A Brief History of Ball Screws

A Brief History of Ball Screws

Screws have been a part of society for centuries dating back to the days of Ancient Greece. These days, screws are used in practically everything, from furniture to machine tools to modern technology. In your industry, you may purchase ball screws regularly—but how much do you know about their history? This article will give you a brief history of ball screws from the time of their invention to present.

Invention of the Ball Screw

The standard lead screw has been around in some form for centuries, and until the invention of the ball screw, was the main tool people used to convert rotational motion to linear motion. Lead screws were inexpensive and effective but created a high amount of friction and often had low efficiency. In response to these issues, the ball screw was invented in the late 1800s.

It’s unclear exactly who invented the first ball screw—throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, many inventors filed patents for their ball screw designs. At this point, ball screw designs were not standardized. One of the first ball screw patents, filed in 1874, used ball screws to produce linear motion in press machines. In the 1930-40s, ball screws were used in World War II airplanes. In the years following the war—predominantly the 1950s—car manufacturers such as General Motors began to incorporate ball screws into their cars steering mechanisms. Beginning in the 1960s, ball screws were often used to create linear motion in machine tools and are still used for this purpose and many others today.

Ball Screws Today

Since the days of its invention, the technology and efficiency of the ball screw has improved significantly. The design of the ball screw has been standardized, making its performance more predictable and enabling it to be used in nearly any industry. These days, ball screws can be found in nearly any industry—including industrial, automotive, medical, and aerospace—as well as many others in which a highly efficient tool to convert rotational motion to linear motion is required.

As you’ve learned in this brief history of ball screws, it’s a very useful and versatile tool. With its versatility across industries, perhaps a ball screw is just the part you need for a machine in your industry. Contact Wedin International, Inc. about our ball screw engineering services today. We can help you find, refurbish, or create just the right part for your machine.