The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity 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 1.2 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Automotive: Crankshaft ball bearings.

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 stabilising 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.

290+ innovations will shape the automotive industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over 619,000 patents, there are 290+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, resilient spoke wheels, auto-transmission lubrication circuits, and ignition switching engines are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Engine purge actuators, electro-dynamic braking, and adsorptive vapour recovery system estimation are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are collision avoidance braking control system and direct injection type engines, 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 different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

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

Patent volumes related to crankshaft ball bearings

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
NTT 964 Unlock company profile
JTEKT 750 Unlock company profile
AB SKF 627 Unlock company profile
Schaeffler 412 Unlock company profile
Amsted Rail Company 194 Unlock company profile
Uchiyama Manufacturing 103 Unlock company profile
Tenneco 35 Unlock company profile
Nakanishi Metal Works 32 Unlock company profile
General Motors 26 Unlock company profile
Kaman 25 Unlock company profile
Kyodo Yushi 19 Unlock company profile
Toshiba 17 Unlock company profile
Nordischer Maschinenbau Rud. Baader 17 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 16 Unlock company profile
Melrose Industries 15 Unlock company profile
Timken 14 Unlock company profile
Liebherr-International 12 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 12 Unlock company profile
Rolls-Royce Holdings 11 Unlock company profile
Federal-Mogul 11 Unlock company profile
ThyssenKrupp 10 Unlock company profile
AB Volvo 9 Unlock company profile
Fujishoji 8 Unlock company profile
AG Edwards 7 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 7 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 7 Unlock company profile
Kia 6 Unlock company profile
Denso 6 Unlock company profile
Seiko Holdings 5 Unlock company profile
Johnson Matthey 5 Unlock company profile
Nippon Steel 5 Unlock company profile
Siemens 5 Unlock company profile
Panasonic 5 Unlock company profile
Icahn Enterprises 5 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

JTEKT is one of the leading patent filers in crankshaft ball bearings. It specialises in single ball bearings, tapered roller bearings, HUB units and precision parts for a wide range of applications in the automotive industry. The company currently holds 750 filed patents in the crankshaft ball bearings segment. Other companies in the innovation area are General Motors, Kia, and Denso.

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


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.