings. The bearings are supplied with separate inner rings and are manufactured to Schaeffler's premium quality X-life grade. These bearings have optimised raceway surfaces that provide higher load carrying capacity and longer rating life. Combined needle roller/axial deep groove ball bearings do not have an inner ring and so are extremely compact in the radial direction.
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