I fully admit that I loved working on cars when I was younger. I cannot explain what pleasure it gave me, like listening to Bach. It was seeing something well-ordered and logical. I still read Popular Mechanics from time to time. Besides, just watching machines is watching beauty. I loved going to factories and seeing things being made. Back when you could get into the real manufacturing facility at Hershey's (not the theme park it is today), when you saw real machines wrapping chocolate kisses, now that was heaven for me.
But today's thrill is an article on greaseless ball bearings. I know this is not top of the queue for most people. It's still worth remembering we all use lots of stuff that we don't know how it works. Cars. Vacuum cleaners. Washing Machines. Mechanical things that make life easier for us. For a while I had a partner who worked in the steel industry. I knew more about the steel industry than I ever wanted. One of the things I learned is that just the making of steel which is there in a million ways in our lives, is complex. It involves gears and bearings and all sorts of other things I barely understood then, and still don't really understand now.
So, in tribute to that beauty, I give you: greaseless bearings. Ball bearings in general reduce friction when two rotating parts move against each other. Here's a graphic from Wikipedia. If the inner ring just rotated against the outer ring, there would be a lot of friction. Because the balls themselves are rotating, there is much less friction. The first patent on roller bearings was awarded to one Philip Vaughan in 1794. These balls are usually greased up or lubed to further reduce friction and also extent the life of the elements in the system. Designing the bearings, and choosing the lubricant are critical steps in many machines. Getting it right (grease or oil for example) can make a significant difference in how well it operates and the lifetime of the bearings as well as the bearing races or cages (the outside rings). Sometimes the bearings are put into a "cage" to keep them from hitting each other, as such:
The new ball bearings are based on putting small divots into the tracks the balls roll in, it makes them roll at very specific and changing speeds so that they don't touch and there is much less friction.
My geeky heart leaps for joy.
Coda: I hugely support things like Girl Geek Con (and you should too follow them at
@GeekGirlCon ) for all the girls out there who need something like this.