Bearings manufactured by GGB Bearing Technology (formerly Glacier Garlock Bearings) are helping NASA’s Curiosity rover explore the surface of Mars, states the company. GGB’s DU® metal- polymer bearings are critical components in the drill that Curiosity is using to sample rocks in the Martian landscape.
“It is a great honour for GGB bearings to be used on the Curiosity rover,” stated Ken Walker, GGB Division President. “Our products are used in tens of thousands of critical applications every day on our planet, but it is always our goal to provide superior, high-quality solutions to our customers’ needs, no matter where those needs take our products.”
The self-lubricating DU® bearings feature high resistance to wear and the ability to function in the harsh conditions and temperatures found in the Martian atmosphere. The company’s DU® bearings consist of a metal backing bonded to a porous bronze sinter layer. This bronze sinter layer is impregnated and overlaid with the filled PTFE bearing lining.
The metal backing provides mechanical strength, while the bronze sinter layer provides a strong mechanical bond between the backing and the bearing lining. This construction promotes dimensional stability and improves thermal conductivity. The bearings can operate successfully at temperatures in a range from -200°C (-328°F) to +280°C (+536°F).
Engineered and built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Curiosity’s mission is to investigate conditions on the planet to see if they may have been conducive to microbial life. The investigation requires obtaining and analyzing dozens of samples scooped from the ground or drilled from rocks. A robotic arm on Curiosity is capable of drilling into Martian rocks to a depth of 2.5 cm (one inch). The drill acquires samples by rotating and hammering the rocks with weight applied to the bit.
Three DU® metal-polymer bearing segments serve as the primary suspension components for the drill spindle, one of four robust components that allow the drill to operate in the environment on Mars. In addition to the spindle, which rotates the bit, the drill includes a chuck that engages and releases the bit; a percussion mechanism that hammers the bit; and a linear translation mechanism.
Posted by: Paul Whittaker, Editor ipmd.net, [email protected]