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3

NASA Technical Memorandum 81689

NASA-TM-81689 19810009866

t
!

History of Ball Bearings

Duncan Dowson

The University of Leeds


Leeds, England

and
Bernard J. Hamrock
Lewis Research Center
Cleveland, Ohio

February 1981

_"

The precision
century

rolling-element

is a product

science.

of exacting

friction

spectacular
bearings

and wear

development

vital machine
industrial

were adequate

to periods

tools

Much

to the early history

closely

related

of general

d_:velopment of ball bearings,


the movement

long before

precision

windmills

is discussed,

and magnitude

longer history
technological
particularly

The

long before
manufacture

will

rolling-element

of roller

the

on the

equipment,
studies

The essential

bearings were

be

bearings.

those concerned

century,

in

and, of course,

scientific

friction.

there

therefore

progress

water-raising

by the latter half of the nineteenth

of these

blocks and carvings,

together with

of rolling

forms of modern

chapter

of ball bearings

instruments,

in

there was a large

and certainly

of heavy, stone building

vehicles,

and development

for their effective

and apparently

The influence

yet so effective

forms of rolling-element

of the present

devoted

and sophisticated

is well known and documented,

for such devices

machine

large quantities.

century

of the twentieth

range of machinery.

to trace the origins

elements

demand

in a wide

of numerous

in the twentieth

but it is possible

of most

technology

It is simple in form and concept,

reducing

nature

bearing

with
road
and

of the
features

established

but it was the

ill 71-

,"

formation of specialist, precision-manufacturing companies 1n the


early years of the twentieth century that finally established the
ball bearing as a most valuable, quality, readily available
machine component.

The availability of ball and roller bearings

in standard sizes has had a tremendous impact on machine design


throughout the present century.

Such bearings still provide a

challenging field for further research and development, and many


engineers and scientists are currently engaged in exciting and
demanding research projects in this area.

In many cases new and

improved materials or enlightened design concepts have extended


the life and range of application of ball bearings, yet in other
respects much remains to be done in explaining the extraordinary
operating characteristics of bearings that have served our
technological age so very well for almost a century.

Indeed, this

book records recent developments in the understanding and analysis


of one important aspect of ball bearing performance - the
lubrication mechanism in the small, highly stressed conjunctions
between the balls and the rings or races.
The basic form and concept of the ball bearing is simple.

If

loads are to be transmitted between surfaces in relative motion 1n


a machine, the action can be facilitated in a most effective
manner if rolling elements are interposed between the sliding
members.

The frictional resistance encountered in sliding 1S then

largely replaced by the much smaller resistance associated with


rolling, although the arrangement is inevitably afflicted with

high stresses

in the restricted

regions

of effective

load

transmission.
The history
of ball bearings
appreciation

of ideas

that led to the now familiar

is intimately

of the advantages

This includes

of the wheel.

the earliest

civilizations,

i.I

and the Wheel

Rollers

is no evidence

early man used rollers

not prove

that wooden

this purpose.
emerged

of rolling

the early use of rollers

and the development

There

linked with

In the early civilizations


and there are abundant

over sliding

motion

civilization

arose

to the Persian
interesting

in Mesopotamia

that writing

time in this society.


Valley,

probably

or artifacts

for

have

different,
of rolling

The earliest
adjacent

and it is

emerged

The later developments

at about
in Egypt,

evidence

the same
the Indus

of the development

was not reflected

that

times.

was quite

3200 B.C.;

further

in

this does

in the region of Sumer

and the wheel

of the wheel, but this progress

although

that the advantages

about

and China all provided

to suggest

in prehistoric

had been recognized.

Gulf,

times

the position

indications

took place

or stones were never used

carvings,

such progress

loads

that our story begins.

to move heavy objects,

No cave drawings,

heavy

Civilizations

from prehistoric

logs,

of an

over sliding motion.

Such developments

in the Early

sticks,

to illustrate

the development

in transporting

and it is here

arrangement

in Central

and

South America.

This anomalous situation in America between about

430 and 2480 years ago is both curious and interesting.

1.1.1

Rollers
"

The bas reliefs discovered by Sir A. H. Layard (1849, 1853)


at Nineveh have been said by some, including Layard, to represent
the first recorded use of rollers for transporting building blocks
and stone carvings.

However, the evidence from the picture of

Assyrians moving a human-headed bull some 2680 years ago shown 1n


Figure 1.1 is ambiguous because of the orientation of the
"rollers" beneath the sledge.

At the rear of the sledge, and

perhaps at the front also, the logs are clearly arranged in a


manner that indicates that they could indeed have been used as
rollers, but in the load-bearing region beneath the sledge they
are incorrectly aligned.

Were they really being used as rollers

or merely as hard surfaces on which the sledge could slide when


moving over soft ground?
Man has used sledges for transporting heavy objects for
almost 9000 years, but if Layard's interpretation of the Nineveh
evidence is correct, it appears that man also recognized the
merits of rolling over sliding motion in Assyria some 2700 years
ago.

1.1.2

The Wheel

The transition
w_hicles

Figure
Chinese

from sliding

is recorded

1.2.

in the delightful

This record

pictograph

wheel.

3480 years

ago shows

for the relatively

of the spoked wheel

to replace

shown

is a miserable

about 50 wheels
Asia

fortunate

or wheeled

that the spoked

In the Middle East

sophisticated

the solid or tripartite

that decays

vehicles

that can be dated

that the wheel

civilizations

material

in Europe and

to 4000 to 5000 years

that it was frequently

prized

buried

point of

all too quickly,

have been found

was so highly

in

A later

In spite of the fact that, from an archaeological

view, wood

Western

Uruk pictographs

in the East by that time.

it took a full millenium


structure

to rolling, wheeled

dates back almost 5000 years.

from about

wheel had developed

sledges

ago.

It is

in the early

in tombs,

since this

aided preservation.
The early wheels
tripartite
dowelled
were used

structure,

to hold

suggests

this arrangement

together,

studded with

structure

Piggott

of finds of wheels

of his investigation

rotated

throughout

Three

planks were

or even copper
together.

copper nails.

that the wheels


has persisted

1.3.

and wooden

the fabricated

not for rail vehicles.


distribution

East were solid and of

as shown in Figure

and mortised

were often heavily


evidence

in the Middle

battens

The rims

Most of the early

on stationary

axles, and

the ages for road but

(1968) has recorded


and early vehicles

of the spread of the invention

the
on maps as part
of the wheel

to North Western Europe.

The center of the invention does indeed

appear to be located in the region between the Tigris and


Euphrates, but there is interesting and more recent evidence of
early developments near the Caspian Sea between the Kura and
Araxes rivers.

1.2

The Development of Early Forms of Rolling-Element Bearings In


the Classical Civilizations (ca. 900 B.C. - A.D. 400)

There is clear evidence of the development of early forms of


both ball and roller bearings in the classical civilizations from
900 B.C. to A.D. 400.

The Romans provided the most impressive and

interesting examples, but intriguing evidence of the possible use


of rolling bearings was also furnished by the Greeks, Celts, and
Chinese.

1.2.1

The Greeks

Aristotle, who was one of Plato's most famous pupils, made


reference to the force of friction and observed that it was lowest
for round objects.

It cannot be claimed that this marked the

birth of the ball bearing industry, since Aristotle was more


concerned with celestial mechanics and the motions of heavenly
objects than with the problems of Greek artisans and engineers.
The Mechanicians in Alexandria certainly used and probably
developed pivot bearings and plain bearings made of metal, but

there is no evidence of the use or study of rolling bearings in


Alexandria.
A number of important military machines were developed by
engineers for Alexander the Great.

One of these, a movable tower

containing a battering ram, was created by Diades about 330 B.C.


The battering ram was mounted on an early form of linear roller
bearing containing wooden rollers turned on a lathe.

1.2.2

The Romans

Some of the richest records of the development of bearings 1n


the period of the classical civilizations are found 1n the
writings of that famous Roman engineer and architect Marcus
Vitruvius Pollio (see Morgan and Warren, 1960).

His accounts of

the movement of stone columns of both square and circular cross


sections by building them into wooden wheels, or by using gudgeons
and a garden-roller arrangement, are well-known illustrations of
the way in which builders took advantage of rolling motion in the
construction industry.

Vitruvius also included in his writings a

detailed account of the work of the Greek engineer Diades.


Perhaps the most spectacular archaeological evidence of the
development of rolling bearings in this era came from Lake Nemi,
some 18 miles southeast of Rome.

The Romans were given to

worshipping Diana, the moon goddess of virginity and hunting, 1n


the groves surrounding Lake Nemi, which lies 1n the basin of an

extinct volcano.

They also constructed at least two ships on thiA

inland lake for the pleasure of the ruling class.


On the 3rd of October 1895 divers found one of these ships,
together with a number of interesting bronze and wooden objects.
The second ship was found on November 18th of the same year,
together with further interesting objects, on the bed of the
lake.

Interest in these reports grew until 1927, when Benito

Mussolini announced an archaeological undertaking to recover the


sunken ships in Lake Nemi.

