Babbitt Bearings in FRC

The COTS thread got me thinking, has anyone ever used any babbitt bearings on an FRC robot?

Here’s a video explaining the process, for those of you without ancient technology in your life.

I know people used to use some bronze bearings but I’ve never seen anybody go that far. Seems like a lot of work given that we’re not repairing, just making from new.
I would be interested in seeing how well they work though. I can definitely see a few applications for them.

Yea, I went to school with Isaac. :rolleyes: Except that we didn’t have rock and roll on the radio when we poured the bearings.

I worked on some old farm equipment that had it. But once you get to the point that you are going to mill some to support the new bearing you just mill out for ball bearings and be done with it.

We’re hoping to use leather for bearings in at least one part of our robot this year…

There are poured babbitt bearings, and insert babbitt bearings, and probably a few other kinds. I have worked on a few old engines that had poured babbitt connecting rod bearings. They’re fun. I think my 70 year old lathe has poured babbitt spindle bearings.

But mostly, we’re using ball bearings in our robot.

Babbitt is great for relatively low speed, high-precision bearings. It does not have the high-speed capabilities of ball or roller bearings, but because it can be poured (and fit the shaft with under 1/10,000" clearance) it keeps the shaft in place with zero runout and play. Great for a lathe. Awful if the shaft is subject to shock (Babbitt is soft) and cannot be very well and continuously lubricated - so not so good for FRC applications. Many babbitt alloys contain lead, and are toxic if mishandled.

If ball bearings are not workable, the next option is oilite bushings, followed by brass bushings. Leather is an excellent option for certain applications, and can be superior to ball bearings.

I’ve always thought that babbitt was only usable in wet oiled conditions (like the rod/crank/cam bearings in an engine), as the the metals softness allowed proper oil flow via microscopic cracks. Since liquid lubricants are not allowed (and heavy), Babbitt isn’t really a usable material.

That said, bronze bushings (with impregnated lubrication) are nice for low speed applications (arms, etc.).

I watched that 3 times. Not for educational purposes - just to be amazed at what a great machinist and artist is capable of.

Did you see his arsenal of tools? That is a great man!

Holy crap - thank you for that great video!

Check out his other videos. His lathe is something like 10 ft between centers and 4 or so inches through the head stock. He also has quite a large arbor press.

Babbit bearings would be super cool, but in FRC, they dont make sense when roller bearings and bronze sleeve bearings are so cheap in the sizes we use.

Over the years I have seen one or two. The teams had a mentor or a sponsor that were familiar with the concept. As I remember I saw them at a Michigan regional event.

I wanted to use this on the robot this year, but we won’t be able to make the weight limit :frowning:

I figured there would be a car guy somewhere in the past 20 years that would do it.

I like your style Brian. I brought a Model A wheel to our kickoff meeting, but sadly (to me) the team opted for Rhino Tank Drive instead of 40 glorious horsepower of rear wheel drive.

so how many of us car guys are here? :slight_smile:

Quite a few, including me

After following the link, it seems that a Babbit Bearing is really a bushing made of a special alloy. We are considering bushings on two of our limited-angle manipulators for simplicity, but if that doesn’t work out, we’re going with ball bearings.


Nice avatar Ian!

The boat does not leave me any time to work on the car. :rolleyes:

I am not practicing but I am a muscle car lurker. My dream car is a 1969, Midnight Blue, Plymouth Road Runner with 426 Hemi and Hurst Four Speed. My dad and two brothers are/were mechanics so it is in my blood. I don’ mind getting dirty.
I was always fascinated on the history and power of the MoPar 318 block. It made great power as a stock engine.

Total Ford guy here.

Imports ftw. :smiley:

say, did you get a chance to look at the FIRST Robots Behind the Design book that was in the KOP?

There’s an import car pictured in there, in front of a 58 Chevy wagon. I learned to drive in that import. Later, I rebuilt the whole car. Name the import…