Federal-Mogul Holdings Corporation’s Powertrain Division has positioned itself as a global leader in lead-free engine bearings since introducing its complete portfolio of lead-free three-layer bronze bearing shells in 2007. During a time when light vehicle production fell in Europe and engine downsizing trends further impacted bearing volumes, the company’s lead-free bearing sales achieved significant growth despite a contracting market. The success of Federal-Mogul’s lead-free range of bearings led to the technology being named a winner for the prestigious 2014 Automotive News PACE(TM) award for supplier innovation earlier this month.

Federal-Mogul is a leader in the global development of lead-free bearing technology, offering a comprehensive portfolio of products supported by an investment of approximately $50 million in production and coating technology and equipment over several years. Though initially driven by European demand resulting from legislation that mandated the elimination of lead in vehicle components in 2011, Federal-Mogul recently completed an expansion to its Sejong City, Korea manufacturing plant to meet the growing need for lead-free bearings in the Asian market.

“We anticipated the automotive industry’s move towards more environmentally-friendly bearing products and, as a result, we developed a full range of lead-free materials to satisfy the substantial increase in demand from engine, transmission and vehicle manufacturers,” said Richard Llope, Federal-Mogul’s senior vice president, Bearings. “Most OEMs in Europe now use our lead-free products, including many winners of the ‘International Engine of the Year’ awards.”

To replace lead as an alloying element in sliding bearings, Federal-Mogul engineers overcame  multiple challenges and were successful in developing suitable materials based on significantly different tribological and physical mechanisms. These materials were required to be effective in both gasoline and diesel engines for main and connecting rod bearing applications under a broad range of load cycles. Because the products have been validated in a significant number of applications, they have become an industry-leading technology.

“By considering both the substrate and sliding layers, we identified an array of complementary material combinations that have allowed us to provide a comprehensive portfolio of solutions for the entire global engine and transmission market,” Llope explained. “Concentrating only on the sliding layers would have produced less capable solutions, suitable only for certain applications. Our strategy to focus on the development of substrate and sliding layers together and with equal importance has helped us establish an important competitive advantage.”

Investment in the new materials went beyond the development of lead-free products with required tribological properties. Federal-Mogul re-optimized the entire manufacturing process chain and introduced innovative and rigorous new validation procedures in order to bring the new bearings to market, converting multiple bearing manufacturing facilities around the world in order to meet demand. In total, 18 patents have been granted globally for the technology.

Federal-Mogul’s lead-free bearings were developed at the company’s Global Bearing Technology Center in Wiesbaden, Germany. The company produces the bearings in multiple facilities around the world.


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