Ball transfer unit

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Ball transfer units are omni-directional load-bearing spherical balls mounted inside a restraining fixture. They are identical in principle to a computer trackball (pointing device). Typically the design involves a single large ball supported by smaller ball bearings.

They are commonly used in an inverted ball up position where objects are quickly moved across an array of units, known as a ball transfer table, a type of conveyor system. This permits manual transfer to and from machines and between different sections of another conveyor system. [1] They are used in airports for luggage delivery, or in industry as part of manufacturing systems. Prior to the invention of the ball transfer unit, first patented by Autoset Production Ltd in 1958,[2] these applications were solved by the use of inverted casters. However, casters recognise a trail, meaning that the wheels had to align before directional change could be achieved.

Ball transfer units can also be used in a non-inverted ball down position as a type of caster, however this use is restricted by load-bearing limitations and the type of floor. Manufacturers have addressed this problem with ball transfer units incorporating re-circulating ball principles, however the inverted position is still the most common application and the least problematic.

Alwayse Engineering, established in 1939 in Birmingham, England, originated the ball transfer unit.

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  • [1] - Alwayse Engineering established in 1939 in Birmingham, England. Originators of the Ball Transfer Unit.
  • [2] - Patented in Britain in 1962 by Autoset Productions Ltd
  • [3] - Patented in Italy in 1958 by Autoset Productions Ltd
  • [4] - Patented in Switzerland in 1958 by Autoset Productions Ltd
  • [5] - Patented in Australia in 1960 by Autoset Productions Ltd
  • [6] - Patented in Canada in 1960 by Autoset Productions Ltd
  • [7] - Patented in Germany in 1962 by Autoset Productions Ltd
  • [8] - Patented in France in 1967 by Autoset Productions Ltd
  • [9] - Patented in The United States of America in 1968 by Autoset Productions Ltd