RBC Bearings has a long and impressive history as an innovator in bearing technology – one that has been highlighted by patents for creative engineering design. Today, the company comprises a number of manufacturing facilities throughout North America and Europe, with a global network of sales engineers, aerospace distributors, and authorized agents. Publicly held, RBC has grown steadily through strategic planning and acquisitions.Since the early nineties, these acquisitions have continued to expand the breadth of an extensive product line of bearings and related products that serve global industries – chief among them, aerospace.
Since its earliest days in West Trenton, New Jersey, the company has been at the forefront of bearing technology.Roller Bearing Company of America, founded in 1919, manufactured a variety of bearing products. In 1941, Roller Bearing Company became the sole source supplier for the landing gear bearings on military aircraft manufactured by the Ford Motor Company. The RBC facility in West Trenton continues today to be a major supplier of helicopter main and tail rotor flight control bearings to, among others, the U.S. Government.
In 1990, RBC acquired Industrial Tectonics Bearings (ITB). Located in Rancho Dominguez, California, the division was founded in 1955. ITB manufactures a complete line of thin section bearings with capabilities up to 24 inches outside diameter. Typical aerospace applications include helicopter swashplate bearings and electro-optical targeting pods. Additionally, ITB has capabilities to produce gearbox and engine bearings for the aerospace industry.
Transport Dynamics (TDC), founded in 1955, was acquired in 1992. Also located in southern California, Transport is one of RBC’s main producer of plain bearings, manufacturing journal bearings (bushings), spherical plain, and rod end product. Plain bearings at TDC are constructed in metal-to-metal and as lined, self-lubricating product. Transport Dynamics offers over 30 different liner systems depending upon the loading, wear, and temperature conditions in the application (including the patented Fibriloid® and Fiberglide® liner technology). TDC manufactures plain bearing product in both conventional swaged configurations and as load slot entry bearings (Messerschmidt design). Transport Dynamics was actually the inventor of the lined spherical bearing, with the first application developed in 1957 for the Chevrolet Corvette suspension joint. Boeing latched onto this new bearing design and soon it was used throughout the 727 model aircraft. TDC actually licensed this technology to all their competitors back in the 1960’s.
Heim Ball Bearings, Fairfield, Connecticut, joined the RBC family in 1993. Founded by Louis Heim in the early twentieth century (1942), the Heim name has been known and respected for designing the first integral rod end bearing, specifically the Unibal® spherical bearing rod end. This bearing was originally designed to solve aircraft delivery delays due to critical shortages in rod ends and self-aligning bearings during the war effort. Heim is also well known for inventing centerless grinding and in inventing the swaging process used in the manufacture of spherical plain bearings. In addition to rod end and spherical bearings, Heim manufactures specialized radial ball bearings, such as a cobalt race hybrid bearing with silicon nitride balls for a hot bleed air valve application in aircraft auxiliary power units. Heim Bearings is also the world’s largest provider of aerospace ball bearing rod ends, including manufacture with the corrosion resistant Aerocres® material. Ball bearing rod ends can be found throughout aircraft in positioning and linkage assemblies, as well as on swaged tubes throughout the airframe.
In 2000, RBC acquired Schaublin SA – based in Delemont, Switzerland. As a result, RBC added Schaublin’s metric rod ends and metric spherical bearings to the family of global RBC products, and a base with which to service the European market. Within this 140,000 square foot facility, RBC has established the company’s EDO Center. Schaublin was licensed by Heim Bearings to market Unibal® rod ends back in the 1950’s. RBC also acquired what is now called RBC France - a sales and engineering, marketing, and distribution arm for Schaublin product, located in Les Ulis.
In December, 2003, RBC acquired the former Torrington “Standard” Plant - a long-established leader in airframe products. This facility, referred to as RBC Aircraft Products, Inc (API) or the RBC Torrington, CT Plant, was founded in 1866. The Torrington name is synonymous with quality engineering and precision – and complements the RBC portfolio of aerospace product offerings. At the API plant, RBC produces aircraft needle track roller bearings, cam followers, and radial ball bearings. Additionally, API is RBC’s main facility for the production of 52100 cad plated, 440C stainless, and zinc nickel plate airframe control ball bearings. RBC has become the number one producer worldwide of airframe control product and has virtually every series and size Mil Spec approvals.
RBC has made an additional aerospace business acquisitions in each of the years 2004, 2005, and 2006; acquiring U.S. Bearings, Chatsworth, California, Southwest Products Inc., Irwindale, California, and All Power Manufacturing, Santa Fe Springs, California, respectively. U.S. Bearings and Southwest Products manufacture plain bearings as does Heim, Transport, and Schaublin. Added are some specialty design capabilities and self-lubricating liner systems, as well as additional production capacities. All Power Manufacturing, a Boeing and Airbus approved supplier, produces a full line of precision bushings, spacers, sleeves, and specialty machined parts servicing the aerospace industry. This is an added product line to the already broadest line of aerospace bearings offered by RBC.
In 2008, RBC acquired the assets of A.I.D. Company, Clayton, Georgia, a manufacturer of precision aerospace swaged tubes and push pull rods. A.I.D was founded in 1948 to produce a wide variety of swaged tubes, flash welded push-pull rods, and control rods for commercial and military applications.
Aerospace segments served by RBC include commercial and military alike, fixed and rotary wing. RBC serves the world’s major airframers (large transport, regional, and general aviation), engines and accessories, defense (land and marine vehicles, missile and bomb, optical targeting), space (vehicles and engine), major subsystem providers (landing gear, electrical generation, etc), and smaller subsystem and component applications (primary and secondary flight control actuation, swaged tube bearing and structural applications, etc). RBC also provides product through a global network of authorized aerospace distributors.
The RBC aerospace divisions are well versed in the many bearing materials, from the standard chrome 52100, to the CRES 440C and 15-5 / 17-4 stainless product, to the processing of exotic materials like ALTEMP® A286, Stellite®, titanium, Inconel®, beryllium copper, Pyrowear®, and AeroCres®.
Combined, the aircraft divisions of RBC are approximately 75% aerospace. The predominant non-aerospace markets include high-end industrial applications requiring the same stringent tolerances and high-quality precision product.
RBC has a long tradition of engineering design excellence and innovation in creating solutions to problems, as our patents reflect. The company also strives to stay on the forefront of bearing material, plating, and design technology. Investing in qualified personnel, capital equipment, and material and bearing testing is paramount. RBC also strives to continually refine its manufacturing processes, both to maintain the reputation for quality product and long life, and to remain the industry’s cost leader.