The Lilium all-electric vertical take-off and landing jet will use electric motor bearings developed specifically for the application by SKF.

This Week in Power & Motion: SKF Supplying Electric Motor Bearings for Lilium Electric Aircraft

June 23, 2023
SKF has spent 2 years developing electric motor bearings for Lilium's electric jet, industry associations ASME and STLE have named new leadership, and more industry news you may have missed.

There is much going on in the world of hydraulics, pneumatics and electronics motion systems, from technology introductions and industry advancements to new trends and industry leaders. Each week the Power & Motion team collects some of the latest industry news to help keep our readers up to date on what's happening in the fluid power and motion control sectors as well as the industries they serve.

STLE Names New President

The Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) has announced Hong Liang, Ph.D., Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. Professor in the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University will serve as the 2023-2024 president. She will serve for a 1-year term in this role, acting as the society's principal executive officer and chair of its board of directors.

As president, Liang will work to create a strategic plan for STLE which emphasizes technical innovation, education, and global advocacy in the fields of tribology and lubrication. She has been a member of the organization since 1989 and served in various roles during that time. 

"My goal as STLE president is to recognize the impacts of our society and the contributions of our members while addressing key issues affecting our field, including sustainability, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), diversity and more," said Liang in STLE's press release announcing her appointment as president.

At Texas A&M, Liang focuses her research on tribology’s fundamental and application aspects. Her research group designs advanced tribomaterials and structures and makes them through nanomanufacturing. In addition, Liang investigates surface properties and interfacial interactions of those materials in tribological applications, including chemical-mechanical polishing. She received her doctorate and master’s in materials science and engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology.

"Liang’s longstanding dedication to tribology and notable contributions to the field will not only make a positive impact on STLE but will benefit our members in the years to come," said Edward P. Salek, CAE, STLE executive director, in STLE's press release. 

Festo Supports SkillsUSA Participants

Festo Didactic is once again supporting participants of the SkillsUSA Championship Competition (Mechatronics Section) by providing training technology for use during the 2023 National Leadership and Skills Conference which took place June 19-23.

SkillsUSA brings together students, teachers and industry to provide education, events and competitions for middle school through college-aged students which provide them with training necessary for future trade, technical and skilled service oriented careers. Programs like this are becoming vitally more important to develop a skilled workforce for the manufacturing and other industrial related industries. 

Festo Didactic is a primary sponsor of the SkillsUSA Mechatronics Competition. As such, it provides training equipment such as its Modular Production System (MPS), the Portable Fluid Power system, the introduction to mechatronics MecLab, Basic Motor Technology, and Electricity Trainers. These systems are designed to replicate tasks that would be completed in real-world working environments and train students how to work with electrical, pneumatic, control system as well as process automation technologies. 

READ MORE: Transform Manufacturing Education to Boost Productivity

For the competition, students must complete a series of tasks based on standards and competencies put together by the SkillsUSA Championships Technical Committee which will be needed for future technical careers. The competition consists of a combination of written, oral and physical challenges which includes troubleshooting and construction of mechatronic devices. A panel of industry professionals assess how knowledgeable the competitors are in the area of mechatronics based on how they perform in the competition. 

"Seeing the SkillsUSA students showcase their abilities with such passion and drive is inspiring," said Alyssa Russo, who serves as the SkillsUSA Mechatronics Technical Committee Chair and is a Festo Didactic Technical Support Engineer, in the company's press release announcing its support of the 2023 competition. "The students exemplify the people that employers are seeking for future Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) roles requiring technical education, training, and skills. I believe the entire Festo Didactic team agrees that days like those at SkillsUSA make our work incredibly rewarding."

Volvo Autonomous Solutions Begins Operations in Texas

Volvo Autonomous Solutions (V.A.S.), the Volvo Group's business focused on development of autonomous systems for various industries, has expanded its presence in North America with the opening of an office in Fort Worth, TX. The new office will be dedicated to setting up the company's first autonomous freight corridors running between Dallas Fort Worth and El Paso and from Dallas to Houston. 

This corridor will aid with the testing and preparation for commercial launch of the Autonomous Transport Solution comprised of hardware, software and services for autonomous vehicle operation. In addition, the company is working with customers DHL and Uber Freight to test the autonomous driving technology and establish procedures for safe and reliable autonomous transport. 

