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The Function of Ball Bearings
From small and large motors, to car axles to electric fans and hard disc drives (HDDs), ball bearings are used in a wide array of machines for rotary motion. Ball bearings support rotary parts and reduce friction to facilitate the smooth operation of machines. The size of ball bearings can range from smaller than a grain of rice — small enough to fit inside a wristwatch—to over one meter in diameter for factory and power plant applications.
Ball Bearing Components
Ball bearings are comprised of four major parts: a large ring (outer ring), a small ring (inner ring), balls between the rings (steel balls), and a cage to prevent the balls from hitting each other. The modern structure dates back to around 1500, when Leonardo da Vinci invented ball bearings to reduce friction against the axles of horsedrawn carts. For more than 500 years, the ball bearing has been defined by this simple structure.
The Precision of a Ball Bearing
The main function of a ball bearing is to reduce friction and facilitate smooth rotation of an axis. Modern ball bearings test the very limits of precision. As an example, one of the key elements to making an ultra-precise ball bearing is the degree to which the groove, where the balls roll, can be made into a perfect circle.
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