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BEARINGS Q


41


“Our scientists, technologists and


engineers, some of the best in the world, just work on new ideas and new concepts. They’re creative people. It’s like a Google environment which, for a company our size, is quite an achievement. If we can’t better something that’s already out there, why do it? Our philosophy is to make systems and technolo- gies that last a lifetime.” To some business gurus, striving for quality


doesn’t necessarily make the best business model, since it limits the potential for tapping into a lucrative after-sales market. Thomson says that this type of business model is favoured by manufacturers of phenolic-lami- nate bearings because their products aren’t known for longevity and have to rely on the after sale of replacement bearings. A similar philosophy applies to aft engine room bulkhead mechanical seals. “When we tested our Compac polymer


bearings against bearings made from a variety of phenolics, the difference was dramatic. We found that these types of bearings last around five years before they eventually need replacing. Shipowners must be aware of the


pros and cons of the different technologies. A phenolic laminate system may be a cheaper solution, but when you factor in shaft liner wear and bearing wear-down, the Compac system soon pays for itself,” Thomson says.


Other applications


There is also substantial potential for Thordon’s polymer technology to be used in other marine applications. The company’s ThorPlas product – a polymer bearing for deck equipment developed several years ago – has achieved particular success in the cruiseship segment as a grease-free alternative to lifeboat davit bearings and fairleads. “It obviates the need to grease the bearing


so you don’t get any black streaks running down the side of the ship. It also prevents the davit from seizing due to poor maintenance or saltwater corrosion. It can be used in any deck application that would traditionally have a bronze bearing,” he says. Bulkhead seals, hydrostatic bearings for


vessels engaged in dynamic positioning and inboard intermediate shaft bearings are other applications where Thomson sees a polymer


future. Certainly, the capability of naval vessels would be enhanced with a shaft bearing that can still operate when the shaft has been bent by grounding or battle damage. “It might sound like fanciful speculation,


but there’s really no limit to the possibilities of what we can achieve with our polymer technology. The challenge is finding the engineers who are creative and crazy enough to come up with the ideas.” After three generations of family owner-


ship, Thomson is now looking towards the company’s innovative fourth generation and to safely navigate it through a changing seascape, but he won’t be doing it alone… Step forward step-daughter Anna Galoni, a Polish-born epidemiologist, who is now fully involved in the family-owned business and beginning to implement a plan that will see the company expanded its diverse portfolio to other markets and new horizons.


* George A ‘Sandy’ Thomson is owner and Chairman of the Board of the Thomson- Gordon Group, the parent company of Thordon Bearings.


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