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Hartford Technologies Blog

Custom Bearings and Value Engineering

Posted: Nov 1, 2021 2:16:30 PM

Manufacturing companies continually face issues dealing with quality, price, and time. It's important to address each component of their product to ensure its quality, while reducing costs and guaranteeing it lasts within its slated life cycle. 

Often this approach makes custom components the best solution. This article will cover the benefits of customized bearings versus off-the-shelf bearings with a nod to value engineering.

What is Value Engineering?

Value engineering is a process that looks for the most cost-effective design for a product that achieves its required performance, quality and life cycle.  Oftentimes, lower cost components of a product can be substituted that will keep costs down that won’t harm the integrity and function of a product.  

A comparison between off-the-shelf versus custom bearings will clarify this point.

Off-the-Shelf Bearings

The greatest benefit of off-the-shelf bearings is the completed engineering and testing. They are easy to order and may be less expensive due to wide availability.

There are two considerations when purchasing off-the-shelf bearings. First, whether you may have to adjust the component design to accommodate a standard bearing. Second, whether the bearing holds you back from the best-engineered solution.

Custom Bearings

The biggest concern that comes to mind when considering customization is cost.  But in fact, companies like Hartford Technologies specialize in custom bearings at competitive pricing.

Here are some of the benefits of custom bearings:

  • High volume usage makes custom more effective than standard

  • In-place costs are often reduced by delivering a complete assembly for a specific envelope that can be dropped in place

  • In-house parts inventory, labor costs, and installation time are reduced

  • Unique applications may require custom as suitable off-the-shelf items don’t exist or when the design is more cost effective than in-place costs  

  • Custom high-speed automation equipment reduces manufacturing costs and ensures quality

Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Bearings

There are other circumstances and issues when looking at custom vs. off-the-shelf bearings. For instance, when your project needs step size solutions for lower tolerance for mating material. Choosing a custom component can satisfy this requirement. Often a stamped or cold formed part cannot meet the desired tolerances for performance. Step size bearing balls used individually or custom bearing assemblies with multiple version bearing ball sizes can solve this problem. Custom bearings can deliver different color custom plastic bearing retainers/cages that can be used with each holding different size step balls. The color is then selected to provide the best fit for the mating part.

Other factors include tolerances and weight. You don't want the tolerances tighter than necessary, thus making manufacturing more difficult and costly. Is there a long-term advantage to using lighter-weight material? 

Value Engineering and Material/Tolerance Consideration

In value engineering, the materials used make a difference. You also want to use materials that can hold up to your application but are most cost-effective. Look for workhorse-type, readily available materials, and avoid unique materials that may be perceived as ideal but are expensive and or difficult to procure. Consider equivalent alternatives.

The goal is to use materials that are easy to find and not too expensive. You may weigh the cost-effectiveness of low carbon vs. high carbon vs. alloy steel vs. stainless steel, for example.

Likewise, you should also consider what tolerances are required and try not to over engineer. A few microns of precision can add excessive cost if a new process is needed to achieve such tolerances. Try to find out what tolerance will be acceptable for the application and work with your manufacturing partners to see what is readily achievable without adding excessive cost.

Balls Options

The kinds of balls you choose for your product also to contribute to your value engineering approach. 

Some materials to consider include:

  • Low carbon steel
  • High carbon steel
  • Alloy steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Nonferrous materials

There are many grades of balls that are indicative of sphericity precision. Only precision balls need the tightest tolerances. If the need is for general use, G50-200 will work well. Standard sizes are less expensive when ordered in smaller quantities.

Let Value Engineering Drive Your Bearings Solution

There is a use for off-the-shelf bearings. But the benefits of custom bearings can drive your margin and improve your quality.  At Hartford Technologies, advanced materials expertise, design capabilities, and quality processes enable our team to produce engineered bearings for a variety of applications and industries including industrial, automotive, agricultural, medical, military and electronics.  Contact us to learn how custom solutions can drive your business.