The procedure adopted was to lower the

level of the lake by pumping and cutting passages through the


mountains.

As the work progressed, a bronze from the first ship

was exposed

~n

1930.

June 1929, and the second ship was revealed in

It was ascertained that both ships had been built between

A.D. 44 and 54.

The numerous finds were housed in a fine,

purpose-built museum completed on the side of the lake in 1933.


Among the Lake Nemi finds were forerunners of three of the
most common forms of current rolling-element bearings.

The most

interesting mechanical device found on the ships was a platform


d(~signed

to revolve on trunnion-mounted bronze balls.

It was, 1n

fact, a ball thrust bearing, although this was only recognized


after the salvage operation in the 1930's and careful
reconstruction of the finds.

A number of the bronze balls had

been salvaged from the first ship by divers in 1895, and 16 are
now preserved in the Museo Nazionale Romano.

More loose balls,

together with two secured by iron straps to a fragment of wood, as


shown in Figure 1.4, were located in the 1930's.

A reconstruction of the thrust-bearing arrangement is shown


in Figure 1.5, and the superficial similarity between this device
and modern thrust bearings is quite remarkable.

There is,

however, one important structural difference, since the balls were


restrained from moving freely between the wooden tables by the
trunnions and iron straps.

Furthermore the loads were not

transmitted across diametrically opposite points on the balls, but


rather between the lower point on the balls and the flat wooden
base on the one hand and the upper generators of the trunnions and
the turntable on the other.

The balls sat 1n relatively deep

recesses in the turntable, as shown in the insert 1n the top


corner of Figure 1.5.

In a remarkable passage 1n his account of

the material found in Lake Nemi, Ucelli (1940) confirmed this


geometrical feature by noting that the machining marks left on the
bronze balls after turning on a lathe were visible everywhere
except 1n a narrow band corresponding to the region of contact
between the ball and the flat wooden table.
A number of cylindrical bronze rollers were also found on the
bed of Lake Nemi, but their purpose remains a mystery.

A third

and most remarkable find consisted of a number of trunnion-mounted


wooden rollers within wooden rings.

Ucelli formed the view that

they represented an early taper-roller thrust bearing.


The ships of Lake Nemi must surely represent one of the
outstanding features of rolling bearing history.

The sudden

appearance of such remarkable embryonic forms of ball,


cylindrical, and taper roller bearings employing both bronze and

wood, not only in the same century but in the same decade and even
in the same location is truly outstanding.

The purpose of these

bearing elements can be debated, but Ucelli wrote:

But even if the function cannot be ascertained,


the evidence of the ingenious contrivance

1S

undoubtedly of interest in the history of


technology.

The story of these ancient Roman ships is remarkable enough,


but there is an almost unbelievable final twist.

On the 31st of

May 1944, during the culmination of the Battle of Rome, the museum
was destroyed, the ships burnt, and most of the valuable remains
lost.

Ucelli's well-illustrated and beautifully presented book

thus forms a most valuable and sole record of an amazing event in


the history of ball bearings.

1.2.3

The Celts

The Celts had a reputation for building fine carts and


wagons.

Dowson (1979) has discussed the evidence for their

development of roller bearings almost 2000 years ago.

The oak

hubs on a fine four-wheeled cart found in Western Jutland,


Denmark, in 1881 contained some remarkable bronze collars and
bearings.

There were 32 axial grooves in each collar, and wooden

sticks or rollers were found in some of these grooves.

10

It appears

that the Celts were


bearings

trying to replace conventional,

by a form of bronze

rollers.

There

ball bearings,

roller bearing

is no evidence
but it seems

rolling-element

bearings

fitted with wooden

that the Celts

clear

that other

were developing

plain hub

used early

forms of

forms of

in European

countries

about 2000 years ago.

1.2.4

The Chinese

The rival claim


rolling

bearings

remarkable
,

internal

involved

bronze

compartments

in Figure

strengthened

by Needham

objects

in the history

(1965).

containing

four or eight

that the Chinese were

development

by the records

of rolling-element

of granular

of

Some

A sketch of one of these objects

The suggestion

in the early

place

and dating back over 2100 years were

in Shansi.

1.6.

to an early

has been noted

annular

in a village

of China

iron dust

found
is shown

actively
bearings

is

in each internal

cell.
The real purpose
interesting

of these objects

to speculate

on the possibility

might have been supported


rotate within

is unknown,

the internal

that a rotating

on balls or rollers
compartments

ii

but it is

constrained

or cells.

to

shaft

1.3

The Middle Ages (ca. A.D. 400 - 1450)

It

1S

both curious and interesting to find that practically

nothing emerged during this dark and empty period in the western
world to further the stirring developments of rolling-element
bearings evident in the classical civilizations.

There was

undoubtedly interest in other facets of tribology toward the end


of the dark millenium, but not in rolling-element bearings.
Furthermore neither the well-established Chinese civilizations nor
the Central or South American societies appear to have moved
forward in this sphere of technology.

One of the curious features

of the otherwise highly advanced early American cultures is that


neither the wheel nor the rolling-element bearing was in evidence.

1.4

The Renaissance (ca. A.D. 1450 - 1600)

Practically all the evidence discussed so far has been based


on archaeological finds, but for the period of greatly enhanced
interest in both culture and machinery known as the Renaissance,
manuscripts and even printed books provide an increasing and vital
store of knowledge.
We are only now learning to appreciate fully the work of that
great genius Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519) in the field of
tribology.

It is true that most of his writings on the subject

were included in the Codex Atlanticus published at the end of the

12

nineteenth

century,

manuscripts

but more

revealed

Leonardo

recent records were

in M_drid

introduced

found

in the

in 1967.

a scientific

approach

to subjects

and he

wrote:

Those who are enamoured

by practice

science

are like a pilot

without

rudder

who goes into a ship

or compass

certainty

where

Practice

should

without

and never

has any

he is going...

Also,

knowledge

Leonardo
experiments

of theory.

studied

friction

that revealed

stage to Amontons
friction

always be based upon a sound

(1699).

in sliding

and appeared

the basic

laws attributed

He concluded

was constant

to carry

out
at a later

that the coefficient

and equal

of

to 1/4 for all

materials.
The advantages
supports

for machinery

Renaissance
shafts,

of rolling

their own axles.


"roller-disc"

were clearly

industry.

was to mount

over

sliding motion
recognized

One idea, adopted


a gudgeon

Leonardo

bearing,

which

discs

fascinated

can be viewed

13

in early

for lightly

on two wooden

was clearly

in low-friction

loaded

supplied with
by this

as a forerunner

of the

free rolling-element bearing, S1nce he sketched a number of


possible arrangements as illustrated 1n Figure 1.7.

Indeed, the

idea was for a long time attributed to Leonardo, but when the
Codex Madrid I was located in Madrid in 1967, it became clear that
he was made aware of the use of this novel form of shaft support
system in Germany by a German mechanic named Giulio, who acted as
his assistant.

However, according to Reti (1971), Leonardo was

responsible for the suggestion of a three-disc support, shown to


the center-right in Figure 1.7.
Illustrations of the use of roller-disc bearings in
Renaissance industry can be found in texts by Agricola (1556) and
Ramelli (1588).

A number of examples have been collected and

reproduced by Dawson (1979).

A fine illustration of roller-disc

bearings supporting the shafts in a treadmill-operated chain of


dippers that appeared in Ramelli's text is shown in Figure 1.8.
The potential of true rolling motion for low-friction

supports was fully recognized by Leonardo, for he wrote in the


Codex Madrid I:

I affirm, that if a weight of flat surface moves


on a similar plane their movement will be
facilitated by

inter-pos~ng

between them balls or

rollers; and I do not see any difference between


balls and rollers save the fact that balls have
universal motion while rollers can move 1n one
direction alone.

But if balls or rollers touch

14

each other
movement
contact

in their motion,

move

difficult

between

contrary

point only between


resistance...and

Leonardo
the universal
advantages
advance

separate

in Section

elements

and Chinese

save for

on the

represented

is remarkable.

in the introduction

These essential

were

over rollers,

by the recognition

Chapter

bearings

to

a considerable

arrangements

1.2.

of the separator,

Leonardo's

of balls

Celtic,

the concept

thrust bearing

it will be easy

bearings

of rolling-element

were anticipated

are kept at a

of the former, but his views

signified

be made with merit

2.

causes

they will touch at one

consequently

of rolling-element

tilemechanics

ifJby

this movement.

motion

rolling

touching

or the rollers

saw little advantage

The insight

no

the load and its

on the Greek, Roman,

discussed

the

movement s.

from each other,

generate

their

and this friction

But if the balls


distance

than if there were

them, because

motions

contrariwise

they will make

by Leonardo
complete
sketches

It is a point

components

to

that can

to any text dealing

bearings,

retainer,

of the need

and it readily

or cage described

with
leads to
in

of modern ball bearings

when he sketched his own form of ball

with separator,
of several

truly phenomenal.

as shown

1.9.

forms of rolling-element

The designs

15

in Figure

shown

in Figure

pivot
I.I0

clearly

represent

Commenting
Leonardo

outstanding

advances

on the ball pivot bearing

in bearing

arrangements.

in the Codex Madrid

I,

wrote:
..

three balls under


four, because
certainly
would

the spindle

are better

than

three balls are by necessity

always

touched, while

be a danger

using

four there

that one of them is left

untouched.

