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A Unique Approach to Marine Environments – Part 1

June 7, 2019 by Christine Berlly

AST’s customized approach to problem solving helped a manufacturer of weather-beaten products find bearing relief.

The following is part one of a two-part post:

A middle market OEM that produces outdoor electrical cabinets had a problem: With many of their cabinets located near coastal areas, weather exposure, including salt from ocean spray, was compromising the integrity of its products, which incorporated bearings on the cabinet hinges. Specifically, condensation had rusted the cabinet’s ball bearings and steel cage.

Historically, they had used a conventional catalog chrome steel bearing for its cabinets, which was incapable of withstanding the coast’s extreme weather variations — which often occurred on the same day. (There’s an old joke, attributed to Mark Twain, that speaks to this phenomenon: “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”)

Servicing the corroded bearings was difficult, as the cabinet hinges had frozen, making it difficult to even open the cabinet.

The manufacturer approached AST to find a cost effective and efficient solution, and AST responded by first addressing the basics: grease. While a new lubricant provided short-term relief, it quickly became evident that this was not a long-term solution. Indeed, the internal metal components still became corroded and non-functional.

Next, AST transitioned production to full stainless steel bearings, which provided the cabinets with the desired functionality and durability — but at a cost that was prohibitive. In total, the new bearings cost at least four times more than the original bearing, which made repair and new production costs too high.

AST engineers went back to work, tinkering with various material options while understanding that many of the cabinets were still active (in operation near the sea), which rendered prospective design changes impractical.

After an exhaustive review of their faulty bearings, AST honed in on the common damage: While grease protected the raceway surfaces of the rings, weather had rusted the soft metal cage and the balls. AST engineers considered this narrower damage and concluded that a revised stainless steel ball complement and assembly inside a standard chrome steel ring would provide the necessary product improvements. So they continued their work.

Find out how AST solved the cabinet manufacturer’s problem in A Unique Approach to Marine Environments – Part 2. Coming June 21.

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