ASME-Landmark:Kingsbury Thrust Bearing


When he was a student in 1888, Albert Kingsbury (1862-1944) first developed the principle of what would become the Kingsbury thrust bearing, in which the load is carried by a wedge-shaped oil film formed between the shaft thrust-collar and a series of stationary pivoted pads or segments, resulting in an extremely low coefficient of friction and negligible bearing wear.

Kingsbury was first able to demonstrate his bearing on a commercial scale in 1912, thanks to a collaboration with the Pennsylvania Water & Power Co. (PW&P), which was struggling financially and needed a replacement for the roller bearings that used to wear out in a matter of months at Holtwood and similar hydroelectric installations. With minor refinements, Kingsbury's bearing was installed and running without problems; after three months, the bearing was taken apart and found to be in perfect condition. When the unit was again inspected in 1969, the bearing was still in nearly new condition, with an estimated lifespan of more than 1,320 years.

Kingsbury thrust and journal bearings have been applied to large machinery of all types the world over, making possible the design of much larger hydroelectric units—including those at the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams. Since 1917, they have also been used extensively in marine propulsion for the propeller shafts of large ships and nuclear-powered submarines. See ASME website for more information