Super precision bearings manufacturer, The Barden Corporation (UK) Ltd, has reached an important milestone after the company’s production plant in Plymouth, UK, produced its one millionth deep groove ball bearing for use in dry vacuum pumps.
Last month, the one millionth bearing rolled off the production line at Plymouth. The plant marked this milestone by holding a celebration, involving speeches from senior management and the presentation of commemorative awards to manufacturing staff.
Manufactured at the Plymouth plant since 2002, Barden’s deep groove ceramic ball bearings are custom-engineered specifically for manufacturers of dry vacuum pumps. These bearings ensure high reliability of the pumps during critical production process, including the manufacture of semiconductors, solar panels and flat panel displays, as well as for vacuum degassing applications in metal processing.
“Reaching one million vacuum pump bearings is a tremendous achievement for Barden and is an added incentive for the Plymouth plant to keep up the excellent work,” said Nick Dowding, Business Development Manager at The Barden Corporation (UK) Ltd.
Since 2002, production of bearings for dry vacuum pumps at Plymouth has grown significantly. In 2012, production peaked at around 4,000 units per week. “End users of vacuum pumps require high reliability pumps. Under no circumstances can these pumps fail due to unreliable bearings, which would cause costly stoppages to their production processes. In semiconductor manufacturing, for example, these types of breakdowns can result in thousands of pounds of lost production,” states Dowding.
Flat panel displays, solar panels and semiconductors all require production processes that are clean and free of any contaminants that may adversely affect the process. Therefore, working chambers are normally flooded with gas and evacuated using dry vacuum pumps in order to create a working vacuum.
In semiconductor manufacturing, the etching tools need to operate in a vacuum chamber whilst they lay down miniature grids of electronic circuitry to silicon wafers. This type of operation is so intricate that all contaminants must be removed from the production chamber before work can begin. It is therefore common to see rows of dry vacuum pumps installed under production floors in many semiconductor manufacturing plants.
Barden engineers in the UK are able to devise bearing solutions that provide vacuum pump manufacturers with the high reliability their pumps require. But just as important, vacuum pump manufacturers also see Barden as a problem solver. As Dowding puts it: “Whilst the speed requirements on dry vacuum pump bearings are often lower than usual, other factors such as temperature, contamination and reliability mean that a special bearing design is necessary in order to meet the application requirements and harsh operating environment.”
“If required, we can engineer a solution for the customer, which includes a special heat treatment or coating for the bearings, which will provide temperature stability and high resistance to contaminants. We’ve also devised bearing solutions that increase the reliability even further by, for example, replacing the standard steel ball elements with ceramic balls, which improves lubrication. We’ve also engineered bearings that add value by reducing the customer’s assembly costs and pump component count.”