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History of the Heim Joint - AKA Rod End Bearing


World War II produced a host of inventions, some of which are still in use today. It’s common knowledge that the Germans used nitrous oxide to make the Messerschmitt fighter planes climb higher and faster than the Allies’ planes. When the allies shot down the first German plane they noted a unique device also pioneered by Messerschmitt, the rod end.

One U.S. company received the nod to duplicate this new control link. The H.G. Heim company was granted all U.S. patents, and to this day the part retains the nickname "Heim Joint". After the Korean War the surplus aircraft parts market boomed. Hundreds of varieties of rod ends became available at a tenth of their original cost. Many of these parts, while designed for aircraft, were not up to the task of suspension links for race cars. High quality and economical rod ends didn’t appear until the late '70s. They were produced by a Japanese company, N.M.B., which was caught by the U.S. government "dumping" (selling below cost) rod ends in the U.S. market. N.M.B. had to form a U.S. presence or leave the marketplace, so they bought a U.S. company, N.H.B.B. (New Hampshire Ball Bearing) and continue to make aircraft-quality rod ends today.

As the Heim patents ran out, a U.S. company began to manufacture economical rod ends for the power transmission industry. Superior Industries mass produced economical rod ends and over the course of a few years people from Superior formed Aurora, National, and several other rod end companies. Today over fifteen American companies make rod ends in the U.S. These products run the gamut from the stamped steel bodies used in control links for garden tractors to the 17-4 PH stainless units found on nuclear submarines.

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