When the difference between winning and losing is as quick as the blink of an eye, even the smallest change can make a big difference. More racing teams are making the switch from steel to ceramic ball bearings to help them win the checkered flag. Makers of ceramic bearings say that they can reduce friction by up to 40 percent and decrease weight by 60 percent over the steel variety. That's attracting interest from racers of all stripes. Larry McBride's Top Fuel Kawasaki, a 1,250-hp, 1,075-lb bike that covers a quarter mile in 5.88 seconds, sports 20 ceramic bearings. Hot rodder Greg Anderson uses eight hybrid ceramic bearings in his Pontiac Grand Am, helping the NHRA Prostock Champion set both the elapsed -time and mile-per-hour records last year. Bearings might seem like a small factor, but they can add a lot. "We've tested bikes on the quarter mile. They can pick up three or four miles per hour just by switching to ceramic bearings," says Dave Conforti, President of Worldwide Bearings Inc., (http://rbi.ims.ca/3849-547). He is a racing enthusiast who builds mostly custom bearing units using Cerbec balls made from boron nitride by Saint-Gobain Advanced Ceramics of
East Granby, CT. (http://rbi.ims.ca/3849-550). They're used throughout the vehicle in any application that normally uses steel balls. Even a small number of bearings can make a difference. "On a 9-hp, two-cycle engine, changing two crankshaft bearings provided a full 1-hp improvement," Conforti says. The bearings are finding wider acceptance in industrial applications, too. There, the long lifetimes can offset the premium price—which varies widely across bearing sizes ranging from 8 to 100 mm in diameter. "When you factor in the fact that they have three to five times longer lifetimes, you're probably saving money," Conforti says. But that's not a key concern for most racers. "They don't care if the bearing lasts—just so long as they can go faster," he says.
The Beam Store from Suitable Technologies is managed by remote workers from places as diverse as New York and Sydney, Australia. Employees attend to store visitors through Beam Smart Presence Systems (SPSs) from the company. The systems combine mobility and video conferencing and allow people to communicate directly from a remote location via a screen as well as move around as if they are actually in the room.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.