Leonardo's
introduction
history

studies

of the roller-disc

of our subject

indications
to reduce

of rolling-element

in Renaissance

of the growing
friction

Early

interest

and Allan

Florentine

thrust bearings
goldsmith

century

cast-iron

named

translation

the

other

about

of Cellini's

16

reference

heavy
to the
of a

Cellini.
Cellini

(4 1/2 ft) high.

description

to the fact

in the autobiography

commissioned

1.4 meters

were

in maneuvering

interesting

was recorded
Benvenuto

balls

attention

supports

Another

In 1534 The King of France


statue of Jupiter

times, but there were

(1945) has drawn

like gun carriages.

use of ball

into industry dominate

in the use of rolling motion

that they were used as low-friction


objects

and the

and wear.

in the sixteenth

manufactured,

bearing

bearings

reads:

to produce
The

Having with
beautiful

the utmost

diligence

statue of Jupiter,

wooden

socle, and within

"

little

globes of wood which

hidden

in their sockets

that a little child


move

finished

I placed

that socle

it upon a

I fixed four

were more

than half

and so admirably

could with

this statue backwards

the

contrived

the utmost

and forwards,

ease
and turn

it about.

Cellini was clearly


bearing,

pleased

which contained

A further
in Renaissance
astronomical

with

the performance

four free-rolling,

indication

of interest

wooden

Eberhardt

Baldewin,

contained

simple

complexity

clockmaker

An

in 1561 by

IV of Hesse,

in the gear

bearings

of horology.

constructed

to William

roller bearings

balls.

in rolling-element

times is found in the history


clock of great

of his thrust

clearly

train that operated

the dial of mercury.


By the end of the sixteenth
rolling-element

bearings

for all but the lightest

was established

the most

from fixed-axes

important

the concept

as in modern

to free-rolling

developments

in bearing

times.

17

of

in industry.

loads, the elements

axis and were not free rolling


transition

century

rotated

However,
about

bearings.
arrangements
technology

a fixed

The
was one of
in later

1.5 The Development


Friction

of Bearings

and Early Concepts

in the 17th and Early

18th Centuries

of Rolling
(A.D.

1600 -

1750)

Most
were

of the references

concerned

with plain

rolling-element
roller-disc
presents

bearings

a record

scientists

worthy

the most

of rolling

1.5.1

Roller

that discussed

The literature

interest

restricted
nevertheless

in the development

for an increasing

to

of

range of applications

Hooke

feature

started

of the period

to express

views

is that
on the

friction.

Bearing

Applications

in roller bearings

application

to wagons

application

in a chronometer

and carriages,

One of the prize winners


the Board of Longitude,

Sully.

used

on their

but there was an interesting

for navigation.
instituted

in 1714 for the determination

0.5 to I was an English


Sully, who resided

years and who wrote

in French,

his highly

chronometer

accurate

centered

in an open competition

London,

at sea to within

the name of Henry

Those

period

of note.

of the interest

longitude

in this 150-year

almost exclusively

significant

like Robert

nature

Most

were

of growing

bearings

and is therefore
Perhaps

bearings.

or roller bearings.

rolling-element
i

to bearings

watchmaker

in Paris

fitted a form of roller

of
by

for many
bearing

in 1716 and won the prize.

18

by

in

Roller
period

bearings

were used

under review,

Dutch sawmill,
al. (1734,

and ii fine example

or paltrok,

1736).

in w]ndmilln

is included

A large roller

lengths

in books

clearly

shown above the base of the mill

English

windmills

indications

nineteenth

Carriage

of the railways

in

century.

Since our history

in carriages

will be restricted

is worthy

were to provide

accelerated

development,

the present

the special

the development

account

of

important

until

is concerned

forms

in the

mainly

with

of roller bearings

to the contributions

by Hooke,

de

and Rowe.

Hooke was Robert


in 1662 he became
Royal Society.
on February
aspects

Wailes

into the developing

in roller bearings

ball bearing

Mondran,

i. II.

rollers were used

during this period

bearings

of improvements

requirements

cast-iron

wooden

180 mm (7 in.) is

in Figure

of roller bearings

road vehicles

special mention.

of about

et

at a later date.

The introduction
of horse-drawn

and diameters

in a

by van Natrus,

thrust ring containing

having

that smaller

in the

of a |arge bearing

rollers

(1957) has noted

in Europe

Boyle's

Curator

25, 1685 (Gunther,

devoted

and lifelong

of Experimentsto

In his discourse

of wheel design

a paragraph

assistant

largely

the recently

on carriages

constructed

to plain bearings,

telling words:

19

and

formed

to the Royal

1930), Hooke discussed

for vehicles

friend,

Society

various

for celerity.

he included

the

In

but the best way of all is, to make

the gudgeons

run on large truckles,

prevents

gnawing,

This

rubbing

interesting

developed

submitted

on discs or rollers
the advantages

on vehicles.

bearing

reference

of the rolling

contact

could easily

do the work which

accomplished

by two.

that another

refers to a gun carriage


arrangement

similar

The last and perhaps


roller bearings
Jacob Rowe

by His Majesty

approved

of

a design

for

were supported

Hooke's

reference

of carriages

to

on truckles,

to the use of roller-disc

one horse

could hardly be

early eighteenth

century

by Fahy that had a

to de Mondran's.

most colorful

Rowe was awarded

King George

friction,

invented

in the early eighteenth

(1734).

indication

It was said that:

(1945) also mentioned

document

from Robert

in

vehicles.

The journals

the gudgeons

the earliest

because

Alan

and, apart

is a clear

in Paris

by de Mondran.

bearing

to static machinery

to wheeled

of Science

of mounting

this is probably
bearings

centuries

of such bearings

In 1710 the Academy


a carriage

to the roller-disc

times and applied

and seventeenth

the application

wholly

and fretting.

reference

in Renaissance

the sixteenth

which

entry

in this history

century

Patent

was provided

Specification

II, and in a small booklet

20

of
by

No. 543

printed

under Tom's

Coffee House

he explained
be applied

in delightful

to carts,

horse-operated
Rowe
weighing
wheel

bearings

wagons,

coaches,

watermills,

of using

at sea and claimed

claimed

by de Mondran

was supported

by Rowe's

comments

masons,

etc ....

miners,

friction-wheels

for his

forms of rolling
wheels:

carriers,

and to the publick

by saving them one half

One of Rowe's

in

of the expenses

of these

vehicles,

to the common method.

illustrations

to a fine coach

0.46 m (18 in.), respectively.


made of wood,

showing

of about
Such

sometimes

on iron axles mounted

the application

is presented

"A" and "B" had diameters

in Figure

1.12.

economic

aspects

of tribology,

bearings

was concerned.

with

were

iron, and they

in iron or bell-metal

bearings.

as least as far as friction

He argued that if all wagons

were fitted with

friction-wheels,

21

The

0.61 m (24 in.) and

friction-wheels

hooped

of

Jacob Rowe was also one of the first men to quantify

carriages

and

in the

on his friction

it may be to farmers,

according

rotated

could

The 50 percent

for these early

they are now at in the draught

London,

windmills,

rollers

great advantage

invariably

Garden,

great advantages

in terms of costs and labor.

general,

wheels

Covent

how his "friction-wheels"

to the practice

of anchors

supports

detail

Street,

mills.

referred

improvement

in Russell

they could

the
in

and
be drawn

by

half

the 40,000

horses

then employed

the labor of the horse was valued


represented
annum.

a direct

in the United

Kingdom.

at Is. 6d. per day, this

saving of 1500 per day, or 547,500

Furthermore

Since

the cost of keeping

a horse

per

was estimated

to
J

be I0 per annum,
200,000
savings

and the savings

per annum.

Rowe's

on the operation

on this account

estimate

of wheeled

of the total potential


vehicles

annum, but he also considered

that one-third

to operate

employing

"Forcible

the introduction

of friction-wheels.

200,000 per annum,


947,500.
accounts

Engines"

giving

There is no evidence

treatise

This brief account

is important,

exchequer

is a fascinating

1.5.2

during

Early

Western
in mechanical
and England,
friction

the early

Concepts

was achieved,

and early

the background
free-rolling

originated.

Amontons'

to the
ball

Revolution.

Friction

and it was in this region, mainly

that the impressive

bearings

eighteenth

Europe was the center of seventeenth-century


devices,

of

in the

of roller-disc

stages of the Industrial

of Rolling

savings

document.

in the seventeenth
since it provides

by

to a further

total of potential

century

per

required

could be saved

This amounted

n_xt stage, which was the use of individual,


bearings

of the power

wheels

of the development

and free roller bearings

was thus 747,500

that this improvement

of the early eighteenth

but Jacob Rowe's

centuries

a grand

thus equalled

early

scientific

(1699) classical

22

studies

interest
in France
of

study of sliding

friction

was followed

Hire, Leibnitz,
.

