Ball Bearing

New Hampshire Ball Bearing Incorporated of Peterborough, New Hampshire manufactured this caged seven-ball bearing around 1950. The bearing bears the part number “SFR3.” The Anti-Friction Bearing Manufacturers Association collected bearings for a public relations exhibit during the early 1950s, and donated them to the museum in 1977.
Simple bearings have been used for thousands of years reducing friction on turning parts like the axles of carts. In the late 1800s and early 1900s advances in machining and production expanded bearing use in all types of machines greatly increasing their life and precision. Bearings reduce friction on turning surfaces and keep them running true. Bearings come in a variety of shapes and sizes (including ball, roller, tapered, and simple friction). Modern bearings are often set in an inner and outer ring (called a race) sometimes with cages (separators) spacing the bearings. Changes to the size, shape, alignment, race, and cage allow for bearings to be used in almost any industry—from industrial turbines and automobiles to household mixers and computer hard drives.
Currently not on view
overall: 1/4 in x 5/8 in; .635 cm x 1.5875 cm
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Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Industry & Manufacturing
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National Museum of American History