A ball bearing is a small metal or ceramic ball used to reduce the friction between two objects. The concept of the bearing dates back to the Roman Empire. The practical design, however, is credited to Leonardo da Vinci. He used this ideal in his helicopter designs. In 1971, Philip Vaughan China ball bearing manufacturer , a carriage builder, was patented for the use of his axle assembly that used ball bearings. The first patent on ball bearings was given to Jules Suriray. Suriray was a bicycle mechanic who used bearings on the winning bike in the world’s first road race. During WWII, the German factory that produced bearings was a constant target of the allies because of how heavy the Germans depended on the use of ball bearings in their military machines.
The design of ball bearings is fairly simple. They consist of at least two ring shape tracks. One of the tracks is a permanent feature while the other track rotates. Inside the track are the small balls whose rotation lowers the rotational friction between objects.
The manufacturing of bearings is a little more complex. First, metal wire is placed in a machine that has two circular plates. With a great amount of force, these halves come together to form a rough looking metal ball. The ball is then placed in another machine that removes the flashing from the ball. This same machine will then ground the ball to the requested size. The ball goes through the machine to be polished and shined.
As technology has advanced so has the design of the ball bearing. Ceramic ball bearings are gaining fast popularity. They combine the steal track system with ceramic balls. The ceramic balls are made from solid silicon nitride. They are faster and run longer than their steel counterparts. They are also smoother, stronger and lighter than the steel bearings. They also run at cooler temperatures and reduce noise and vibration while in use. Ceramic bearings are used in high speed machines and mills. Doctors also rely on this system in their precision instruments.
Ball bearings are used in everyday life. They are found in everything from roller skates to a computer’s hard drive. The industrial sector relies on them to keep their machinery running and the industrial sector relies on them to keep their products working. Technology advances have found more needs for this system, and at the same time improves the system as a whole.