Theophilus
Euler.

Francois

Desaguliers,

Rolling

mentioned

by notable

Joseph de Camus,
Bernard

friction

briefly

of rolling

Robert

Hooke.

Forrest

was discussed

by Leibnitz

Some of the earliest


nature

contributions

by Robert

are to be found

sticking

and Leonhard

Hooke

and

observations

in the writings

on carriages

is the yielding,

of the floor, by the weight

so rolling

John

on the
of

he recognized

friction:

The first and chiefest,


opening

de Belidor,

and most interesting

friction

of rolling

the Reverend

de la

and Desaguliers.

In his 1685 discourse

two components

by Philippe

and pressing;

and adhering

of the wheel

and the second,

of the parts

or

is the

of it to the

wheel.

His comments
of a wheel,
associated
appraisal

were, of course,

but the two familiar


with material

to the resistance

aspects

deformation

of frictional

and adhesion

to motion
resistance

entered

his

of the problem.

In relation
overall

related

to the deformation

resistance

was small,

loss Hooke

noted

even for undulating

that the

surfaces,

both the wheel and the ground were hard:

yet is there little


impediment

or no loss, or considerable

to be accounted

23

for; for whatever

force

if

is lost, in raising
rub, is gain'd

or making

a wheel

again by the wheel's

pass over a

descending

from the rub.

A distinction
nonrecoverable

was drawn between

deformation

in the important

Nor is the yielding


if it returns
same reason;

passage:

of the floor any impediment,

and rises against


but the yielding,

floor, and its not returning


impediment

the role of recoverable

the wheel,

or sinking of the

again,

is the great

from the floor; for so much

is lost thereby,

as there

for the

of motion

is no force requisite

to

sink such a rut into the said floor by any other


means;

whether

directly

or pressure

or thrusting

down, or any ways obliquely.

On the question

The second
or way,

by weight,

of sticking

impediment

and adhesion

it receives

is the sticking

wrote:

from the floor,

and adhering

of the way to it; for by that means,


new force requisite

Hooke

of the parts
there

is a

to pull it off, or raise

hinder part of the wheel

24

the

from the floor, or way,

and

to which

it sticks, which

moist clayie

A diagrammatic

ways,

is reproduced

"History

of Tribology,"

Leibnitz
and rolling

of Hooke's

in Figure

by permission

friction.

that would

surfaces

to facilitate
A mechanistic

and minimize

view dominated

friction,

to the action of one surface


of tiny inclined

It was therefore

natural

successfully

reduced

by filling

effectively

smoothing

possibility

of a lubricant

forming

wear

as

by acting
century

and resistance
sliding

planes

asperities.

the surface,

sliding

imperfections

eighteenth

was attributed

friction

Group.

between

or surface

of dry, sliding

of a myriad

(1979)

(1734) saw lubricants

on the subject

composed

on rolling

of the Longman

fill up the holes


movement

observations

to distinguish

Desaguliers

in

rimm'd wheel.

1.13 from Dowson's

(1706) was careful

materials

rollers.

and in a broad

representation

friction

is most considerably

on

as

thinking

to motion

over another

formed by the surface

to believe

that a lubricant

the depressions

but Desaguliers
tiny rollers

and

introduced

interposed

the

between

the surfaces.

1.6

The Industrial

Important

Revolution

developments

bearings

undoubtedly

although

the bearings

their twentieth

(ca. A.D.

in the history

took place during


themselves

century

1750 - 1850)

of both ball and roller

the Industrial

were but primitive

offspring.

25

Mass

production

Revolution,

versions

of

and precision

manufacture

came with

development

of machine

The decisive
fact, been

the Industrial
bearing

machinery.

their separate

increasingly

numerous

Wider

century

section

accounts

during

with

had

to each were

the Industrial

is restricted

almost

of rolling-element

been presented

in

in road carriages

and references

and significant

this period have

had,

Since ball and roller bearings


identities

the present

ball bearings.

development

being used

of the

Revolution.

the end of the eighteenth

ball and roller bearings

and industrial

during

tools during

taken before

Revolution,

which was itself a product

steps in rolling-element

free-rolling

achieved

grinding,

by Allan

entirely

bearing

to

history

(1945) and Dowson

(1976, 1979).

1.6.1

Carriage

Bearings

A small book printed


interesting

contribution

on carriage

bearings.

motion

over sliding

practical

grease

for C. Varlo

to the late eighteenth


Varlo proclaimed

motion

ball bearings

the bearing

in London

and then described

led him to predict

without

either

that it would

26

century

the merits

for use on carriage

would operate

(1772)

is a most
literature

of rolling

one of the earliest

axles.

friction

His claim that


or the need

for

doubtless

in time...become

mechanical

power

the strength,

but in heavy weights

and a sound prediction

postchaise
located

own drawing

therefore
bearing

distributed

bolt

of running

rotating

B, was

relative

to

3 mm (1/8 in.)

in his postchaise.

He

the life of the

the inner bush and realigning

(G) rolled

(I), rotation
(H).

within

in.) for differing

duties

in two parts

the nave being

He recommended

25.4 mm (I in.),

freely between

it

bearings

(C) and

joined by a square

prevented

by the three

containing

balls

of

31.6 mm (i 1/4 in.), and 38.1 nun (I 1/2


in ships

and carriages.

cast or case-hardened

should be used for both the globes


recommended

that the side plates

the lateral

clearance

with

inner and outer

formed by the sideplates

The outer bush (F) was made

that the hardest

to his

axle.

(B) and (F) in grooves

diameters

industry.

of an octagonal

wear of about

the wear and extended

by occasionally

projections

forecasting

The inner bush, marked

(A) by means

excessive

The balls or globes

(E).

axle

800 km (500 miles)

on the stationary

bushes

1.14.

fitted

the bush was fixed in one orientation

the load, Varlo recorded


after a mere

technological

of the ball bearing

on the nonrotating
When

of accurate

much more...

of the future of the ball bearing

is shown in Figure

mounting.

as in every

it will save at least one third

His words are a fine example

Varlo's

general,

metal

with

He stressed
the finest

and the bushes.

He also

should form a channel

the globes was a minimum

27

grain

such that

and that the

number

of balls or globes

accommodated
attributed
rubbing

freedom.

such friction

of adjacent

contacts
heating

with

with

involved

Varlo's

is no friction,
journeys

After

a special

first person

in 1772, he wrote

the postchaise

a journey

from York to

through

a total journey

about

the bearings:

the sixteenth

of

are very little

reference

by the name of Philip

in this history,

a ball bearing

of great merit

axle trees, axle arms, and boxes

and heavy wheel

carriages.

28

Vaughan

since he was the


for carrying

the loads on

certain

of

globular.

from Carmarthen

to patent

there can be no heat."

After

are not yet wore much above

An iron-founder

at the

over excessive

roads and a return route

and keep

friction

from York with

an inch deep; and the balls

deserves

anxiety

to the

by the simple, but enlightened,

ball bearings.

over ii00 km (700 miles)

smaller,

that Varlo

than to rolling

he set off for Edinburgh.

They

that could be

in his bearing

He dismissed

there

on roundabout

Derbyshire,

rather

bearings

Field trials

Liverpool

as did exist

the bushes.

that "where

fitted with

It is interesting

balls,

in rolling

statement

should be the maximum

for light

The drawing
reproduced

grooves.

of Vaughan's
in Figure

inserted

inserted

the section

to complete

invention

complete

1.15 shows that the balls

The balls were

after packing,

(1794) ball bearing,

the bearing

ran in deep

into the bearing

at point A, nnd

of the outer race labeled

the bearing

assembly.

with axle,

"4th" was

Like Varlo's

was devoid of a separator

or cage

earlier
for the

balls.
Joseph Resel

of Austria

roller and ballbearings


interesting
friction

1.6.2

for carriages

that he claimed

Vanes

Church,

The former

bearings

spindles

vanes were

of copper

were pierced

this interesting
in the United

1.16.

extension

States

rollers

to enable

in a copper cage.

is shown in Figure

by weather

both

and it is

a reduction

in

lubricant.

vanes

running

and

on old Trinity
Pa.

1794 and the later


on roller

on bronze

thrust
rings.

them to rotate on brass


found on Independence

(1969) has presented

of rolling-element

late in the eighteenth

29

bearings,

Philadelphia,

about

supported

The bearing
Eaton

of rolling

Hall,

to have been built

Both weather

consisting

The rollers

to the history

Pa., and Independence

is believed

about 1770.

and machinery,

of running without

was provided

Lancaster,

in 1829 for both

and Cranes

An early contribution
tribology,

a patent

for his bearings

and the possibility

Weather

indeed

was granted

bearing
century.

