As an entrepreneur, you don’t necessarily have to be the first one to offer a new product to the public, but being early to market definitely has its advantages.
When CBR Bearing, a company that was founded in 1994, decided to start offering ceramic hybrid bearings in 2002, they weren’t the first to do so. There were several other large bearing companies that had started selling ceramic hybrid bearings years prior, but they were offered in limited sizes and the prices were sky high! CBR’s owner, Charlie Rowlett, knew there was a gap in this niche market that a small bearing company like his could fill.
What Are Ceramic Hybrid Bearings?
If you aren’t familiar with ceramic hybrid bearings, they are similar to traditional all-steel ball bearings, but have ceramic (silicon nitride) balls instead of steel balls. Ball bearings with ceramic balls perform with less friction, which makes them more efficient than steel ball bearings. They are also electrically non-conductive, which eliminates damage to motors caused by electrical arcing. Best of all, ceramic hybrid bearings can last up to ten times longer than steel ball bearings.
Ceramic hybrid bearings are a great option for industrial electric motors—especially those with variable frequency drives (VFDs). They are also widely used in two- and four-stroke racing motorcycle engines as a performance upgrade. Racers can expect to experience a 5% increase in horsepower and a 25% higher speed rating when switching to ceramic hybrid bearings. In a sport where a fraction of a second can make the difference between winning and losing, an upgrade like this is highly desirable!
Entering the Ceramic Hybrid Bearing Market
Once Rowlett realized the benefits of ceramic hybrid bearings, he knew he had to jump in and start offering them. He got started by making his own bearing-specific tooling to manufacture ceramic hybrid bearings in-house. With the help of a master tool maker and an aerospace engineer, CBR was soon set up to make ceramic hybrid bearings in multiple sizes. They called these bearings their “Pro-Series,” and their products soon gained a reputation for being high-quality and affordable.
According to the CBR Bearing website, “The CBR Pro-Series hybrid ceramic bearing is built to a level of quality and detail not available in a mass-produced bearing. We start with the highest quality Japanese bearing rings and aerospace-grade silicon nitride balls. We check the radial play to within a tenth of a thousandth of an inch (.0001”), using precision test fixtures. We individually micro-polish the raceways to a flawless mirror finish. In addition, during final assembly, all raceway surfaces and the inside surfaces of the cage are completely coated with grease, eliminating dry spots and assuring that all dynamic surfaces are completely lubricated. These steps guarantee that each and every bearing we sell is accurate and consistent. The result is a bearing that runs smoother, lasts longer, and requires no run-in time.”
Being early to market definitely helped CBR gain a foothold in the specialty bearing industry, but it also helped that they produced a high-quality product at an affordable price. Manufacturing their bearings in-house helped keep prices down, but they were also able to make them affordable by selling directly to the consumer. Many of the specialty bearings sold by other manufacturers go through bearing dealers, whereas CBR sells directly to the end user without the use of a middleman.
The ceramic hybrid bearing market is much more crowded now than it was when CBR first entered it, but the company still manages to stand out among its much larger competitors. Their prices remain among the lowest in the industry, and they offer amazing customer support and service. In addition, CBR keeps many sizes of their bearings in stock and ready to ship out same day, while other companies have turnaround times of weeks or even months. Their reputation among mechanics, motorcycle racers, and kart racers is well established, and their high-quality products keep customers coming back again and again.short url: