Skip to main content

High Strength Bearing for Large-Bore LEAD FREE Engines

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BeLEADFREE (High Strength Bearing for Large-Bore LEAD FREE Engines)

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2018-05-31

"Lead (Pb) is a heavy metal very harmful to health and the environment. It is particularly harmful to children, having adverse effects such as cognitive and behavioural impairment; it is estimated that Lead exposure results in 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year [World Health Organization - Regional Office for Europe,]. Recent cost-benefit analysis suggests that, for every €1 spent to reduce Lead hazards, there is a potential overall return of €17 to €220 [E. Gould, Environmental Health Perspectives 117 (2009) 1162]. The reduction of Lead in children could potentially result, in France alone, in an overall benefit of €22.72 billion/year by avoiding future medical interventions, limiting the need for special education and increasing future productivity [C. Pichery et al., Environmental Health 10 (2011) article 44].

EU legislative framework has aimed at reducing Lead in journal bearings for internal combustion engines. End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) directive [European Union directive 2000/53/EC. Annex II – Amendment to Annex of the end of life vehicle directive, 2005] ensured that ""materials and components of vehicles put on the market after 1 July 2003 do not contain lead"". RoHS 2.0 [European Union directive 2011/65/EU] will restrict substances such as Lead within electronic equipment, including portable engine-generators or gensets by 2019. And Lead salts critical for the production of these bearings have recently been included in the Candidate List of substances of very high concern for Authorisation [] by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). However, the large internal combustion engine industry still heavily relies on Lead-based bearing materials. Completely removing Lead from this market is more challenging than the automotive sector due to different reasons:
- Different size scale and crankshaft dimensions (e.g. diameter of an automotive engine bearing is generally less than 70mm, whereas it can be more than 500mmin the case of a medium speed engine).
- Lifespan of the engine (e.g. roughly around 4,000 hours for an automotive engine bearing compared to typically 60,000 hours for a marine engine bearing).
- Operating conditions of the engine (e.g. fuel and lubricant specification, fire pressures, emissions, etc.)

In this context, the overall objective of the BeLEADFREE action is to develop, upscale and disseminate the next generation of environmentally-friendly Lead-free bearing materials for large internal combustion engines. BeLEADFREE aims to achieve this by adopting innovative design & manufacturing and applying a multidisciplinary approach involving experts with extensive industrial, research and innovation skills.
BeLEADFREE has been conducted by a multidisciplinary consortium with two industrial partners, Daido Industrial Bearings Europe Ltd (United Kingdom) and Elsyca NV (Belgium), who were supported by research partners Fundación Tekniker (Spain) and Coventry University (United Kingdom). The project was developed over 24 months and during this time, the BeLEADFREE consortium took a multidisciplinary approach involving management, research and engineering staff with strong industrial, research and innovation skills in the following areas:
- Engine bearing design, research and manufacturing
- Material and surface engineering
- Material and tribological characterisation

The technical work conducted during the project consisted of 4 main stages:

STAGE 1: Initial work was focused on the definition of a Reference System based on a representative Lead-based bearing material and the evaluation of its environmental and eco-toxicological impact. This was then followed by the characterisation of the novel Lead-free bearing material and its environmental and eco-toxicological impact. Fundamental characterisation and optimisation of the manufacturing process was also conducted as part of this stage.

STAGE 2: Data generated during Stage 1 was used to develop novel designs to optimise the manufacturing process. These designs were implemented into the prototype pilot line constructed as part of this stage. Additional design refinement work was conducted based on results obtained from Stage 3 in order to further optimise the manufacturing process.

STAGE 3: This stage was mainly focused on the full-size preparation of prototype large engine bearings with the novel Lead-free materials and their validation under real working conditions. Prototype bearings with the new Pb-free material were produced for validation in real working conditions. Results confirmed the superior performance of the new Pb-free material under real working conditions.

STAGE 4: Dissemination of the project results to the industrial and academic sectors, environmental policy makers and general public has already started. This included the generation of a project website, press releases, industry workshops, general dissemination articles, presentation at academic conferences and generation of per-review scientific papers. A dissemination plan was developed and implemented to maximise the impact of the BeLEADFREE action. This included the participation in the EU Industry Day 2018, where the achievements and successful outcomes of the BeLEADFREE action were showcased to legislators, policymakers and press, including the Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska, and several members of the Executive Agency for SMEs (EASME) and the Directorate-General for Research & Innovation, among other EU agencies.
It is expected that the successful completion of the project will help generate sales of high value added, low carbon footprint products to supply European and global engine markets while reduce hazardous waste disposal. This would allow the BeLEADFREE Consortium to develop a strong, long term relationship with current and new customers, secure existing jobs and create new, highly skilled employment opportunities in Europe.