IBSCO works with end-users to find the right bearings and appropriate lubricants for specific applications.
Small as they sometimes are, bearings are among the workhorses of industry. But without the right design or the use of the correct lubricant, they can fail prematurely, causing equipment to malfunction or stop working altogether. “Getting bearings with the correct design and construction is vital to the quality of our products,” says Vernon Gulley, purchasing manager for Anspach (Palm Beach Gardens, FL; www.anspach.com). The stakes are especially high in Anspach’s case, since it manufactures high-speed power instruments that are used for surgical applications in such areas as neurology, neurotology, otology, and orthopedics.
To be sure that a bearing works as it is intended requires a close collaboration with a knowledgeable supplier, Gulley says. For that reason, Anspach has partnered with Intercontinental Bearing Supply Co. (IBSCO; Houston, TX; www.ibsco.com), a company that supplies bearings and specialized lubricants.
According to IBSCO president Jack O’Donnell, the company’s engineers work closely with companies such as Anspach to find the right bearings and appropriate lube for specific applications. “For example, Anspach’s hand tools operate at a high speed and therefore have certain bearing and lube requirements,” he says. Because Anspach’s tools must be sterilized by autoclaving after each procedure, a lubricant that can withstand extreme heat and the hand tools’ high-speed operation must be used, O’Donnell adds.
The firm can also analyze bearing failures to determine where adjustments to lubricants can solve the problem. IBSCO, for instance, can mix lubricants to meet specific needs. Traceability is another important element in determining the cause of a malfunctioning bearing. By tracing a failing bearing back to a stock number, necessary precautions can be taken in the future. “Traceability is important to everything we do, which applies to bearings, lubricants, and packaging,” says Anspach’s Gulley. “We try to have traceability all the way back to the raw material, if possible, which helps us avoid repeated problems and also be more accountable.”
To maintain its credentials in the custom lubrication of bearings, IBSCO shares information on the subject with New Hampshire Ball Bearings Inc. (NHBB; Peterborough, NH; www.nhbb.com). An authorized relubrication center for that company, IBSCO is also one of NHBB’s largest distributors, according to O’Donnell. “We’ve been working with NHBB for more than 25 years and have a very symbiotic relationship—trading information back and forth,” he says. “That relationship has really helped us keep ahead of the technology curve.”
The partnership between IBSCO and NHBB has proved beneficial for Anspach, as well. When in use, surgical tools can sometimes fail when blood, bone, or tissue binds up in their bearings. To prevent this problem, O’Donnell’s engineers worked with Anspach and NHBB to incorporate a larger external seal into the tool, thereby maximizing bearing protection and, consequently, the service life of the surgical tool.
An additional benefit of being a distributor for NHBB is that IBSCO can cut lead times for its customer. Whereas it would take up to 36 weeks for NHBB’s factory to fill an order, the distributor can cut that time by 60% or more if it stocks the bearings needed by the user.