Manufacture of precision instrument bearings and combined bearing assemblies

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Loza. Brief summary of the plant and workers settlement history

The history of OK-Loza OJSC, a small plant for manufacture of high-precision instrument ball bearings located near Moscow, began with Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR No.7006 rs dd. May 18, 1949, signed by I.V. Stalin. Resolution of the Government was dictated by the need to equip the gyroscopic instruments and control systems for the Soviet space-rocket engineering, originating in the conditions of "cold war", with precision bearings.

Renowned Chief Designers of instruments and control systems for the rockets and space vehicles - V.I. Kuznetsov and N.A. Pilyugin, companions S.P. Korolev, have played a big role in the formation and development of such an important production necessary for the country. In the course of creation of domestic rocket production, these two people very soon determined that it is impossible to ensure the desired accuracy of the rockets flight without arranging special manufacture of extrasmall precision ball bearings being the most important component of the navigation and control instruments. The bearings which were at that time produced at large-scale bearing plants didn’t ensure the required quality of gyroscopic instruments.

The problem was reported to the Government, after which the above-mentioned Stalin’s resolution appeared and then – Order of the Minister of Motor Industry dd. May 26, 1949, on the basis of which Glavpodshipnik issued a top-secret Plan task for designing of special technological laboratory for development works and mastering of production of precision ball bearings.

Glavpodshipnik’s Central Design Bureau (TsKB) – head design-technological organization of the bearing industry (subsequently TsKB PP, ENIIPP, BNIIPP), located in Moscow not far from GPZ-1 – firstling of the Soviet bearing industry, charged Nikolay Mikhaylovich Fedoseyev, a bearing professional, to supervise the creation of the Special technological laboratory, who was appointed as the acting head of the laboratory.

Nikolay Mikhaylovich used to go to the scenic suburbs of Zagorsk. Unlike noisy and dusty Moscow, here was the cleanest air and intimate stillness – everything that was required for special manufacture.

Here, in a thick forest near Shitova Storozhka, N.M. Fedoseyev saw a beautiful, derelict, and semichurch-semicivil building. A bit more than 100 years ago – on November 14, 1902, this building was consecrated as St. Mary Magdalen, Equal to the Apostles temple. This temple and the surrounding locality have a historical name Tsar-gift and a rich, three-hundred-year history.

In August 1949, the Tsar-gift building was transferred to the pilot production plant of TsKB of Glavpodshipnik to arrange a special laboratory and the future plant received the name Special technological laboratory for the production of pilot and first production batches of super-precision bearings for special instrument engineering. Due to energetic efforts of a young, competent manager and specialists who came with him from Moscow, the building was renovated and equipped, and the small plant started to work.

In 1951, the laboratory, which was then called Pilot production plant laboratory (in the abbreviated form – LOZA), was officially put into operation, and produced its first instrument bearings in April 1952. Not more than 40 people worked in the laboratory in the early fifties.

In 1956, the first 5 young specialists came to LOZA after the graduation from the Moscow Automotive Institute. A.G. Baranov, one of the future directors of ZF VNIIP, was among them.

In 1958, a new production building was built near to the ancient building in order to increase the production volume of bearings. By 1959, LOZA has already manufactured about 1,000 instrument bearings per year. Fulfillment of stringent requirements was achieved by selection with the inspection of 10-20% of the components with the desired accuracy. Special gyroscopic bearings were developed by TsKB of Glavpodshipnik and had a respective designation – TsKB and development number. There were just a few types of them. TsKB1350 - radial-thrust single-row bearing for the gyrorotor; TsKB1321 and TsKB1358 – multiple-raw low-torque bearings of a complex design for gyroscope gimbal mount; and TsKB1373 – extrasmall bearing with a journal instead of inner race for angular accelerometer. The first high-speed combined assembly for the gyrorotor – TsKB2330 appeared soon.

In 1960, a Governmental resolution on the establishment of the Zagorsk Branch of VNIPP for precision instrument bearings on the basis of the pilot production plant laboratory was adopted in order to expand the experimental and research works for the development and manufacture of pilot batches of instrument bearings. The workers settlement which had appeared by that time (23 duplex cottages, 17 small Finnish houses, several private timber houses, and 2 private brick houses), received a beautiful name Loza. Its rapid development began; military installer erected production and laboratory buildings; a workers settlement with apartment blocks was grew nearby; the necessary infrastructure was built.

By 1961, the amount of bearings produced by ZF VNIIP has increased 8 times against 1956 and exceeded 8,000 pieces per year. The number of personnel has grown from 70 to 460 people. From 1961, the plant every year employed tens of young engineers from various institutes of the Soviet Union. By agreement with the management, skilled specialists from various industries came with their families and obtained apartments in the settlement growing round the plant. One big, four- or five-storeyed dwelling house was built and inhabited at that time every year.

