Breaking the Ice – Split roller bearings from Cooper keep icebreaker generators running

1 Cooper geteiltes Lager

Bearing unit with split bearing from Cooper

Krefeld, Germany, January 2015. Split roller bearing specialists Cooper has supplied bearings for the generators of an icebreaker operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. The on-board generators’ existing sleeve bearings had a short operational life and their maintenance required too much time and effort. Cooper has developed a solution consisting of split cylindrical roller bearings, which eliminate these problems without the need to modify the generator itself and which minimize downtimes.

To keep seas and inland waterways navigable during Canada’s long, severe winters, the Canadian Coast Guard operates close to 20 icebreakers of various classes for light, medium and heavy-duty tasks. These icebreakers are designed and equipped to navigate frozen sea. They have engines that are much larger and more powerful than those of other vessels of comparable size to be able to plough through the ice and carve a sufficiently wide navigable channel for other ships.


An icebreaker in action

On-board electricity is supplied by generators. Recently, problems occurred with the friction bearings of the on-board generators of one of the icebreakers, and this was followed by the same problem on other ships of the fleet. Each of the two generators has two bearings that hold the generator shaft – one fixed and one floating to allow the shaft to expand as it heats up. The existing sleeve bearings had an unexpectedly short lifespan and required excessively complex maintenance work, partly owing to restricted access to the bearings. The need for oil lubrication also presented generic problems and replacement parts from the manufacturer had long lead times.

These problems called for a solution that did not require alteration of the generator itself: The new bearing would have to be a direct, ‘drop-in’ replacement. Since the icebreakers have heavy work schedules, downtime must be kept to a minimum. The Cooper solution was to provide a high-quality split cylindrical roller bearing as a direct replacement for the existing sleeve bearings. The split bearing has a special cartridge that holds the shaft-end cover and is mounted on a standard pedestal. A support plinth and elevating pedestal were built to customer specifications to provide dimensionally identical support for the shaft.


Cooper bearing installed on the shaft, with support plinth and standard pedestal base


Fully installed split bearing unit

The new solution allowed rapid replacement without modification of the generator. The roller bearings are fully split up to the shaft, and the labyrinth seal is also of a split design. They have clear advantages over the previous sleeve bearings: Their design allows easy-access inspection and maintenance, since no other components need to be removed. This significantly cuts standstill times and maintenance effort. The bearings have a long service life and do not need oil lubrication, eliminating the need for pumps and filters and the risk of oil leaks. The bearings run cooler and consume less power. There is no longer a risk of damage to the shaft from bearing failure.

IMG-20140605-02976 (Small)

Cooper bearings have been tried and tested in marine environments for many decades, and Cooper supplies both OEMs and subsuppliers. From offshore support vessels to ferries, military vessels, fishing boats and tugs, Cooper split bearings provide the reliability and flexibility crucial in extreme working conditions out at sea. Beside marine propulsion, they can also be found in other shipboard, transport and loading activities.


The split bearing was designed in 1907 by inventor and engineer Thomas Cooper. To this day, the company he established in King’s Lynn in Norfolk, UK is a world leader in the development of split bearings. All Cooper products are made in Norfolk and sold throughout the world. Cooper’s German subsidiary – Cooper Geteilte Rollenlager GmbH – has its headquarters in Krefeld. Cooper’s full range of split roller bearings includes standard bearings such as cylindrical roller bearings and tapered roller bearings as well as special bearings including water-cooled bearings, flat thrust bearings, other solid bearings, high speed bearings, full row bearings and other special types, and large bearings over 600 mm bore size. In addition to maritime applications, Cooper bearings are used in industries including steel, mining, conventional power, cement and other building materials where operating conditions are beyond the average – including situations that are often dirty and feature extreme temperatures. Typical applications beside marine propulsion include conveyors, fans and blowers, cooling beds, continuous casters, stacker reclaimers, and many other applications, especially where bearings are in trapped positions and access is limited.

Company information:

Cooper Roller Bearings, an SKF Group company, is a manufacturer of split-to-the-shaft roller bearings, producing all standard bearing sizes and housings with fast turnaround on large, custom-built units. The company was established in 1894 by Thomas Cooper, a prolific inventor and brilliant engineer, in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, where the company is still based today. Thomas Cooper designed the split bearing in 1907, and since then the company continues to lead its development. Split roller bearings from Cooper are used in industries including steel, mining, marine, conventional power and cement. Cooper has service and distribution centres in the UK, USA, Germany, China, India, Brazil and Australia and representation around the world. In 1991 the Kaydon Corporation with headquarters in Muskegon, Michigan, USA became Cooper’s parent company. Since 2013 part of the SKF Group, Kaydon is a leading designer and manufacturer of custom-engineered, performance-critical products, supplying a broad and diverse group of alternative-energy, military, industrial, aerospace, medical and electronic equipment, and aftermarket customers.

Contact in Germany:

Cooper Geteilte Rollenlager GmbH
Oberbenrader Str. 407
D-47804 Krefeld, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)2151 713 016
Fax: +49 (0)2151 713 010
E-mail: [email protected]

UK contact:

Cooper Roller Bearings Company Ltd.
Wisbech Road
Kings Lynn, Norfolk PE30 5JX, UK
Tel.: +44 1553 763447
Fax: +44 1553 761113
E-mail: [email protected]

PR Contact:

TPR International
Christiane Tupac-Yupanqui
Postfach 11 40
D-82133 Olching
Tel.: +49 (0)8142 44 82 301
Fax: +49 (0)8142 44 82 302
E-mail: [email protected]