”We worked with 60-fold magnification and used parchment paper to get the balls into the groove.“
The smallest ball in the world – by senior director Johannes Richter
Less than a millimetre in diameter measured the tiny ball that KGM-senior partner Johannes Richter produced back in the 1960s, during his time as a production engineer at FAG Kugelfischer.
It was the ambitious attempt of a company dedicated to research to make the hitherto “smallest ball in the world”.
Richter ground down wire made of fine chrome steel in numerous stages from an initial diameter of 1.3 to an incredible 0.5 millimetres. Even today, the 85-year-old still talks excitedly about how he converted a measuring device stand specifically for this demanding project in such a way that a micro-grinding wheel – operated with an extra small motor – ultimately brought him closer to his goal. Ahead of his time, Richter was not limited by the technology of his time and developed a solution that reflected his passion for his work in general and for balls in particular.
The result of this experiment: The alignment of the individual grinding steps in the form of balls of different diameter secured and preserved in a small wooden-framed exhibit. With the naked eye, the 0.5-millimetre ball is hardly recognisable as such – no wonder Richter says about the manufacturing process, “We worked with 60-fold magnification and used parchment paper to get the balls into the groove.”
Serial production of such balls was not an option at that time, despite the successful experiment – for one kilogram of finished balls would have required more than a whole tonne of wire. That would have had nothing to do with value money, the senior manager emphasises with a smile. Today, however, we have found a way to make the production of the smallest balls economical. Balls with a diameter less than one millimetre can now be found for example in miniature ball bearings or dentist drills.