N.A. Grubnikov, E.S. Mikhaylov, M.S. Fusman, A.Ya. Artemyev and other specialists of the Moscow Research Institute of Applied Mechanics headed by V.I. Kuznetsov sponsored and rendered technical assistance to the production facilities in the first years of their formation and development. They literally lived in Loza sharing their knowledge and experience of the domestic gyroscopic manufacture to the young bearing experts. First benches for testing of the bearings are the gyroscopes transferred by NIIPM. Expensive imported equipment and measuring instruments were bought and modern production spaces built with assistance of V.I. Kuznetsov and other “sponsors” from defense factories of the country. Not infrequently, original designs of gyroscopic bearings were created together with the customers, as a part of a gyroscopic assembly. Sometimes, these were just replicas of the imported or captured specimens obtained from “flashpoints”.

The personnel of the plant successfully resolved the tasks set. In 1965, a pilot production plant was established as a part of the Zagorsk Branch of VNIPP for the purpose of further expansion and specialization of research works on the instrument bearings and bearings manufacture. Zagorsk Branch of VNIPP became the basic division of VNIIP conducting the research work on the instrument bearings in the whole industry and introduced the development in the commercial plants. The pilot production plant became the basic supplier of all new types of the instrument bearings and manufacturer of small batches of special bearings and optimized the bearings designs and production technology for transfer to commercial state bearings plants. Zagorsk branch of VNIPP was qualified for independent development of bearings according to the technical specifications of customers, what was then an exclusive right of VNIIP. All the most critical articles of instrument making were provided with the bearings manufactured in Loza. Products of the plant were supplied to almost forty cities of the Soviet Union. Over 300 types of bearings were mastered, almost a half of them was of nonstandard designs. In 1965, the number of ZF VNIIPP personnel was already 1,740 people; the amount of produced bearings achieved 38,000 pieces per year. The range of produced bearings, particularly special multiple-race bearings and combined assemblies, was considerably increased. In 1965, a special engineering building with the rooms isolated from the atmospheric effects, where a special service was continuously monitoring the dust content, climatic parameters and cleanliness on jobsites and checked the personnel for the observance of industrial hygiene, was put into operation for assembly, inspection and testing of bearings. Bearings assemblers worked in the appropriate overalls, regularly washed and checked the hands for sweat production to avoid corrosion of the components.

The bearings manufactured in Loza were installed in the first intercontinental intercontinental ballistic missiles, in satellites and space vehicles, in orbital stations and other special equipment. As a part of the controls and actuators of automatic interplanetary probes and platforms, unique extrasmall bearings of Loza have been on the Moon and worked on the surfaces of Mars and Venus. From 1966, specialists of ZF VNIIP performed such development works in a new four-storeyed building with the modern scientific equipment.

Charles Draper, renowned American gyroscope engineer, resolving the same problems as V.I. Kuznetsov, once called an extrasmall gyroscopic bearing “a floating engineering”. Indeed, an outwardly very simple device – two rings, balls and a cage – appears a true technological wizardry at a detailed study.

High-speed, small-size (mainly 10-20 mm in outer diameter) bearing assemblies for gyromotors, which are the heart of any inertial navigation gyroscope, as well as guidance and stabilization systems of rockets, must ensure the rotation of dynamic rotor systems for several thousand hours, with multiple starts and stops, at a rotational speed of 24-60 thousand rpm, high contact voltages, dynamic loads, high temperatures, with one-time lubrication for the whole service life. A highest accuracy of rotation, rigidity and uniform rigidity in the axial and radial directions, minimum deterioration of working surfaces, minimum friction torque due to the limited drive power, minimum level of acoustical noise and vibration, and, what is the most important, a high reliability and operational safety are at the same time required. You can imagine what troubles and failures in the control systems of space-rocket equipment could do…

Users specified no less stringent and complex requirements for special low-torque ball bearings applied in gimbals of various gyroscopic instruments, which should ensure tracing of the slightest deviations from the set position of the moving objects and transmission of commands to the controls.

In 1967, ZF VNIIPP was awarded the honorary title Plant of high culture and industrial management level.

In the early 70’s, a large production building No.2 with the floor space of 8,000 sqm and state-of-the-art equipment was put into operation. The plant started manufacturing superprecision bearings having deviations in the basic geometrical parameters within 0.5 microns. In its palmy days, the plant mastered 15-20 types of new bearings quarterly. In 1982, an important milestone was commemorated – the 2,000,000th bearing was assembled.

Studies of researchers and specialists contributed to the development of the bearings theory and engineering design methods, creation and mastering of new bearing materials, ultrapure corrosion-resistant steels and nonmagnetic alloys, as well as synthetic materials for cages, development of the processes for precision machining of the working surfaces of the components, and creation of the process equipment, instrumentation, accessories and tools, laboratory and workshop devices and setups for studying and testing of the finished product, including long service life tests. Several hundred original design solutions have been protected with inventors’ certificates and hundreds of papers have been published in scientific periodicals for three decades since 1960.

