Beware the perils of product piracy… Fake or copied parts are not...

Beware the perils of product piracy… Fake or copied parts are not only illegal, they are a safety risk!

Jeff Earl photoAs a major technical partner and supplier of Original Equipment (OE) components to the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers, Schaeffler files around 1800 patent applications every year.

Employing more than 6000 Research & Development engineers worldwide, Schaeffler is one of the most innovative companies to be found in any industry, and remains at the forefront of the automotive sector thanks to an ongoing commitment to invest in the finest materials, machinery and manpower.

We design and manufacture highly advanced components which are loaded with patent protected technology to satisfy the increasingly high demands of our customers, and each individual part requires a huge amount of investment before it can be put into production.

By protecting our innovations with patents we try and secure these investments into the future, whilst also giving our customers a long-term high quality solution that they can rely upon. It also makes it difficult for third party manufacturers to replicate the engineering qualities we build in to our products.

However, some manufacturers will always try and produce their own versions of our components, either by re-engineering the way they have been designed to operate (as in the case of DMF conversion kits), or in some cases actually producing replicas which infringe our patents.

There are obviously issues with both of these scenarios. Firstly, physically changing how something works will affect the dynamics of how that part operates on the vehicle. In other words, changing (or converting) what the vehicle manufacturer originally specified to something completely different could have major consequences on how that vehicle will perform in the future.

Secondly, a copied part is not only illegal, it can also be a serious safety issue. These lower cost imitations of our products have certainly not been designed in partnership with the vehicle manufacturer. They have also not survived thousands of hours of testing before being manufactured using the highest quality materials to the most stringent standards and specifications.

One of our most successful high-tech patents is for the FAG Repair Insert Unit, a recent innovation that removes the previous requirement of replacing the complete hub assembly on many HGV applications. It is a pre-assembled, pre-sealed bearing unit that can be simply pressed in to the existing hub to dramatically reduce fitting time and therefore valuable operating hours spent off the road. It is also a much more economical option to buy than a complete hub assembly, and just a few RIU kits can service a multitude of Volvo, DAF and other popular trucks.

Unfortunately, spurious RIUs have started to enter the UK aftermarket from countries throughout Asia and the Far East and we can confirm that, as well as illegally breaching our patent rights, they are not produced to the same specifications as an original FAG RIU. Our engineers have stripped down and tested some of the copied units using the same rigorous procedures that our own parts undertake to satisfy the demands of vehicle manufacturers. The results were not good, and you can see from the photos why.

FAG OE versus CHEAP IMPORTImage 1 shows the comparison between the internal rolling mechanism of an original FAG RIU and the copied unit. Note that the copy has much smaller rollers than the genuine bearing, which will have a negative effect on the load capability and wear rates.  Also, none of the materials used are of a sufficient grade for use in the manufacture of safety critical wheel bearings.

ComparisionImage 2 shows how a sub-standard metal cage has been used instead of the original FAG low friction polymer version. The grease used in the copy was also of a standard specification, rather than specialised high viscosity grease that can withstand the extreme temperatures and conditions that wheel bearings endure.

non OEImage 3 clearly shows the part number ‘F-566196.H195’ (an original FAG reference).  So not only is this copy infringing the design patent, but it is also knowingly being sold as an ‘exact’ replica of a genuine FAG RIU!

Images 4&5 further FAG references being used illegally by a Far Eastern company.

Original Equipment manufacturers will only ever deliver the best OE quality products and service, so try not to be taken in by the promise of an equivalent part at a low price. There is a real chance that you could be given a sub-standard copy which is in Images 4&5 breach of UK patent laws.

Knowingly supplying or fitting a copied part could end up costing a lot more than the few quid saved when you bought it, as more and more manufacturers look to the law to help them recoup the loss of revenue suffered as copies become more prevalent in the market-place. If you then factor in the safety aspects it becomes even more of a risk, as the cost incurred if an inferior safety critical part fails could be a lot higher, and not just in financial terms.

If you think that you have been given a copied part, or you are suspicious about components that appear to be made by LuK, INA or FAG but have not been supplied in a Schaeffler box, please call our technical hotline on 08457 001100.

Finally, remember the golden rule, it may be shiny and it might be cheap – but quality is not just skin deep!

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