The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need for early identification of flaking, pitting, spalling, rusting, corroding, creeping, and skewing of ball bearings within the crankshaft, and growing importance of technologies such as electromechanical actuators, sensors, and air brakes, electrification, connected and autonomous vehicles. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.7 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in automotive: crankshaft ball bearingsBuy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal, and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

300+ innovations will shape the automotive industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresight, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over one million patents, there are 300+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, integrated multi-motor drivetrains, electric power steering (EPS), and post-collision handing are useful technologies that are in the early stages of wider application and should be tracked closely. Variable compression engines, V2V distance monitoring, and turbocharger shaft bearings are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) and plasma-jet ignition, which are now well-established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Crankshaft ball bearings is a key innovation area in automotive

Crankshaft bearings support the crankshaft in providing rotation under inertia forces generated by the parts of the shaft and oscillating forces transmitted by the connecting rods.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of crankshaft ball bearings.

Key players in crankshaft ball bearings – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to crankshaft ball bearings

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Volvo 12 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Mobis 19 Unlock Company Profile
Liebherr-International 12 Unlock Company Profile
Nakanishi Metal Works 67 Unlock Company Profile
Rolls-Royce 11 Unlock Company Profile
NOK 125 Unlock Company Profile
Kaman 26 Unlock Company Profile
NTT 1261 Unlock Company Profile
Iljin Global 92 Unlock Company Profile
Melrose Industries 15 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 15 Unlock Company Profile
Nordischer Maschinenbau Rud. Baader 17 Unlock Company Profile
SNR Roulements 14 Unlock Company Profile
Hiwin Technologies 12 Unlock Company Profile
Schaeffler 510 Unlock Company Profile
NSK 821 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 12 Unlock Company Profile
MinebeaMitsumi 36 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 15 Unlock Company Profile
THK 11 Unlock Company Profile
SKF 910 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 11 Unlock Company Profile
ThyssenKrupp 56 Unlock Company Profile
Amsted Industries 199 Unlock Company Profile
NTN 814 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 10 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 26 Unlock Company Profile
Tenneco 37 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 28 Unlock Company Profile
The Timken 14 Unlock Company Profile
JTEKT 849 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai WIA 10 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 9 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 20 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 14 Unlock Company Profile
TotalEnergies 9 Unlock Company Profile
Kyodo Yushi 16 Unlock Company Profile
Uchiyama Manufacturing 104 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

JTEKT is one of the top patent filers in crankshaft ball bearings. It specializes in single ball bearings, tapered roller bearings, HUB units and precision parts for a wide range of applications in the automotive industry. Other leading parent filers in the innovation area include NTT, AB, NSK, and Schaeffler.

In terms of application diversity, Kyodo Yushi held the top position, while Hyundai and Toshiba stood in second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Nordischer Maschinenbau Rud leads the pack, followed by Tenneco and Liebherr-International.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.