Bearings have long had a complex history; from the first primitive wooden bearings to the modern class of self-lubricating bearings. During the 20th century, improvements in bearings went hand-in-hand with the great advancement in a variety of industries.
In this article, we will dive deep into the history of Hartford Technologies, and how the evolution of bearings co-mingled with Hartford Technologies’ innovative capabilities to always stay ahead of the trade.
The origins of Hartford Technologies began back in 1926. After working at his family’s company for over 10 years, Charles Abbott decided to leave the Abbott Ball Company in West Hartford and begin one of his own. What started as a ball manufacturing company, eventually expanded by the 1940s to begin mass production of balls and bearings.
By the middle of the 20th century, bearings began to see a major expansion in design and development, offering companies and mass distributors a variety of options in product material. The choice of rolling elements also expanded from balls to rollers—more specifically tapered rollers and spherical rollers. Bearings could support greater forces and combined (axial and radial) loads. Hartford Technologies also began making ball-bearing retainers for cars and bikes, bearing retainers consisting of a piece of metal that would hold a circle of balls together.
By the 1970s, non-precision bearings quickly found their place in the manufacturing industry. Since precision bearings were overtly more expensive to make in the U.S., non-precision bearings began to expand in production, eventually becoming one of Hartford Technologies’ driving products.
Setting themselves apart from other companies within the industry, Hartford Technologies’ non-precision bearings became essential, and the company filed a patent in 1981 for high-speed manufacturing of unground bearings. Considered to be one of the most effective bearings at the time, the unground bearings were referred to as “Hartford Bearing Gold” by consumers.
Causing a major boom in the automotive industry, non-precision bearings became essential components in car manufacturing. By 1979, Hartford Technologies developed a non-precision bearing that went on the first passive restraint column Ford had ever built. Come 1982, every Ford vehicle being produced had its steering column bearings made by Hartford Technology. From then on, 90% of the bearings made for steering columns within the domestic automotive industry were produced by Hartford Technologies; recording their highest volume production of bearings for passive restraint steering columns in 1999.
A2 product bearings consisted of two raceways with a complement of balls inside, sometimes with a retainer. Working with Ford, Hartford Technologies went as far as using silver plating for the A2 product bearing as a means to reduce noise. With the bearings being non-precision, this allowed the column to move more smoothly.
Along with the steering column bearings, by 1992, Hartford Bearing was able to develop the first engineered plastic linear bearing for JCI automotive seat tracks. In the US, non-precision bearings reached their peak at the end of the 20th Century, when precision bearings took over. In part, this was due to the deflation of cost to mass-produce the product overseas and even at home.
Making major milestones throughout the late 20th century, Hartford Technologies went on to create major patents for numerous products far beyond the automotive industry, including:
By 1997, Hartford Technologies was creating unground radio ball bearings for major companies in the vacuum industry like Hoover and Eureka, refining their bearings for vacuum cleaner transmissions and beater bar assemblies.
Hartford Technologies’ non-precision bearings became particularly favored when mass-producing roller skates. With precision bearings, if even a little bit of dirt were to get into the roller skates, they would stop working. With non-precision bearings, the skates became more durable in use, surviving dirt infiltration.
By the end of the 90s, Hartford Technologies saw a decline in manufacturing for roller skates and skateboards. With consumer goods becoming cheaper to produce in places like China and India, the company decided to reinvent itself.
With continued development in material science and lubricant technology, and steady improvements in manufacturing, the future promises bearings of a more sophisticated design than ever before.
Nearing 100 years in the business, Hartford Technologies has been able to maintain its status in the bearing industry by its willingness to adapt and innovate, from expanding its facilities in Asia during the early 2000s to being incredibly self-sufficient by building a majority of its own equipment. Hartford continues to grow to add the pin and roller product line to the ball and bearing products previously offered. Hartford Technologies as it has throughout its history will continue to focus on delivering quality, cost-effective products to its customers.