The tribological characteristics of a below 1 mm micro ball bearing comprising steel disc and cages coated with thin copper and silver films were investigated. Electroplating and laser cutting were used to manufacture used elements. Friction was measured using a linear stage and an adapted version of a friction-loop method. The obtained results show an interesting relationship between the geometric properties of the micro scale thrust bearing and their performance and operational stability, which can be correlated to similar relationships observed in the macro scale. The most optimal design of the bearing showed stable operation, with the simplified rolling resistance coefficient in the range 0.002 to 0.003, independently of applied load, which was in range 150 mN to 1500 mN. The possibility of creating easily manufacturable micro ball bearings with a low rolling resistance coefficient comprised solely of cheap and sturdy elements was shown.
Keywords: MEMS; friction; micro-ball bearing; solid lubrication; tribology.