The company explains in its press release announcing the new office that its Autonomous Transport Solution for on-highway vehicles is operated based on a hub-to-hub model where autonomous trucks take on the highway portion of the driving, operating all hours of the day and night between transfer hubs while human drivers complete local operations.

"Through our Autonomous Transport Solution, our ambition is to create a new source of industry capacity that will ease some of the burden of the increasing demand for freight while also enabling local drivers to shift into short-haul jobs that will keep them closer to home. This will unlock significant efficiencies in the entire supply chain and benefit everyone in the transportation industry," said Sasko Cuklev, Head of On-Road Solutions, in the company's press release. 

Like many industries, transportation is also facing a lack of skilled labor entering the workforce. Automation is seen as a way to help overcome this while also making work safer and more productive for those in the trucking industry. 

SKF Collaborating with Lilium on Electric Aircraft

SKF has signed an agreement to supply electric motor bearings for use in Lilium's all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) jet. The company has spent the past 2 years developing the bearings in collaboration with Lilium which are undergoing final certification and qualification tests. 

In addition, the company has helped Lilium reduce system weight fulfil Aerospace certification requirements and meet low-cost and short lead time targets. SKF has aided testing of the electric aircraft by providing impact and endurance testing at its Valence Aerospace Test Centre in France. 

"With electrification, the aerospace industry will experience a transformation in the coming years. We are pleased to be a part of this development by being the preferred bearing supplier on the electric motor bearings of the Lilium Jet. It supports our strategic focus on sustainability and our commitment towards the achievement of the goals set out in the Paris Climate agreement," said Greg Zimmerman, Director Aerospace Business Unit at SKF, in the company's press release announcing the collaboration.

SKF cites market research from Acumen Research and Consulting which forecasts the eVTOL market to potentially be worth up to $30 billion by 2030 as electrification progresses in this space, as it has in so many others. With the move to electrification, development of new technologies like SKF's electric motor bearing will be necessary to meet the performance and emissions reduction goals of electrified transport. 

New ASME President Begins Term, Board Members Announced 

During the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' (ASME) annual meeting, it was announced Thomas Kurfess, Ph.D., P.E., would begin his term as the society's 142nd president. Kurfess has been an active member of the society for over 30 years, and is an ASME fellow as well as a member of the Board of Governors. 

Kurfess earned Bachelor’s, Master’s, and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and focuses his research on the design and development of advanced manufacturing systems targeting secure digital manufacturing, additive and subtractive processes, and large-scale production enterprises. He is currently the chief manufacturing officer of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute. In addition, Kurfess is the HUSCO/Ramirez Distinguished Chair in Fluid Power and Motion Control and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and also serves as the chief technology officer at the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences.

At the annual meeting, Andrew S. Bicos, Ph.D., an independent consultant, recently retired from The Boeing Company, was appointed to the Board of Governors. He has been an ASME member since college and actively involved with the society for more than 25 years.

Four other ASME members were also nominated to join the board and will be voted on in September:  

  • Daniel N. Donahoe, MBA, Ph.D., P.E., currently a consultant with 1000 kilometers PLLC and beginning work for Systems Consulting Group Odyssey as a systems engineer. 
  • Nicole Kaufman Dyess, works as an independent consultant who transforms her clients’ technical expertise into engaging marketing strategies, sales materials, and technical documentation.
  • William P. King, Ph.D., a professor and the Ralph A. Andersen Endowed Chair in the department of mechanical science and engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • Janis P. Terpenny, Ph.D., is the Manufacturing Systems Integration (MSI) program director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI). She is also a professor at George Mason University in systems engineering and operations research and in mechanical engineering.

WATCH MORE: Are Sustainability Engineering Roles in Demand?

About the Author

Sara Jensen | Executive Editor, Power & Motion

Sara Jensen is executive editor of Power & Motion, directing expanded coverage into the modern fluid power space, as well as mechatronic and smart technologies. She has over 15 years of publishing experience. Prior to Power & Motion she spent 11 years with a trade publication for engineers of heavy-duty equipment, the last 3 of which were as the editor and brand lead. Over the course of her time in the B2B industry, Sara has gained an extensive knowledge of various heavy-duty equipment industries — including construction, agriculture, mining and on-road trucks —along with the systems and market trends which impact them such as fluid power and electronic motion control technologies. 

You can follow Sara and Power & Motion via the following social media handles:

X (formerly Twitter): @TechnlgyEditor and @PowerMotionTech

LinkedIn: @SaraJensen and @Power&Motion

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