The life of the bearing increased from three months to three years .
Few industries are tougher on bearings than the mussel industry. Quite simply, the breaking of mussels often breaks normal bearings. The sea water is corrosive and contains sand. When the mussel shell is broken, pieces of shell can get inside the bearing. The average lifetime of an ordinary bearing on a conveyor belt in a mussel factory is about three months.
In 2010, Jaap Meeuwsen was running his own company offering technical service to the mussel industry in the Dutch seaside town of Yerseke, famous for its mussels. He heard constant complaints about wear on the bearings. So he began to search for better bearings at trade shows and found some good products to try.
“I would go to the customers and say, now I have a better bearing for you,” says Jaap. “They tried it but were still not satisfied.”
Jaap didn’t give up and came back a year later saying “Now I have an even better bearing for you.”
In the end, nothing on the market matched the tough conditions found in mussel processing. That’s when Jaap decided to invent his own bearing. “There were some bearings where the ball bearings themselves were made of stainless steel but the housing was not. I decided to make a bearing with double roller bearings and a stainless steel housing,” he says. “I also invented a special type of seal which I call the centrifugal seal. It is designed to keep the dirt out.”
What makes it unique?
What makes Jaap’s bearing unique is the combination of double roller bearings, a stainless steel housing and a special seal. No one else offers a bearing like this. The bearing housing is made to his specifications in China but the bearing insert is a standard model that can be ordered anywhere in the world. This is an advantage because it means the bearing insert is easy to replace locally.
He knew he had invented something special for the mussel companies in the town of Yerseke. “Now I have a bearing that is extremely good for you,” he told his customers back in 2012. Jaap called it the Extreme Bearing. It lived up to its name. Instead of lasting three months, the bearing lasted at least three years. Even after three years, the bearing did not necessarily need changing.
“I was with a customer in the mussel industry recently and we inspected all the Extreme Bearings in his factory by opening up the end caps,” says Jaap. “There was absolutely nothing wrong with the bearings after one year so we closed them up again and they can go on working for another year before the next inspection is due.”
“The mussel industry has the worst conditions you can find for a bearing,” comments Jaap. “You can’t get worse than this: cracked shells, sand and the presence of salt water. If the bearing works here, I believe it will work anywhere. This industry is as hard as it gets!”
The Extreme Bearing began to be used in the mussel industry and now it is finding a niche for itself in many other applications with extreme conditions.