Hall

an account

of

applications

The Scottish
novelist
lantern

Robert

civil

Louis

engineer

Stevenson,

R. Stevenson,

used roller bearings

of the Bell Rock Lighthouse


used for the lighthouse

construction

1.6.3

The Equestrian

to Peter

(ca. A.D.

he had the granite

Falconer

block of granite
separate blocks

that would

have

ground,

kg (3 million

bearing

consisting

troughs

in heavy wooden
of an alloy

were

1.17.

The disadvantages

fully outlined

by Carburi,

and pine
of mass

running
(5-in.)

trees,
13.3

linear ball

in copper-lined
diameter

balls

on its linear ball

bearing

of rollers

itself

are shown

compared with

and it is interesting

30

of

tin and pewter were added.

block

of the remarkable

large

and 6.4 m (21

on a remarkable

to which

to

He found such a

by birch

The 127-mm

of the granite

and a section

in Figure

of brass

the Great

than a number

The block,

ib), was moved

when

that the sculptor

8.2 m (27 ft) wide,

surrounded

rails.

ingenuity

with a single,

to be joined.

of some 30 or 32 balls

An illustration
bearing

had argued

rather

near a bay in the Gulf of Finland.


million

great
to Peter

should be provided

for the pedestal,

in marshy

were made

- St. Petersburg

the rivers of Finland

Carburi

block some 12.8 m (42 ft) long,


ft) high

the Great

for the statue

and along

(Leningrad).

Etienne-Maurice

in 1805.

(1777) demonstrated

pedestal

the marshes

St. Petersburg

in the

1769)

Count Marin Carburi

moved across

in the

and ball bearings

cranes

Monument

father of the

balls

that he

selected

an alloy of brass

elements.

He had earlier

were

flattened

pieces under

ascertained

and that cast-iron

linear bearing

that iron balls broke

balls

splintered

or

into several

the heavy load.

The use of rollers


blocks

for his large-scale,

to assist

of stone in Assyria

debate,

but the impressive

similar

purpose

in Russia

the transportation

some 2680 years

of heavy

ago may be open to

use of linear ball bearings


200 years

ago is impressive

for a
in both

nature and scale and well documented.

1.6.4

Sprowston

Windmills

Postmill

(ca. A.D.

have contributed

of plain and roiling-element


(1979),

but one particular

the history

1780)

substantially

bearings,
mill holds

of ball bearings.

as outlined
a special

Sprowston

small village

outside

of the artist

John Crome and established

example

Norwich

of the millwright's

The owners

but on March 24 showers

structure
millstones,

on the stationary

was destroyed.

significance

postmill,

built

in

in a

the attention

a reputation

as a fine

its 200-year

life.

that it should

Archaeological

of sparks

by Dowson

1730, attracted

craft during

of the mill agreed

to the care of the Norfolk

fire settled

about

to the development

Trust

be transferred

on March

from a nearby gorse

25, 1933,

brushwood

sails and the entire wooden

In the wreckage

were

some gears, and large cast-iron

31

found

rings

the

that proved

to

be part of the steady bearing


lower floor of the postmill
The cast-iron
diameters

diameter,

superstructure.

rings were

large, with

some 40 cast-iron

as shown in Figure

represents

in the Bridewell

inner and outer

The diameter

which

of metal

ball

still preserved
of the deep

ran was 70 mm (2 3/4 in.), giving

to ball radius of 1.22.

larger than that encountered


quite remarkable

assembly,

applications

is fortunately

Norwich.

in which the balls

57 mm (2 i/4 in.) in

The complete

known

machinery,

Museum,

ratio of groove

balls

1.18.

one of the earliest

in industrial

grooves

the

of 0.61 m (24 in.) and 0.86 m (34 in.), respectively.

They contained

bearings

from the shear beams beneath

in concept

This

in many modern
and execution

ratio

is somewhat

ball bearings,

but

for the late eighteenth

century.
Clark (1938) has presented
historic

ball bearing,

books by Harrison
dates back

(1949) and Wailes

to about 1780 and might

Studies

of Rolling

memoir

was undertaken
entitled

1780 and judged

(1954).

of this

can be found in

The bearing

even be 50 years

certainly

older,

since

in 1730.

Friction

The most comprehensive


century

account

and further descriptions

the mill was constructed

1.6.5

a detailed

study of friction

by Charles

"Theorie

by Coulomb, Morin,

Augustin

des Machines

to be the winner

in the eighteenth

Coulomb

Simples"

and Dupuit

(1785).

was submitted

His
in

of a prize of 2000 louis d'or

32

offered
with

by l'Academie

sliding,

required

des Sciences.

but he also considered

to sustain

the force of rolling


smaller

Arthur
Director
General

workers

Army,

Indeed,

friction.

at, and later


at Paris

a dominant

as Morin's

the

and a

role in the

the laws of friction

by a young

required

and cannons.

exposed

laws until

the end

Morin

proportional

French

friction
to move

engineer named

freight wagons,

agreed with Coulomb's

but found after

was inversely

root of the roller

and in retrospect

to the

to the radius of the

resistance

friction

radius.

was remarkably

Dupuit's

simple,

yet

it can be seen that his concepts

33

on

was important

the load relationship

study that the rolling


to the square

but his views

to rolling was proportional

agreed with

(1839) theory of rolling


farsighted,

in sliding

a professor

of rolling

the effort

load and inversely


Dupuit

known

challenged

that the resistance

proportional

to load

were widely accepted,

The subject

coaches,

a careful

proportional

century.

it governed

roller.

found that

to rolling was inversely

later played

(1835) reports

Dupuit.

findings

and Coulomb

des Arts et Metiers

were widely

friction were

passenger

applied

who became

friction.

of the nineteenth

because

of rollers made of lignum

to the radius of the roller.

study of rolling

Arsene

The force

that the resistance

in the French

rolling

friction.

friction was directly

Jules Morin,

Morin's

rolling

was recorded,

of, the Conservatoire

by earlier

concerned

than the force encountered

He also concluded
proportional

was mainly

the steady motion

vitae or elm over oak boards

and much

Coulomb

were

remarkably

subject.
rolling

1.7

close to present-day

understanding

The full story of this little known


friction has been

The Emergence

told by Tabor

of the Precision

of the

yet heated

debate

on

(1962).

Ball Bearing

(ca. A.D.

1850 -

1925)

The modern
during

the period

design,
period

under

included

review,

capstans,

axle-boxes,
bearings,

mills

marine

in reciprocating
provided

century.

and Allan

(1945) has presented


General

industrial

turntables,

axles

and railway

lifting

propeller

shafts,

engines.

However,

nineteenth

performance

a valuable

rolling-stock
footstep

and gudgeon

it was the humble

pins

bicycle

that

development.

Bearing

of the bicycle

century,

in the

applications

tackle,

and big-ends

in

form a

development

patents.

emerged

the central

applications

bearing

the real spur to ball bearing

The history

finally

refinements

to occupy

Patent

and millstones,

The Bicycle

limited

were

of rolling-element

listing of relevant

1.7.1

and analysis

of the twentieth
record

bearings

1850 to 1925 although many

manufacture,

valuable
period

forms of rolling-element

stretches

but in due course


of such machines

in the plain bearings.

attention
because

The first patent

34

back well beyond

the

was focused

of excessive

for ball bearings

on the

friction
in

bicycles

was issued

deal of experimental
.i

spindles,

to A. L. Thirion

on May

work on ball bearings

and steering

sockets

took place

16, 1862, and a great


for wheel hubs,

in England

during the next half century.

The count of British

applications

for bicycles

clearly

for ball bearings

indicates

nineteenth

a peak of activity

and France
patent

shown in Figure

1.19

in the last decade of the

century.

These efforts
worthwhile,

to develop

for the bearing

even one-tenth
were

crank

ball bearings

friction was reduced

of its former value.

increased,

for bicycles

and bicycles

were well

to one-fifth

As a result maximum

fitted with ball bearings

or

speeds
started

to

win road races in Europe.


The demand
quality

for large numbers

and reliability

provided

to encourage

precision-bearing

1.7.2

Materials

An industry
balls

was larger

conditions

the formation

manufacturing

grew up in England

accuracy

for both

mode

of transportation

and technological

of specialist

of Steel Balls

for the manufacture

the home and European

of the balls was important,

than the others

of adequate

companies.

and the Manufacture

for bicycles

Geometric

amount

for this important

the ideal commercial

challenge

of steel balls

in a bearing

of the load and inevitably

35

carried

suffered

of steel

markets.

since a ball that


a disproportionate

premature

failure,

but

the lack of suitable

materials

ball bearings

the end of the nineteenth

toward

In former
Sprowston

times

windmill

bearing

described

of this material

alternative

materials.

the crushing

requirements.

