Ball bearings have countless uses, ranging from children’s toys to automotive applications. Their main purpose is to reduce rotational friction and support both radial and axial loads. By definition, ball bearings are considered a type of rolling-element bearing that utilizes balls to maintain separation between the bearing races. To better understand the versatility of these mechanical devices, this blog will cover four interesting facts about ball bearings.
1. The Genius Behind Ball Bearings
The earliest known example of a ball bearing can be traced back to 40 AD. Recovered from a Roman ship in an Italian lake, the ball bearing looked like a simple revolving table with balls underneath, most likely to enable people who were eating at the table to turn the table top with ease. The other major documented mention of ball bearings surfaces nearly 1500 years later.
The man who rediscovered ball bearings is not only a famous artist, philosopher, and mathematician, but also an inventor. Recognized for “The Mona Lisa,” Leonardo Da Vinci used the ball bearing concept from 1498-1500 to reduce the friction between two plates that would touch one another in his famous helicopter design. While the helicopter design was not successful, the ball bearing concept was noted by many. In fact, 100 years later, Galileo Galilei mentioned an early version of a ball bearing, and by 1792, the Welshman Philip Vaughan would be granted the patent for the “modern” ball bearing we know today.
2. Ball Bearings in Everyday Life
Ball bearings can be found almost everywhere as they are critical to generating a smooth flow of motion. For this reason, almost everything we use in our day-to-day lives has moving parts that require some form of bearing. For instance, toys with wheels whose components roll or rotate have ball bearings incorporated into their design. Some common examples include fidget spinners, skateboards, rollerblades, remote controlled cars, and more. The bearings furnished in these toys provide efficient operation and safety.
In household appliances like washing machines or microwaves, ball bearings can also be found. Both examples require ball bearings to operate optimally. Additionally, refrigerator doors and garage doors are equipped with bearings that open and close easily on their hinges. Other popular examples are mixers, fans, air conditioners, and hot tubs.
3. The Largest Ball Bearing in the World
In 2017, Huisman, the global specialist in lifting, drilling, and underwater solutions, is responsible for producing the world’s largest ball bearings at its manufacturing facility in China. Intended for Huisman TMC cranes, these bearings have 30 meter diameters, a lifting capacity of 10,000 tons, and 48 meter radii. Unlike traditional TMC cranes that utilize bogies or large wheels for their pivoting mechanism, Huisman TMC cranes take advantage of bearings since they provide considerable weight reductions.
4. Ball Bearings Win the First Bicycle Road Race
In 1869, Parisian bicycle mechanic Jules Suriray patented the use of a specific type of radial ball bearing for bicycles. Nearly three months later, the bearing he devised underwent rigorous testing during the world’s first major city-to-city bicycle road race which ran 80 miles between Paris and Rouen. The bicyclist whose bicycle had this type of ball bearing won the race, and his win was attributed to the ball bearing mounted on the oversized front wheel.
Aerospace Aviation 360 is an online distributor of several different types of bearings such as cup ball bearings, spherical roller bearings, deep-groove ball bearings, and many others. With countless options on our database, customers can source everything they need with ease. For questions about our other offered services, call or email us at any time; we are available around the clock!