Over the years, Boca Bearings has worked on projects ranging from design engineering, to automation/ robotics, to biomedical, to recreation, to food processing, to water treatment and more. And of particularly
intriguing note is that the company is currently providing
the very bearings being used in the Jeff Bezos-backed
Clock of the Long Now, a mechanical timekeeping system
that will tick for 10,000 years, ticking at most once a year.
There is also a century hand, and if you can wait a mere
921 years, you’ll witness a cuckoo bird pop out to ring in
the millennium. The project was started by mathematician
Currently being constructed in West Texas in a 500-foot
vertical tunnel, the clock stands 200 feet tall and derives
power from the Earth’s thermal cycles. Anyone will be
able to visit if they can make the several hour drive and
“[It’s] a symbol for long-term thinking,” Bezos shared
NED: What is the 10,000 Year Clock?
recently via Twitter, adding in a blog post: “Building a clock
inside a remote mountain is a big task. Construction is under
way, and we’re making progress every day.”
We recently chatted with Boca Bearings President Jason
Flanzbaum for some inside info on his own background, is
company in general, and the signifcant role it is playing in
conjunction with the 10K Clock.
Jason Flanzbaum: The 10,000 Year Clock is a mechanical timekeeping system currently under construction that
is designed to run for nearly 10,000 years under its own
power. The clock will be built into a mountain in West Texas
and display the position of the stars and planets, as well
as the date. Given the intended design life of the clock,
this is the farthest forward-reaching engineering project
currently in progress.
NED: How did Boca Bearings get involved with the
10,000 Year Clock project?
JF: We got involved in the 10,000 Year Clock project
upon learning that the Long Now Foundation needed
some very unique ceramic bearings to complete the Clock.
Testing Boca Bearings’ full-range bearings revealed that
ours were the only bearings that could do 350 million
cycles without lubrication, with high corrosion resistance
and unparalleled working life and high effciency. Since
then, we and the Long Now Foundation have been productive partners!
Under construction in the West Texas mountains, this $42 million clock has come to symbolize long-term thinking.
by NED Staff
NED: What were the bearing challenges of this
particular application and how did Boca meet them?
JF: The bearing challenges consisted of defeating different
factors such as corrosion, wear, lubrication, long-term performance and effciency. We met these challenges by introducing
its ceramic components that are dry running Boca Zirconia Oxide
Full Ceramic Radial Bearings—which provide high resistance to
wear and corrosion and do not need lubrication to perform well.
And today, nearly every component of this complex system
depends on Boca’s ceramic bearings. From large pinion gears
and winding differentials of the main power system, to the
bell-trigger mechanisms of the chime generator, highly durable bearings are the heart of the Clock. Primarily constructed
with three materials—316 stainless steel, titanium and certain
ceramics—nearly all the ceramic components are dry running
and corrosion resistant, providing consistent and long-term
NED: Can the bearings last the duration of the
project? How do you even test something like this?
JF: Yes, the bearings can last the duration of the project. To
test them, we developed several cycle-testing setups to simulate the working life that the gears, springs and bearings will
experience for 10,000 years. The Long Now Foundation decided
to use ceramic options because during the cycle testing only
full ceramic bearings performed within the tolerance for the
working life of the Clock. In addition, this option is the only one
that does not require added lubrication—which is a must for a
system that is going to run unattended for several decades. We
have tested bearings through 350 million cycles with positive
results that exceeded our expectations.
NED: Have you been on-site of the project?
JF: Boca Bearings sent a production crew down to Texas to
talk to the people working on the 10,000 Year Clock, and we
created a great video telling the story of the project, its mission
and our role in this amazing project.
NED: Why is it so important today to think long-term
about our manufacturing and engineering future?
JF: Technology is moving faster than ever, and yet we know
that the products we are producing today are the building blocks
of the future. That said, we also see the damage that can be done
by taking a short-sighted perspective on various manufacturing
processes and systems. So while we certainly won’t do anything
to slow progress, we are always cognizant of the future to know
where we’re headed and how exactly we’re getting there.
Bearing Company Helps Bezos with 10,000-Year Clock