Orders of bespoke bearings — think oddball sizes that aren’t used in general applications — must normally cover the costs associated with making a brand-new bearing mould. For lower value materials such as steel, orders of several thousand are often required to cover the costs. For higher value material such as ceramic, smaller numbers of bearings can subsidise the new mould costs.
Yet even with the high material value, SMB Bearings ability to supply a small quantity of bespoke ceramic bearings is unusual. SMB Bearings’ customers can order in small volumes of around three or four bearings, even for less common types of bearings, like angular contact ceramic bearings, where large bulk orders are often unnecessary.
“Over the last five years we have established a strong relationship with the factory,” explained Chris Johnson, managing director of SMB Bearings. “This has allowed us to give our customers the freedom to order the bearing type and dimensions that are most suitable for their application, without being restricted by large minimum volume costs.
“Ceramic material is known for its incredible corrosion resistance and low friction qualities. If engineers or academics can’t access ceramic bearings due to order restrictions, they could miss out on a real opportunity to innovate or succeed in their project. That’s why we’re looking out for the smaller-scale projects with our lower volume bespoke service.”
Ceramic bearings are suited to hostile environments, such as high temperature applications or areas containing corrosive chemicals or liquids. These bearings are more expensive than steel, but provide reduced friction, reduced weight and have the potential to last much longer than steel variants. This means that they may have a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) despite the initial higher price tag.