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Back in 2007, Mark hit on Don Wilkes’ 1960s invention (U.S. patent #3,452,175) of the so-called “rolamite”over at boing-boing, quoting a description of it as “the only ‘basic mechanism’ invented in the 20th century.” Basically, a rolamite is a very-low-friction bearing. Rex Research has posted the entirety of a 1966 Popular Science article covering their invention, but the easiest way to understand what a rolamite is and how it works is to see one in motion. The above YouTube video, by user AutogenicMotor, shows the action of a simple linear rolamite, and the one below, by ErikBrinkman1, of a more complex rotary model.

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


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