The space industry thrives on the word “heritage”. Relying on historical designs, equipment, processes and suppliers results in known outcomes and reduced risks in the high stakes world of rocket launches. It’s hard to compete with that logic. But that hasn’t stopped Napoleon Engineering Services (NES) from going all in to support the commercial space industry with custom bearings for a wide variety of mission critical applications from turbo pumps, values, actuators and hydraulic power units to docking systems.
The Olean, NY based custom bearing manufacturer has roots in the aircraft industry dating back to the 1990’s. That heritage has set the stage for Napoleon Engineering Services’ work in the space industry. “We started out providing bearing reverse engineering services to those looking to hold a PMA (Parts Manufacturer Approval) on type-certified aircraft and engine bearings,” explains NES President and Chief Engineer, Chris Napoleon. “Over the years, in support of our PMA and OEM customer base, we have made significant investments in manufacturing equipment, allowing NES to manufacture high precision aerospace bearings.
When a Rolex knock-off one day disassembles on its owner’s wrist — caveat emptor, you get what you pay for. And when — say Walmart — gets stuck with a counterfeit $50 bill, it is duly noted and life goes on. But when a counterfeit bearing finds its way into the guts of a piece of heavy machinery, or a medical device, or a production line — the ramifications can be significant, if not deadly. Bearings are much like gears — they’re everywhere. Which ups the ante that there exist numerous applications possibilities for counterfeit bearings to impact performance and outcome. Consider the potential result of bearing failure in a high-balling locomotive; or a surgical tool used for brain surgery; or in a heavy-duty crane operating in the heart of Manhattan. Indeed, when speaking of counterfeit bearings, the you-get-what-you-pay-for bromide couldn’t be more accurate.
Global manufacturing by original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and purchasing of bearings from global sources for industrial applications has skyrocketed over the last two decades. The playing field for the purchasing of bearings has changed significantly over this period of time. Historically, there were only a handful of bearing manufacturers who were called upon and trusted to supply bearings for high-reliability applications.