With contact

engineering
precision

It is necessary
to withstand

processes

important

science

1.6.4, but the

the severe contact

of case-hardening,

of 1.4 GN/m 2

any other

for special

steels and

in the ball bearing


factors

industry

in the development

century.

ball bearing

steels

conditions

mentioned

in which

of carbon was heated

the material

than in almost

in the twentieth

to harden

to

placed upon ball bearing

contributory

early

to seek

that it was not

in excess

The requirements

manufacturing

of materials

percent

stresses

more exacting

activity.

were undoubtedly

advent

that governed

ibf/in 2) the requirements


soon became

iron, as in the

of the balls, but also their ability

flow and fatigue

materials

in Section

It was soon recognized

strength

of

century.

caused manufacturers

resist plastic

(200,000

the development

the bails were made of cast

brittleness

just

also hindered

steel containing

in a carbonaceous

to enable

them

earlier.
about

environment

The

0.15
to
o

enable

additional

carbon

the turn of the century


materials.
homogeneity,

However,

considerably

extreme

in a thin skin or case,

enhanced

care had to be exercised

steel of fine grain

and 1 1/2 percent

steels containing

chromium.

high proportions

36

at

the range of bearing

and in due course most manufacturers

through-hardened
carbon

to be absorbed

containing

turned
about

Theintroduction
of chromium,

to ensure
to a

I percent
of stainless

typically

12 to 15

percent,

just before World

materials

War I, encouraged

to combat hostile

environments.

of ball bearing

materials

is presented

Balls were

initially

produced

rod or bar,

and great ingenuity

which balls of remarkable


barely

a vestige

greater

output

grinding.
produced

In the smaller

of metal

pip.

caused

by tumbling

long periods

on the equator

or rough

in lathe work,

turned and parted

in

off with

the demand

for

to be superseded

by

cold-heading

in rotary

grinding.

tumblers

yielded

The thin flash

of the balls was then


Further

grinding

arranged

of the balls were continuously

eventually

from a

size ranges rough balls were'first

discs and flat grinding wheels

axes of rotation

procedure,

or by turning

However,

turning

account

2.4.

larger balls were made by hot pressing.

that remained

cast-iron

with

by casting

from steel wire or bar in automatic

processes;

removed

in Section

accuracy were

of such

A more complete

was exercised

of a machining

inevitably

the adoption

the precision

such that the

varying,

and a strict

between

together

inspection

steel balls

required

by industry.
By 1890, steel balls
in.) of a nominal
tolerances

could

be made

size, and this limit was halved

could be achieved,

to meet

in the twentieth

the demands

of specialist

of the manufacturing

century.

37

m (0.001

by 1892.

but only at prohibitive

scene was now set for the emergence


companies

to within m+25

cost.

Finer
The

ball bearing
industry

early

1.7.3

The Birth of Precision

Throughout
engineering

tended

of making

concentrated

to make complete

their own bearings.

on the manufacture

achieved

a dominant

companies

involved

position

century

as bearing

that provided

of the large twentieth

most

machines,

Some small

of steel balls,

in the manufacture

for their own products


formation

Companies

the later half of the nineteenth

companies

the extent

Ball Bearing

even to

firms

but they rarely

manufacturers.

of bearings

in large numbers

the springboard

century

It was the

for the

rolling-element

bearing

industry.
Dowson

(1979) has published

of both ball and roller bearing


some of the landmarks

an account
companies,

in ball bearing

of the early history


and a brief

development

review of

is presented

here.
An entrepreneur
was a partner
London,
bicycles
Bearing

by the name of Charles

in a family business

recognized
early

the growing

in the 1890's.

He formed

great difficulty

quality.

of the Hoffmann

Co., New York,

E. G. Hoffmann
balls of high
the English

in devising
accuracy.

and European

the Preston

Barrett

equipment

He therefore

heard

in

for

Davis

Ball

in manufacturing
of the reputation

and the skill of

for the manufacture


traveled

of steel

to New York,

rights for the process,

38

who

founders

for ball bearings

steel balls of adequate


Machine

Barrett,

of iron and brass

demand

Co. but soon encountered

Arthur

bought

and persuaded

Hoffmann

to come

to England

Co., Ltd., in Chelmsford,


The new company
within

in January

started

process

shown in Figure

blemish.

problems

involved

However,

developed

relieved

manufacture

of ball bearings

bearing

century.

was awarded

In Sweden
Gamlestadens
concerned

including

in 1906 and early


self-aligning,
A. B. Svenska
in February

patent

with technical

process

bearing

for the
early

the G_teborg

of bearing

in the

textile

arrangements

ball bearing,

Wingquist's

the concept

Figure

The company

39

accommodate

However,

late

of a

and a new bearing

company,

in G_teborg

sketch of his self-aligning

drawn on Easter Day, March


expanded

He

that might

(SKF), was established


first

company

failures attributable

ball bearings.

in 1907, he developed

Kullagerfabriken

ball

became

of line shafting.

deep-groove

for steel

in 1902.

ball bearing,
1.21.

together.

by the name of Sven Wingquist,

double-row

1907.

like that

15131 for a single-row

with

and deflection

alternative

a day.

States was adopted.

reputation

of high precision

the large number

to the misalignment

misalignment,

a fine

a plant engineer

about

considered

in the United

to E. G. Hoffmann

Fabriker,

was plagued

only when a grinding

developed

British

revolving

but

from bar with an insignificant

by C. C. Hill

rapidly

steel balls

the use of a fine lathe

the company

The company

twentieth

over I million

steel balls

that were

spheres

1898.

1.20, that had two chucks

lathe turned

parting

the Hoffmann Manufacturing

in a small way with 20 employees,

I0 years it was making

The initial

This

to establish

31, 1907, is shown

rapidly,

and overseas

in

factories

were established
States

in England

in 1916, and France

Other important
established

century

Roller Bearing
1898.

developing

and the United

and early

moved

automobile

and Axle Divisions


in Great

Britain

woodworking

to Canton,

separated.
from 1909.

machinery

to the creation

important

In the United

Bearing

bearing

manufactured
the twentieth

has told how the first

and that had always

pressure,

Bearing

and manufacture
the expanding

industries

in Connecticut

was rapid

Co., Ltd.

of rolling
and
of

firm was the Fafnir


in 1911.
bearings,
created

and impressive.

Kakuta

were

imported

from SKF in 1910 and how the first ball bearings

40

In

played an

companies

bearings

in

together

the formation

of ball and roller


bearing

were much

automobile

encouraged

One such

rolling

the

were manufactured

und Munitionsfabriken

by the specialist
century,

near

in

during World War I, led

and Marles

States

adoption

The Timken

that manufactured

from overseas

companies.

Co., established

The worldwide

bearings

This commercial

Waffen-

precision-manufacturing
specialist

tobe

found that the latter products

role in the development

bearings.

century.

in 1902, and in 1909 the Bearing


Timken

of the Ransome

the Deutsche

at the end of the

in the United Kingdom,

by other companies.

were

in St. Louis, Missouri,

Ohio,

A company

with a shortage of bearings

Germany

States

companies

in the twentieth

industry

made its own bearings,


demand

in 1917.

Axle Co. was established

The company

in 1914, the United

ball and roller bearing

in Europe

nineteenth

in 1911, Germany

early

in

(1979)

into Japan

were partially

manufactured
manufacture
steels,

1.8

in Japan by Nippon
of ball bearings,

commenced

Scientific
Rolling

1.8.1

Helmholtz
Society

Studies

Friction

Contact

Heinrich

in Japan

Rudolph

of Berlin

began to wonder

influence
problem

Full

the production

of bearing

in 1926.

of Contact Mechanics,

(ca. A.D.

Ball Bearings,

and

1870 - 1925)

Hertz was studying electrical

when he attended

at which

Newton's

how changes

together

vacation

between

of 1880.

Hertz

Society

phenomena

the phenomenon
to solve

that

might
the complex

solids

during

(1881) presented

of Berlin

He

form of the glasses

elastic

with

of the Physical

rings were discussed.

and proceeded

stresses

paper to the Physical

a meeting

in geometric

to demonstrate

the observations

of contact

Christmas

including

in 1916.

Mechanics

in Berlin

were pressed

Seiko K.K.

on January

the

his classical
31, 1881, when

he was 23 year old.


The mathematical
deformations
intimate
loaded

expressions

and contact

contact

together,

stress analysis

between

developed

stresses within
arbitrarily

subsequently

41

for the

the elliptical

shaped elastic

provided

in ball bearings.

by Hertz

the basis

regions

solids when

for contact

of

1.8.2

Studies

of

Ball

Bearings

Two names dominate


bearings

at the time

formed:

Richard

Professor
studies

Richard

bearings

bearing

studies

companies

of ball

were being

and John Goodman.

Stribeck

in Berlin

by Deutsche

out experiments

of scientific

that specialist

Stribeck

of bearings

commissioned

the history

undertook

between

Waffen-

to determine

most of his basic

1898 and 1902.

He was

und Munitionsfabriken

the safe load on balls

and soon found that very small loads

to carry

and complete

could

lead to

plastic deformation.

