Thrust bearings are one of the most complex and most expensive components in a hydro-electric plant. So why aren’t plant operators invested in better understanding this important technology?

When Albert Kingsbury patented the oil filmed hydrodynamic thrust bearing around 1910, bearings made from lignum vitae had been in delivering reliable performance for half a century. Kingsbury’s design relied on creating a wedge of oil film between tilting pads and soft Babbitt to give lift to the thrust pads. This system, despite adding complexity to the process, eventually became the industry standard as an extremely reliable and long-lasting solution.

Fast forward 100 years and evolving and increasingly more stringent environmental requirements are demanding cleaner, lower impact materials and processes. For plant operators, this means finding ways to remove oil from the proximity of water. This puts plant operators using Kingsbury’s “modern” oil filmed bearing technology in a challenging .

Fortunately, there’s a superior solution that pre-dates and outperforms today’s industry standard: lignum vitae. Quietly and continuously in use for more than 100 years, lignum vitae bearings are the only natural, water-lubricated solution with zero environmental impact.

Water lubricated lignum vitae thrust bearings meet today’s challenges through the unique ability to work on a “mixed mode of lubrication” inherent to the material  Mixed mode allows the bearing to operate momentarily on direct contact with no lubrication. When water is restored, equipment can operate hydrodynamically on as little as .001 film of water. Traditional, oil filmed bearings simply can’t compete- wiping out in 1/10th of a second with no lubrication present. Lignum vitae has a natural guaiac resin in every cell that cannot be washed away and creates a glaze that is the perfect operating surface for a rotating shaft. This quality has kept many lignum vitae thrust bearings operating for more than 100 years.

Water lubricated bearings eliminate many of the environmental and performance issues associated with oil filmed thrust bearings. Plant operators can avoid costly maintenance and environmental fines that come from oil contamination, abrasion, thermal expansion, Babbitt/tin metallurgy quality, voltage discharge, high velocity lubricant flows, overheating and misalignment.

Fortunately, there is one provider that can give operators peace of mind when it comes to ensuring a clean, high performance and low maintenance assembly environment. Lignum Vitae North America 

Not only was Lignum Vitae N.A. was awarded a US patent for our technology in 2018, we have the largest sustainable supply of lignum vitae material to satisfy the global demand for new and expanding environmental regulations, As oil film becomes obsolete and hydro applications expand, water-lubricated solutions will become the next generation of bearings. Let us show you how lignum vitae is the thrust bearing material that will outperform your expectations. Every application. Every product. Every time.

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