Special oils and plastic greases have been created and brought up to high standards with the participation of Loza’s specialists. Special materials and hard lubricating coatings allowing a bearing to work without traditional greasing have been created for operation under extreme conditions - space vacuum, high and low temperatures, corrosive environments. Porous polymeric materials for the cages, impregnated in vacuum with especially pure oils developed by the chemical industry have been applied.

As for the most operating parameters (accuracy, friction torque, noise, vibration), the instrument ball bearings of the Pilot production plant of the Zagorsk Branch of VNIPP have achieved the level of the most advanced foreign companies of the similar profile. Modern home- and foreign-made analysis equipment is applied in the evaluation of bearings quality, e.g.: instruments of the English company Taylor-Hobson for checking the geometry of races, vibration monitoring equipment of Bruel and Kjaer and FAG. High-precision recording devices of in-house development for measurement of bearings friction torque and vibration are used.

In the conditions of conversion of the defense industry during perestroika, the number of orders for instrument bearings sharply decreased. As in the whole country, the defense has ceased to be the priority user. Production turnovers of the plant began to reduce; the number of personnel, which was more than 2,000 people in palmy days, decreased by more than ten times. Production buildings have not been heated for several years; a part of them have become completely unserviceable. The workers remained with the plant, didn’t receive salary for a long time. The conversion program – the mastered manufacture of bearings for video equipment, bearings for data storage media, special assemblies for textile machines – didn’t held as the potential users stopped the production as well.

In the mid-nineties, a new company – OK-LOZA OJSC (OK – bearing blocks, but at the same time an international term “okay” also being one of the criteria for selection of this name) was established on the basis of the production facilities. At the same time, a contract for delivery of components for the rotor assembly of an automobile turbocharger for the Czech company CZ Strakonice was signed, for which purpose Turbo-Loza was founded. Serial production of components that became the first step to stabilization of the situation was mastered in extreme conditions, in the winter without heating. Export shipments of precision components became possible due to the experience and technology of the bearings production. Production of accessories for banking machines under the license of the English company De La Rue became the next step in this area.

Export shipments allowed surviving the market collapse in 1998 and gradually beginning the restoration of bearings production. The stake was placed on bearings for dental air-turbine handpieces with the rotational speed over 350 thousand rpm. The required quality of bearings was successfully ensured using the previous developments in the competition with the world leading bearings manufactures.

The next project was the mastering of automobile water pump bearings on the German equipment purchased for the program of production of bearing assemblies for the textile industry. The volume of production of these bearings achieved 10 thousand pieces monthly. At the same time, the demand for bearings for the textile industry arose; their manufacture also started to grow. Optimization of the design and testing of the high-speed assembly for a pneumatic spinning rotor are in progress.

From 2000, the new energetic and go-ahead management of OK-LOZA OJSC has been aimed to revive the former glory and possibilities of the plant. relying upon the knowledge and experience of the long-service employees, the plant management has been successfully resolving the difficult task of the revival of Loza. A non-standard in the current conditions step was taken – the production facilities of the bankrupt GPZ-21 was relocated from Moscow, production of free balls. About 6,000 tons of the equipment was removed and placed in the vacated floor spaces. The machines were rebuilt and put into operation. Now, both standard balls in the size range of up to 60 mm in diameter and new, non-core products – environmentally friendly steel shot, bullets for air guns, brass balls for the components of automobile devices and other products are manufactured on this equipment.

However, the manufacture of the core products of the plant – instrument ball bearings – is not stopped and is growing. Orders for the earlier designed bearings, including combined assemblies, multiple-race low-torque bearings, bearings with special surface coatings are fulfilled; the design of bearings and the production technology are oprtimized.

On March 25, 2002, V.V. Zhirinovsky, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, visited the plant and inspected the reviving plant with interest and met with the residents of the settlement.

In 2004, following the results of the competition of industrial and scientific organizations of Moscow region, OK-LOZA OJSC became the award winner of the year. At the meeting of representatives of departments and shops of the plant on July 12, P.A. Yermilov, Head of Department of the Ministry of Industry and Science of the Government of Moscow Region, presented the grand prize – Golden Phoenix statuette and diploma Winner of the year 2003 in the nomination Five best products to V.E. Kuleshov, General Director. One of Golden Phoenixes is awarded to OK-LOZA OJSC for the special ball bearing assembly 4-106064EU for high-precision gyroscopic systems. Already in June 2006, super-precision bearings of OK-LOZA OJSC again became one of the five best products of Moscow region for the second time. Over four hundred factories applied for the competition following the results of 2005. There were over three tens of applicants for the Phoenix only in one nomination Five best goods. As a result, OK-LOZA plant entered top-five. The Golden Phoenix was awarded for the development and manufacture of dental bearings for air-turbine handpieces. According to the specialists, earlier the dental drill twirled rotated the bur at the speed of 40 thousand rpm and the speed increased almost tenfold with the use of new bearings.

Over the past years, the number of the plant personnel has increased more than twice; about 350 people work now. The plant successfully shows its products at domestic and international exhibitions and expands the circle of customers here and abroad. It is already possible to say that the well-known bearings plant in Loza has revived and continues gathering pace in its development.