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Industrial Applications of Ball Bearing Rod Ends – Part 1

Industrial Applications of Ball Bearing Rod Ends – Part 1

Ball Bearings Rod Ends

Ball bearing rod ends were originally created for military/aerospace applications. They were developed to serve low torque, high load, and misalignment needs. Over the years, mechanical challenges with other applications have been solved by ball bearing rod ends. Today, we’ll take a look at a few retail applications including food and beverage and entertainment/animatronics. Note that this is the first installment of a two-part blog series.

Food & Beverage

Several years ago, a leading manufacturer of beverage dispensers came to us for a bearing to be used in an innovative soda machine for a leading coffee chain. Rather than just dispense it, the idea was for the machine to actually produce soda on the spot. This meant turning flat water into sparkling water, then injecting the syrup, and mixing it. Of course, the process needed to generate plenty of fanfare to entertain the guests! They wanted to use a standard part from our HEIM® rod end catalog. We’ll admit, at first, we were scratching our heads. It seemed that they were overengineering the solution. We were thinking perhaps using a lower cost alternative to a part that was also used in a 737 flight control system.

Ultimately, the requirements of the application determined which component was used. For effect and theater, their wish was to make the machine shake and generate steam. This required a crank that ran a wheel/spinning mechanism. The bearing’s role was to articulate the drink up and down in a vertical motion. It turns out that the customer was right. The ball bearing rod end was the perfect part for the job, precisely allowing the required back and forth movement under high load.

These rod ends have been used for other applications in the food and beverage industry. This includes everything from high tech fast food grilles and other kitchen equipment to glass bottle inspection, allowing each bottle to move through the line and get examined.



Have you ever been to a theme park and witnessed animatronics in action? Ever wonder what makes them tick? Spoiler alert: their movements are made possible by ball bearing rod ends. Similar to aerospace – the application calls for low torque, and requires the components to move very freely and smoothly, yet precisely. A traditional HEIM® bearing doesn’t work well for push-pull applications such as this. They tend to contain too much clearance, which gives too much slack and play. In order for these characters to appear genuinely lifelike, their movements must be precisely controlled. This requires a tight connection through all of the linkages. This is exactly what ball bearing rods provide.

As an added benefit, the efficiency reduces power requirements. The characters can now be operated with small, sub-fractional HP motors, rather than larger, power-hungry units. In fact, multiple characters can be animated from one motor, which further reduces setup, operating and long-term maintenance costs.


These examples demonstrate that ball bearing rod ends can be used for everyday applications in addition to aerospace. This is simply since they share the same requirements as the original use: the need for precision and tight control within a mechanical system.

Stay tuned for our next blog, where we will share more application stories - in the manufacturing and medical spaces.

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