Bearing up

The Daido Metal name was first conceived in 1939 in Japan, and over the last 70 years has grown into the producer of the widest range of plain bearings for a variety of applications and market sectors, as well as bearings for automotive products. Based in the UK, Daido Industrial Bearings Europe Ltd is a continuation of a business that was originally operated by The Glacier Metal Company – a world leader in plain bearing technology for medium and slow speed diesel engines. In 1998 the medium speed aspect of Glacier was acquired in a joint venture between Federal-Mogul and Daido Metal Company of Japan (DMJ), and in 2001 DMJ took control of the company renaming it Daido Industrial Bearings Europe (DIBE).

Today, as a group Daido employs approximately 4000 people and has an annual turnover of £475 million. Of this workforce, 170 individuals are employed by DIBE, which achieves a turnover of £15 million. Naturally the UK is a traditional market for DIBE and to this day remains an important region, primarily in the supply of theservice sector. Approximately half of DIBE’s products are exported to Europe, with others going further afield to the US and East Asia, where the engine build market continues to grow.

DIBE is focused on developing and producing bearings for the medium speed range of diesel and gas engines including crankshaft half bearings used as connecting-rod or main bearings, bushes for connecting-rod small ends, camshafts and other applications, and thrust bearings. The majority of products supplied by DIBE are steelbacked and lined with a range of white metal, lead bronze, or aluminium based materials.

These materials have been developed over an extended period of time, and as there is increasing demand to operate at higher ratings so an ongoing need for improved materials remains.

Sales & marketing manager Dave Lambert elaborates on how investment is at the core of remaining competitive: “In 2008 DIBE invested one million euros into a new electroplating facility, which was primarily required to manufacture new overlay plated materials for major original equipment manufacturers (OEM). This is a new state-of-the-art facility allowing several different types of overlay to be plated for new and existing applications. Importantly, the facility also has space for further expansion when required by the growth of the business and the introduction of new materials. We have also invested in a research and development (R&D) plating facility, which is a flexible system allowing for further development of new overlay plating processes for DIBE and other companies within the Daido Group.”

R&D plays a vital role in both the development of new materials, but also the strengthening of existing concepts. A key example of this is Daido’s electroplated tin-copper overlay coating, P2H, which is the Group’s first lead free material designed for the marine four-stroke diesel engine market. A high performance overlay with cavitation and corrosion resistant properties, P2H has undergone several years of extensive field testing and developments, and has since been implemented in both new and existing four-stroke engine applications in different markets.

“As part of a group of companies specialised in plain bearing manufacture DIBE have access to the latest developments in automotive bearing technology, including the new aluminium alloy bimetal bearings currently under development,” notes Dave. “Traditionally we would have produced more lead bronze overlay plated bearings, however over the last two years there has been a major swing to aluminium based bearings. This product now equates to approximately two-thirds of our half bearing manufacture, with the majority constructed from the AlSn10Si4 (A104X) material.”

Other innovative developments within the Daido Group include the DLA01 material, which is a polymer based overlay for use on conventional aluminium alloy bearings in the marine two-stroke diesel engine market. DLA01 has significant abrasive wear and corrosion resistant properties, as tested in both laboratory experiments and in-field trials.

For over 40 years Daido has been supporting its customers with numerical analysis to assist in the design of bearings and bearing assemblies. The techniques currently used are 3D modelling, finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics. In addition to these analytical tools, DIBE regularly assist customers by carrying out bearing fitting tests. These tests are conducted on newly designed connecting rod bearings and main bearing assemblies, where measurements of the new assembly are taken with and without bearings to optimise critical dimensions. They are usually carried out at the customer’s site and help obtain a better understanding of how the final assembly behaves in a practical way.

Whilst other companies may have struggled during the economic downturn, DIBE utilised this lull in activity to concentrate on developing new parts that were not previously part of its core business. As signs of recovery become apparent across the globe, DIBE is already reaping the benefits of this approach and is even considering further investments to support the anticipated demand of the future. As a company known for producing high quality products at a good price, DIBE’s strategy for the future remains simple, in terms of maintaining this reputation. “We want to continue to provide bearing solutions to both our existing and new customers, in addition to increasing our market share. Our focus remains on developing materials that fulfil the requirements of the market, and growing our product range through new innovations,” concludes Dave.

Innovative new materials

Experts in bearing production

Part of the global Daido Group