Meet The Greaseless Ball Bearings

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Ball bearings have been around for hundreds of years, having been used in things as ancient Leonardo da Vinci’s failed helicopter design and as ubiquitous as bicycles.   And while we’ve long been impressed with the modern ball bearing’s seemingly hard-to-improve utility, it does suffer from one glaring problem: it requires a lot of lubrication. That ends now with these Autonomous Decentralized Bearings (ADB), which eliminate the need for grease in order to function properly.

Created by Japanese outfit Coo Space, the bearings don’t use cages to separate and evenly space the balls. Because of this, no friction is generated during the bearings’ operation, eliminating the need for lubricants to smoothen things out.

The Autonomous Decentralized Bearings have small grooves in the outer bearing race, where the balls slide into, essentially slowing them down, before speeding back up. This simple change prevents the balls from ever touching each other, since as soon as one comes up on another ball, it hits a groove which slows it down slightly, allowing the other one to pull away. Since they’re not separated by cages, the balls start out without even spacing, which the bearings eventually fall into after a few spins, as a result of the grooves’ simple yet remarkable effect.

According to the company, the Autonomous Decentralized Bearings experience as little as 10 percent of friction compared to traditional bearings, allowing them to perform better even with the lack of lubrication.   The company is currently manufacturing prototypes and shopping the product to potential partners that can help bring it to market.

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6 Responses

  1. William

    So does this mean that they don’t need lubrication at all, or could they still benefit from such? This is definitely a new technology and I like the mechanism and idea that’s being used here, between gravity and pre-molded slots or rotator designed joints and ‘alleys’ for movement. This would be cool to apply to workout equipment, bicycles, and dare I say maybe even one day car parts? It seems much more practical, and sure to put a lot of other products out of business. I wouldn’t mind spending around $1-$3 each depending on size and purpose. Do they come with a warranty since it’s such a new concept, and made overseas?

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  2. Dave

    Does this work in only one direction / would the bearings hit each other if the rotation was reversed?

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  3. William

    That’s a really good question, Dave! Even if they did ‘hit each other’ going the opposite direction, surely the manufacturer could swiftly implement alternative methodology and innovation to support said motion-structure? What type of usages do you see this technology being applied in? The Automobile industry? How about the security (think bank vaults and doors) industry? How could this influence or change the current structure of innovative security technology and purpose between protecting money, government equipment, and even personnel–think aviation?

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    • Ryan

      Industrial motors (driving pumps, fans, conveyors) up to about 500hp are currently being built with sealed ball bearings worldwide, many are still greased manually. These continuous duty AC induction motors operate at very high efficiency approaching 97% in some cases. If you can reduce that 3% of losses to 1.5%, and increase the reliability (no grease injections to potentially foul windings), the electrical cost savings to industrial facilities like chemical plants and refineries could be huge. Potential game changing technology.

      Bicycles, indeed.

      Reply
  4. michaela

    this is definitely a neat new technology, but i also don’t think it’s worth the price. imagine how many of these bearings it would take and cost to effectively replace the current movement technology on a device or vehicle. i feel like would then be more of an industrially popular device, versus for personal usage and purpose.

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