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.
Wal-Mart will hold its second Made in the USA Open Call July 7-8, at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. The event will be a repeat effort by the world’s biggest seller of consumer goods to increase the amount of US-made products it sells in Wal-Mart stores, in Sam’s Club members-only wholesale outlets, and on walmart.com.
From design feasibility, to development, to production, having the right information to make good decisions can ultimately keep a product from failing validation. The key is highly focused information that doesn’t come from conventional, statistics-based tests but from accelerated stress testing.
There’s a good chance that a few of the things mentioned here won't fully come to fruition in 2015 but rather much later down the line. However, as Malcolm X once said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
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