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Bearings are used in all sorts of machines, both in industry and in everyday life.

Despite demanding conditions, they demonstrate capabilities which would previously have been unthinkable and are still incredible to us today.

Outside Diameter of 2 Millimetres

Bearing sizes start at an almost miniature outside diameter of 2 millimetres with a bore size of just 0.6 millimetres and a width of 0.8 millimetres. These tiny bearings are used for applications such as small electric motors.

At the other end of the scale, there are bearings with an outside diameter of 6 metres that weigh more than 15 tonnes. These components are used for huge tunnel boring machines similar to the ones used to build the Channel Tunnel.

400,000 Revolutions per Minute

Bearings can withstand very high speeds, which are common in machines such as dental drills. These drills use tiny high-precision ball bearings that can spin at up to 400,000 revolutions per minute.

These speeds together with absolute precision virtually eliminate vibrations in dental drills. As well as being fascinating from a technical perspective, this should come as a relief to patients, who can rest assured that they will receive safe treatment.

Bearings Enable Flight Speeds of 580 km/h

These special bearings are used in the main shaft of passenger aircraft engines. The revolving parts rotate at a speed of 160 metres per second – equivalent to 580 km/h. This means that bearings also help to keep you safe in the skies.

Vibrations of Less than 100 Nanometres

A machine’s precision rests on the accuracy of its bearings. Each end of a rotational axis is supported by a bearing. The machine then operates precisely, even if there is a long run-out from the centre of the axis or it is running at high speed. For example, high-precision bearings with minimal vibrations of less than 100 nanometres* are used for computer drives.

(*1 nanometre is a thousand millionth of a metre).

Revolving in Space for 15 Years

Bearings play a critical role in space flight too. Information such as weather and GPS data is radioed to Earth via satellites. The satellites’ design features a reaction wheel, which keeps them in position and aims them in the right direction. High-precision bearings have been in use in these reaction wheels for over 15 years.

From −253 °C to +500 °C

Bearings also operate reliably at temperatures well below zero – for example in space rockets’ fuel pumps, where they have to revolve in liquid oxygen at temperatures of −253 °C.

High-precision bearings also take extreme heat in their stride, operating in computer tomographs at temperatures of +300 to 500 °C and in vacuum tubes with X-rays. By doing so, they help health care professionals to provide modern day comprehensive check-ups.

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