“Turning Point—The Story of Bearings”


OH, the sexism (or is it genderism?) of girls pulling a locomotive! I imagine there are fascinating specialty applications for bearings. I wonder, for instance how small some must be and whether magnetism is recruited in some applications so as to reduce friction? Are there even contact-less magnetic bearings?

Magnetic bearings are a thing, and are widely used in applications such as precision gyroscopes and ultracentrifuges. They are considered a strategic material because they are essential to manufacture gas centrifuges for enriching uranium. Here is U.S. Patent 2,256,937, granted in 1941, on “Suspension of rotatable bodies” by magnetic bearings.

Another low-friction, non-contact bearing technology is fluid bearings, where a gas or liquid separates the bearing surfaces. Most computer hard disc drives use air bearings, where the spinning of the disc pressurises the air which forms the bearning,

Here are two short videos from manufacturers of magnetic bearings.


It’s all about ball bearings nowadays


I never knew a video about bearings could be so captivating! I love the comedy, the whimsical demonstrations, and optimism for the future.

My favorite quotes:

Here is a locomotive equipped with anti-friction bearings.
Here are some girls!

The industrial engineer today may let his imagination roam where it will. No longer does the old enemy bearing trouble limit his ideas. Instead, his ideas are given impetus – wings. He knows that with bearings such as he has to work with now, American anti-friction bearings, we can build this machine age of ours into the mightiest age of all time!


We had an earlier post here about bearings on 2022-05-09, “The Secret Life of Components—Bearings”, with Tim Hunkin.