He found that the limiting

safe load that

would avoid permanent

deformation

balls was

proportional
Stribeck

and concluded

approximately

the celebrated

to the bearing

form F = nFmax/5

selection

capacity

d c ).

in complete

bearings

loaded ball Fmax


of

From this result

Stribeck

equation

of a ball bearing

for the

emerged

in the

= Clndc/5 , where C I is a constant.

not only confirmed

contact

(Fmax

load F and the number

F = nFmax/4.37.

and more conservative

static-load-carrying

Stribeck

load sharing

that the load on the most heavily

balls n by the relationship

Hertzian

static

to the square of the ball diameter

(1901) also considered

was related

between

theory,

the essential

he also provided

of basic ball bearing

features

a simple

configurations

guide

of
for the

for particular

applications.
John Goodman

developed

as 1887 and subsequently

an interest

studied

in ball bearings

their performance

42

as early

over many years

in the University
Engineering.
concentrated

of Leeds,

Professor

where

Goodman's

on the factors
sometimes

led to failure

of the complete

increased

and suggested

the well-known
focused

compared

He expressed
diameter

in predicting
speeds,

with

+ C3dc) , where
Goodman

that the

was reduced

reversals
of fatigue

as speed

related

of stress.
and found

of the Stribeck

capacity

that it
by
equation.

F in terms of the ball

d, and the rotational

speed N as

C 2 and C 3 are constants.

equation

the load-carrying

proved to be exceedingly
capacity

and it has been perpetuated

of bearings

to the present

useful

at various

day with

modification.
Few would disagree
contributions

with Allan's

to the science

the contributions
Stribeck,
most

(1945) assessment

of ball bearings

of Heinrich

and Professor

outstanding

to

He thus

in the safe load carried

the predictions

the load-carrying

This well-known

that rapidly

that the effect was probably

reduction

He noted

He also noted

of ball bearings

dc, the race diameter

F = C2dc/(Nd

on ball bearings

their endurance.

bearing.

on the phenomenon

led to a considerable

in

specks and flakes

effect of very rapid

attention

bearings,

developed

capacity

the Chnir

(1912) paper

affecting

that the balls

safe load-carrying

he held

Hertz,

Goodman

of

that:

Professor

were doubtless

the

in the early days of the industry.

43

little

1.8.3

Rolling

Although
friction,
resistance

Friction

rolling

friction

it is nevertheless
to rolling

It was Osborne

finite,

motion

Reynolds,

in Section

1.6.5 in the period

plane and concluded


solids contributed
by rolling

noting

that the translation

This differential
incapable

rigid

over a

the contacting
He demonstrated

over a rubber surface

or microslip

of accounting

between

of the cylinder

between

reported

of a cylinder

resistance.

an iron cylinder

for contact

the studies

the rolling

to the rolling

effort.

review.

that local slipping

effect

than expected

under

of the

and father of

theory, who extended

considered

less than sliding

considerable

the hydrodynamicist

lubrication

(1875)

much

and the nature

has attracted

fluid-film

Reynolds

is generally

the

and

was appreciably

less

solids.

is, however,

for the resistance

quite

to rolling

small and
experienced

by steel components.
Heathcote
to the action
within

(1921) extended
of a ball

the Hertzian

slip, with

relative

the work of Reynolds

rolling

in a groove.

on microslip

He recognized

that

contact

zone there would be two lines of zero

sliding

taking

place

in opposing

directions

on

each side of these lines.


By 1925 the concepts
Heathcote

were widely

to the analysis
suggested

of microslip

acceptable,

and further

experimental

such as hysteresis,

44

by Reynolds

but in recent years

elegant

that other actions,

established

and

refinements

work has
might

be of even

greater significance in pure rolling under dry conditions.


Further, in real bearings, the conjunctions are normally
lubricated by elastohydrodynamic action, and viscous dissipation
within the lubricant then dominates rolling resistance.

1.9

The Past 50 Years

The major
with the period
about more

part of this history


before

1925, but it is necessary

recent devlopments

of these essential

Since 1925 our knowledge


performance

of bearing

bearing

extensive
governed

statistical
by fatigue.

analysis
With

particular

bearing

to numbers

of rotations

to provide

ranging

estimates

a given population
median

life that 50 percent

estimates
bearing
catalogs

are known

groups,
enables

incorporated

of the bearings

45

of a

it has been

to achieve

should

as the LI0 and L50 figures

to select

is largely

life that 90 percent

can be expected

contained

into

to zero, corresponding

from zero to infinity,

of the fatigue

the designer

of complete

of survival

from I00 percent

and information

have accumulated

life, which

the probability

of bearings

the

considerably.

testing

has been

of bearing

ranging

elements.

has been a dominant

of ball bearings

This experience

machine

influencing

and long hours of laboratory

assemblies.

is concerned

to say something

has increased

life or endurance

and the manufacturers

vast experience

useful

of the factors

and life of ball bearings

The question
problem,

of ball bearings

and the

endure.

These

for particular

within

suitable

manufacturers'
bearings

of

for a

particular

application.

characteristics

This dominant

is discussed

feature

in some detail

of ball bearing

in Chapter

3,

Section 3.5.
Arvid Palmgren
ball bearing
his book.

endurance.

His extensive

Other valuable

of ball bearings
(1946),

(1945) made a major

have

Tallian

Mechanical

Engineers

adjustment

factors

The period
extension

since

summaries

steels with

of bearings.
stresses,

mechanics

The publications

of bearing

attention

since

fewer inclusions

the fatigue

mentioned

Society

booklet

of

of life

et al. (1971).
a tremendous
This has covered
deformations,

of rolling

stellites,

extended

materials

contact,

above

friction,

provide

good

1925.

The use of vacuum-melted

and material

defects

molybdenum

bearing

temperatures

steels,

stainless

and even ceramics

of ball bearings

and other

46

has greatly

Special materials

tool steels, martensitic

the range of applications

high and cryogenic

has also attracted

life of ball bearings.

such as high-temperature

have

by Bamberger,

(1966),

of these developments.

considerable

steels,

The American
a useful

kinematics,

predictions,

The improvement

extended

studies

in

(1957), Hall

(1966), Hersey

1925 has also witnessed

such topics as bearing

and lubrication.

(1976).

for bearings

summarized

of

(1945), Jones

and Booser

Harris

also published

of analytical

load-carrying

(1964),

and Houghton

is well

by Allan

(1949), Wilcock

and Anderson

(1969),

work

to studies

of the more recent development

been published

Shaw and Macks

(1957), Bisson

accounts

contribution

hostile

to very

environments.

Bearing materials
further

and manufacturing

in Section

Finally,
ball bearing

our understanding

accounted
lubricated

machine

conditions

with modest

periods

of time.

deformation

elements

that operated

under

and little wear

or the marked

under high pressure,

of fluid-film

lubrication

book on elastohydrodynamic
Higginson

in 1966.

Their

nominal

line-contact

studies

to the general

book we draw together


elastohydrodynamic
empirical
thickness,

the current

lubrication

relationships

of elliptical

The importance

twofold.

First,

it must

roughness

of the bearing

of

the mechanism

manner.

The first

by Dowson

contacts.

and
to

such

In this

of

contacts,

develop

of lubricant

film

of minimum

solids in order

47

in viscosity

can be used

be significant

elastic

text extends

understanding

and show how such equations

of ball bearings.

point

for the prediction

long

almost exclusively

The present

case of nominal

stressed,

for very

was published

text was devoted

situations.

Studies

the most arduous

enhance

spectacular

lubrication

highly

either

increase

or both,

in a most

the past

termed elastohydrodynamic,
of many

the lubricant

of

form of fluid-film

In this mode of lubrication

of the solids

during

performance

friction

mechanism

the last 25 years.

that a special

was in due course

for the remarkable

increased

during

revealed

which

of the remarkable

has greatly

and particularly

of gear lubrication
lubrication,

are discussed

2.4.

lubrication

half century,

processes

in the analysis

film thickness

in relation

is

to the surface

to avoid gross

distress

of the accurately
pronounced

I.I0

produced

and important

components,

effect

on bearing

fatigue

it has a
life.

Closure

The ball bearing


machine

element

product

of twentieth

is a precision,

of great utility.
century

concept

emerged

scene during
developed
various

steadily

for bicycles

steel balls.
lathes,

companies

with

making

manufacturing

grinding

individual

encouraged

to confirm
Twentieth

faded

interest

from the

centuries

Revolution.
the great merit

industry.

from bar on

manufacturing

demand

for both ball

of specialist

largely

of improved

materials

of the ball bearing

on the question

48

bearing

and thus laid

the future of the new industry.


development

of

The advent of precision

and the availability

century

of

in the manufacture

general machine

the formation

for

for individual

the balls wereturned

Growing

The

the Renaissance,

at the turn of the century

of a great

techniques

concentrated

Initially

companies

the foundations

promoted

century

from a

of years.

and eighteenth

the Industrial

their own bearings.

and roller bearings

times,

was revived during

the end of the nineteenth

ball bearings
accurate

during

as a

yet it developed

and was firmly established

bearings

simple,

regarded

and even thousands

in the seventeenth

applications

Toward

It is widely

form in Roman

the Middle Ages,

road carriage

special

in embryo

yet essentially

technology,

firm base built up over hundreds

much

and second,

of bearing

has

endurance,

did

associated

"i

with

the introduction

manufacture.

