Exploring bearing material Vesconite Hilube

Nicola Brittain

Nautical bearings have some specific requirements, here we explore these in more detail.

The 60s were the golden age of (shorthanded) ocean racing, and inventor Nick Frankling built the first Aries Wind Vane in 1964. He kept redesigning this now classic boat and the current Aries is based on his third model. Nick Franklin passed the Aries Vane Gear company over to the Danish Peter Matthiesen in 1994.after which Aries moved to mainland Europe and the process of converting from imperial to metric was finalised.

Boating aficionado Roy McBride had always been interested in the Aries Wind Vane Series and decided to develop a repair kit for its specific requirements - he chose Vesconite Hilube for the bearings.

The Aries Wind Vane self-operating steering systems can operate for 30,000 miles from purchase. When they need to be repaired, however, it is often only the PTFE bearings that need to be replaced - they have sometimes become immovable as a result of being fitted to stainless steel components that have seized up due to sun damage, corrosion or a lack of lubrication.

Self lubricating bearings

As a result, McBride decided to choose a premier self-lubricating low-friction material, known as Vesconite Hilube, for the bearings that he would install in refurbished wind vanes.

“It doesn’t make sense to use inferior products for the bearings since this is the only part that wears out,” says Mc Bride, noting that traditionally the bearings require lubrication with water and are often inaccessible, meaning Vesconite Hilube’s self-lubricating properties are advantageous.

Mc Bride has refurbished five Aries Wind Vanes since he started repairing this specific component two years ago.

Engineer endorsement of bearings

He says that engineers who have seen his choice of bearings for the refurbishments have “backed him up 100%.”

Several bearings may need to be replaced during any refurbishment, including those that fit to the cross shaft to which the wind vane is fitted and the top-hat bush that fits to the cross shaft that links to the water paddle below it.

These are all exposed to harsh environmental conditions, including salt water and UV radiation.

Vesconite hilube

Vesconite Hilube is Vesconite’s flagship bearing material, designed for particularly difficult operating environments, such as moist and underwater applications. These include the pump and marine industry, where regular maintenance is not practically feasible or cost-effective.

The company argues that the bearing has superior wear life, especially in poorly lubricated and dirty conditions, and that it has been shown to offer up to ten times the life of bronze bushings.

The bearings incorporate an internal lubricant that translates into an exceptionally low friction coefficient. Combined with good dimensional stability, low wear rates and a high load-bearing capacity they have a PV rating (pressure x velocity) four times that of nylon bushings.

Fully saturated, Vesconite Hilube has a negligible moisture absorption rate (0.5%). Its linear swell rate of 0.07% allows for fine clearances in the majority of applications. By contrast, nylons absorb moisture by as much as 9% of total mass – resulting in high swell rates and critical loss of clearance (which can lead to seizures.)Vesconite is available in a wide range of rods, bushings, plates, and machined custom parts.

History of bearings

Ancient Bearings

The Ancient Egyptians, known for their Pyramids, Sphinx’s and Pharoah’s are also known for the use of bearings. There’s much speculation that Ancient Egyptians used bearings to build the pyramids.

Middle Age

Much later, polymath and artist, Leonardo Da Vinci included the idea of roller bearings in many of his designs, including the helicopter in 1500 AD.

The Industrial Revolution

Bearings played an integral part in the industrial revolution allowing machinery to work more efficiently. The first bearings ‘patent’ was awarded to British inventor Phillip Vaughan from Carmarthen, his modern design incorporated a ball running along a groove in an axle assembly – dubbed a ball bearing.

The War

Bearings were a vital part of many of the components of the second world war and many historians argue that ball-bearing factories across Europe were a coveted piece of intelligence.

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