High Vacuum Bearings - Bearings for Vacuum Environments | GMN Bearing USA

Bearings & Bearing Components for Vacuum Environments


The Importance of the Right Bearings for Harsh Environments

Progress in modern technology has resulted in the demand for bearings to be used in more extreme environments. Equipment used in outer space for solar panels and semiconductors require that bearings, and bearing components, have special lubrication and be ultra clean with no trace of surface solvents.

Any surface solvents could result in outgassing when exposed to harsh environments. Furthermore, these bearings commonly see working temperatures exceed 500° C (932° F) which causes conventional grease, or oil, lubrication to evaporate when the bearing is in use.

Bearings that aren't primed to function and withstand this harsh environment will see a rapid decrease in bearing life up to a shocking 90%.

We have high quality standards when it comes to the quality of our high precision bearings. We ensure that our bearings are reliable, function correctly and will maximize their intended life span.

Our Quality Assurance & Quality Control Process

Our quality process is separated into two main categories, cleaning and coating. Each category has dedicated quality standards that ensure our bearing components are prepared to properly work in vacuum environments.

First: Plasma Cleaning

Each bearing component must have a reactive, clean metal surface for the coating to adhere properly. We achieve this using our plasma cleaning equipment.

Plasma cleaning is the process of removing all organic matter from the surface of bearing components using an ionized gas, also called plasma. This cleaning process uses no harsh chemicals thus will not leave any dry residue or solvents on the surface of the bearing.

After plasma cleaning is completed, we follow up with vacuum drying each component. Our plasma cleaning process enhances coating adherence to our bearing components.

Second: Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) Coating

A PVD coating performs as a lubricant for bearing components that operate in extreme environments.

Our bearings are physically coated using a PVD solid lubricant that’s sputtered from our magnetron machine.

PVD is the process of applying thin film deposits of vaporized metal onto pure metal or alloy. The metal is vaporized and distributed onto the bearing component while still maintaining the highest degree of purity. This coating will lubricate the bearing components without burning off or outgassing.

Bearings with a PVD coating have superior hardness, durability and resistance to wear. These coatings also reduce friction on moving parts which is crucial to vacuum environments.

Depending on each bearing application and requirement, the PVD sputtering process serves as protection against wear to prevent cold welding, damaging heat and lubrication degassing, all which could rapidly decrease the lifespan of the bearing.

PVD Coating Equipment

At the GMN manufacturing facility in Germany, we have state-of-the-art Magnetron PVD equipment with sputter technology. Simply put our PVD equipment can run anything that needs to vaporize a solid material and deposit it onto another.

Our PVD equipment is optimized for high precision bearing components and is custom designed for coating complex 3D surfaces without mechanical interference.

PVD Equipment

PVD Equipment Features:

  • Coats a wide variety of component materials like metals, semiconductors and ceramics, no matter what the melting point or vapor pressure may be for that material.
  • Appling layers of coating won’t impact the maximum working temperatures of the components.
  • Each PVD layer is equally distributed. Our plasma cleaning process ensures that a strong bond will occur between the PVD coating and the bearing component.
  • PVD layer thickness can vary from a few nanometers (10-9 nm) up to microns (10-6 μ).
  • PVD coatings produce the least amount of chemical waste.

Selections of PVD Vaporized Metals (for Coating):

  • Silver (Ag),
  • Lead (Pb)
  • Gold (Au)
  • Molybdenum disulphide (MoS2)

Bearing Component Metal Selections:

  • Chrome steel (AISI 52100)
  • Copper
  • Titanium

Please note: All our bearing components, rings, balls and cages are manufactured from heat resistant high-speed tool steel or alloys. As an alternative, GMN offers hybrid bearings with ceramic balls made from silicon nitride (Si3N4).

Harsh Environments & Suggested Bearing Design Examples

Types of Harsh Environments

High-Vacuum Environments: Electron-Scan Microscopes, Turbo-Molecular Pumps

Aerospace: Airplanes, Spacecrafts

Semiconductors: Furnace, Cleanrooms

Medical Equipment: X-ray Tubes

Suggested Bearing Design Examples


Vacuum Bearing


Bearing Component Details:

  • Rings and balls: High temperature tool steel
  • Ceramic balls (Si3N4)
  • Cage material heat resistant steel


Vacuum Bearing


Bearing Component Details:

  • Rings and balls: High temperature tool steel
  • Cage material: Heat resistant steel


Precision Vacuum Bearing


Bearing Component Details:

  • Rings, balls and cage made from heat resistant steel
  • Rings completely gold plated (Au, PVD sputtered)
  • Dry Lubrication




Bearing Component Details:

  • Back-to-back preloaded spindle bearing pair
  • Rings and balls made from SAE 52100 (100Cr6)
  • Rings completely gold plated (Au, PVD sputtered)
  • Special Vacuum oil lubrication




Special application: Emergency bearings (touchdown bearing), backup bearings

  • Rings made from SAE 52100 (100Cr6)
  • Balls made from silicon nitride (Si3N4)
  • Full ball complement (no bearing retainer/cage)
  • Rings completely gold plated (Au, PVD sputtered)
  • Solid lubrication: Rings MoS2-coated; Balls MOVIC® treated

Shipping & Installation

vacuum ball bearing installation

The bearings receive special treatments, packaging and transportation per the requirements of each order and application of use.

Bearings and components used in vacuum environments are all plasma cleaned and each part is shipped in vacuum-sealed packaging.

We understand that certain environments require bearings be stored in nitrogen filled boxes, which we can also provide.

We are happy to accommodate special shipping conditions; however, we need to be notified and informed about the special needs and assembly conditions right away.

We must guarantee that the coating will not be damaged during handling and assembly. We can help you determine correct handling procedures if needed.


Click here or call 1.800.323.5725 to Request a quote

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