Leonardo da Vinci Ball Bearing


Leonardo da Vinci ball bearing was between the years 1498-1500. He designed it to lower the friction between two plates that would be in contact in his other famous design for the Helicopter. His helicopter will never fly like a human unless its power-to-weight ratio is close to being able to lift itself against gravity – which is why birds have such large breasts that their power-to-weight ratio far exceeds that of humans. Although the helicopter design went down like a lead balloon, the ball bearing is a different story.


Leonardo da Vinci’s ball bearing drawing



Leonardos helicopter with bearing


Leonardo da Vinci’s ball bearing (3D view)


Leonardo da Vinci’s ball bearing (bird’s-eye view)

History of the Ball Bearing

Who invented ball bearings and when was the ball bearing invented – the first known discovery of a ball bearing type device was found in the Roman Empire about 40AD, this was a simple rotating table with balls underneath, presumably to allow the people eating at the table to simply rotate the table to get another foods.

The next known mention of any type of ball bearing was almost 1500 years later with Leonardo’s design. 100 years after Leonardo’s design, Galileo Galileo would also mention an early form of ball bearing. It wouldn’t be until 1792 that there was a patent filed for the “modern” ball bearing – it was granted to the Englishman Philip Vaughn in 1794, and the patent described how iron balls are placed between the wheels and axles of a carriage.


Ball Bearing Uses

Ball bearings can be found in any machine that has rotary motion, in fact, if you are reading this post on a PC or laptop, there is a ball bearing in the fan cooling the CPU. Ball bearing machines can be found in engines, kitchen appliances, bicycles and a million other machines. They are so important that the Royal Air Force (RAF) regularly bombed German Ball Bearing Factories during World War II in an effort to try to stop the German War Machine.

Nowadays, ball bearings are created by machine and can attain an accuracy of within thousandths of a millimeter, the smallest of which are used in watches and remote control/RC helicopters. You can learn more about Leonardo’s use of the ball bearing within his helicopter – Leonardo da Vinci Helicopter.