Analysis

of all aspects

moved

rapidly

in recent years.

forward

important

developments,

of point contacts
theoretical
i

of improved materials

bearing
main

additional,
confident
bearings

results

prediction

lubrication

to the stage where


in the analysis

It is this application

of ball

that represents

text, and one that represents

small contribution

has

In one of the most

can be used directly

of the present

mechanics

of elastohydrodynamic

have been extended

lubrication.

purpose

studies

of bearing

and

to the justification

made by John Goodman

an

of the

for the future of ball

in 1912:

there are very


ball bearings

few instances
might

in which

roller or

not be used to advantage,...

the extra

first cost is very soon repaid by the

reduction

of friction and the saving of oil.

Such

bearings

require

'foolproof';
therefore

far less attention;

and the wear

does not upset

not be greatly
carefully

fixed

overloaded,

the alignment

small

ball bearings

instance.

and

of the

and they must be

in the first

49

they are more

is extremely

shaft; but to ensure success

the

must

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o.

(1978) "Glass

Its Relation to Elastohydrodynamic Lubrication

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Amontons, G. (1699) "De la resistance caus'ee dans les machines,"
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Archard

J. F. (1968) "Nen-Dimen.ional Parameters in 1I0thenIIIl Theories

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Archard, J. F. and Co ....king, E. W. <1965-66) "El8fltohydrodyn8lllic


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,
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65

Hoes, H. (1965-66) IIConnnunication, Elastohydrodynamic Lubrication," Proc.


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66

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67

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s.

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Historical Aspects, Present Technology and Future

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(To be published.)

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68

Reynolds,

o.

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69

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70

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71

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(NASA CR-1346l5.)

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72

Figure 1. 2. - Uruk pictographs for sledge and


wheeled veh icle (ca. 3000 B. C. ).

Figure 1.1. - Assyrians using logs to position a human-headed bull


(ca. 700 B. C.) - from a bas-relief at Kouyunjik.

Figure 1. 3. - Nail-studded tripartite wheels with


wooden felloes from Susa Apadana, tomb 280
(ca. 2500 B. C. ).

Figure 1.4. - Fragment of revolving wooden platform with bronze balls and
iron straps from the ships in Lake Nemi (ca. A. D. 50).

PARTICOLARE
DELL'APPLICAZ1ONE

DELLE

SFERE

ALLA PIATTAFORMA

_W_.;

- -!_ ....

__

Figure1.5. - Reconstructionof the revolvingwoodenplatformon


trunnion-mountedbronzebailsfromthe shipsin LakeNemi
(ca.A.D. 50).

Figure1.6. - Annular bronzeobject


with internal compartments
found
in Hsueh-chia-yaivillage, Shansi,
China (2ndcentury B.C.).

Figure1.7. - LeonardodaVinci's
sketchesin Codex
MadridI of rollerdiscbearingsfor continuousand
oscillatorymotion.

DELL' _,IR'TIFICIOSE

Aff_ICHINE.

Figure1.8. - Roller-discbearingssupportingmainshafts
(atHandI) on atreadmill-operated
chain of dippers
(afterRamelli1588).

Figure1.9. - Earlyform ofbali thrust bearing


completewith"separator" proposed
by
LeonardodaVinci in CodexMadridI.

Figure1.10. - LeonadrodaVinci's sketchesof


ball, cone,androller pivotbearingsin
CodexMadridI.

Figure1.11. - EarlyeighteenthcenturyButch sawmill,or


paltrok, mountedon largeroller thrust ring containing
trunnion-mounted,woodenrollers havinglengthsand
diametersof about180mm(7 in. ).

Figure1.12. - JacobRowe'sillustration of acoachfittedwith frictionwheels (Aand B), 17N.

(a)

F,

(b)

F2

HARD WHEEL ON HARD FLAT SURFACE

HARD WHEEL ON HARD, UNDULATING SURFACE

(LITTLE
SURFACE PENETRATION. ROLLING
RESISTANCE SMALL)

{Ft.F2;R_=R2=W.OVERALL
ROLLING SMALL)

(c)

(d)

HARD WHEEL ON ELASTIC SURFACE


HARD WHEEL ON DEFORMABLE
{REACTION ON FRONT OF WHEEL-R,
SURFACE
BALANCED BY REACTION FROM ELASTIC (REACTION ON FRONT OF WHEEL
RECOVERY Rz. ROLLING RESISTANCE
NOT BALANCED BY ELASTIC
SMALL)
RECOVERY. MAIN CAUSE OF
ROLLING RESISTANCE )

RESISTANCE TO

(e)
ADHESION BETWEEN BACK OF
WHEEL AND GROUND
(RESULTANT FORCE OF 'STICKING'
OR 'ADHESION' (P) ON REAR OF
WHEEL EXERTS RESISTING TORQUE)

Figure1.13. - Representation
of RobertHooke's(1685)viewof rolling friction.

Figure1.14. - C. Varlo's (1772)drawingof his newball


bearingfor takingoff friction in wheelcarriages.

Figurei. 15. - PhilipVaughan's(1794)ballbearingfor "certain axle-trees,axlearms, andboxesfor light andheavywheelcarriages."

Figure 1.16. - Early roller bearing (ca. 1770)from IndependenceHall,

Philadelphia,Pa.

Figure1.17. - CountMarin Carburi'ssystemfor transporting,on linear


ball bearings,the granite blockfor the equestrianmonumentto
Peterthe Great(ca. 1770).

Figurei. 18. - Ballbearingfrom Sprowstonpostmill


(ca.1780),showingsomeof40cast-iron ballsof
57 mm(2 114in. ) diameter.

150

_ lOO

...... _'__

.'._'_._;
_,..._
0
1860

1870

1880

1890

1900

Year
Figure1.19. - British patentappJications
for bicycleballbearings.

4%

".......

(e) Engineeringdrawingof Hoffmanball-turning machine with parting-offcutter (1899).

(b)Photographof E. G.Hoffman'soriginallathe.
Figure1.20. - Hoffmanball-turning machineandlathe.

1910

Figure1.21. - SvenWingquist's
first sketchof his revolutionary self-aligning, double-row
ballbearing(1907).

1. Report No.

2. GovernmentAccmsionNo.

3. Recipient'sCatalogNo.

NASA TM-81689
4. Title and Subt,tle

5. Report Date

HISTORY OF BALL BEARINGS

February

1981

6. PerformingOrganizationCode

505-32-42
7. Author(s)

8. Performing Organization Report No.

Duncan Dowson and Bernard

J. Hamrock

E-209
10. Work Unit No.

9. PerformingOrganizationName and Address

NationalAeronauticsand Space Administration


Lewis Research Center
Cleveland,

11. Contract or Grant No.

Ohio 44135
13. Type of Report and Period Covered

t2.

Technical Memorandum

Sponsoring Agt,ncy Name and Address

National

Aeronautics

Washington,

D.C.

and Space Administration

14.Sponsoring
Agency
Code

20546

iS. Supplementary Notes

Duncan Dowson, Institute of l'ribology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University


Leeds, Leeds, England, and Bernard J. Hamrock, NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveland,
Ohio.

of

16. Abstract

The familiar

precision

rolling-element

technology

and sophisticated

discourage

further

science.

interest

bearings

of the twentieth

Their very effectiveness

in their history

and development.

century

are products

of exacting

and basic

simplicity

of form may

Yet the full story

covers

a large

portion of recorded history and surprising


evidence of an early recognition of the advantages
of
rolling motion over sliding action and progress
toward the development
of roiling-element
bearings.
In the present paper the development of rolling-element
bearings will be followed from
the earliest
ical

civilizations

developments,

to the end of the eighteenth

particularly

those

concerned

transportation,
instruments,
water-raising
with the e],_ergence of studies of the nature
By 1800 th,, essential

features

mained fo] precision


machine e]ements.

manufacture

and mass

Elastohydrodynamic

19. Security

of large

of general
building

technologblocks,

production

bearings
to confirm

had emerged,

road

together
factors.

and it only re-

the value of these

fascinating

18. Distribution Statement

Concentrated
contacts;

Unclassified
- unlimited
STAR Category 37

lubrication

Classif. (of this report)

Unclassified

The influence

equipment,
and windmills will be discussed,
of rolling friction and the impact of economic

of ball and rolling-element

17. Key Words (Suggestedby Author(s))

Rolling-element
bearings;
contacts;
Nonconforming

century.

with the movement

20. Security Classif. (of this page)

21. No. of Pages

22. Price*

Unclassified
* ForsalebytheNationalTechnicalInformation
Service,Springfield,
Virginia22161

-- /

"National

Aeronautics

Space Administration
Washington, D.C.
20546

and

SPECIAL

FOURTH
BOOK

CLASS MAIL

Postage and Fees Paid


National Aeronautics and
Space Administration

NASA451

Of f icl,ll Business
Penahy for Private Use, $300

Postal Manual) 1)() N_! R_lurn