World’s Most Dependable Water Lubricated Bearing


It is somewhere no engineer or maintenance team wants to be – staring down the shaft at another failed bearing. Regardless of the circumstance, you are faced with costly unplanned repairs, all because of repeated bearing failures.

Fortunately, there is a bearing solution that is unmatched in longevity, reliability, and performance in extreme operating environments: Lignum vitae. It does not rely on oil, filters, coatings and other costly equipment or material that require ongoing maintenance contracts and expensive repairs.

Bob Shortridge the founder and President of Lignum Vitae North America sat down to provide us with answers to some important questions.

Tell us about Lignum Vitae North America

Lignum vitae was founded in 2005 when a friend asked if I was interested in bidding on 2 1⁄2 tons of lignum vitae material at the Norfolk Naval shipyard pattern-makers shop. Having knowledge of the material I won the bid and was immediately intrigued with the weight and density of the wood.

Research lead me to some of the most brilliant engineers Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, the US Navy, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine engineers, making me recognize the significance of lignum vitae. Never did I imagine a heavy wood could be central to solving the most challenging water lubricated bearing problems facing todays industry. As it turned out the market was ripe for a new product and the reintroduction of the world’s FIRST and most dependable water lubricated bearing. I learned later the challenges associated with building a business model around a bearing capable of surviving the entire life of the machine and may not be replaced in my lifetime. Lignum Vitae North America is the exclusive global supplier of premium water lubricated seals and bearings for the marine, water treatment and hydro-electric industries worldwide.

Lignum vitae holds the highest environmental ranking for NSF/ANSI 61: Drinking Water System Components – for water treatment plants.

Our engineered ABS / DNV-GL approved bearings are only manufactured with genuine lignum vitae, known to be the most steel friendly material for shaft bearings, in a way that is sustainable, renewable, easily replaced, economical, environmentally friendly, and most importantly time proven in everything from aircraft carriers to hanger bearings.

What makes lignum vitae material so different from other materials?

Bearings made from lignum vitae, simply put, are self-lubricating in water and conform by self-healing. The nature of the material is inherently able to adapt to extreme and dynamic operating environments with less than perfect shafts. It is startlingly that simple. Many hydro plants are over 100 years old and many ships are over 30 making ongoing maintenance more challenging as time goes by.

Unfortunately, there is no current ranking system for water lubricated bearings but instead industries rely on the G-77 Block on Ring Test. This test is conducted in a laboratory setting at 70 degrees on a balanced, polished mandrel at a set speed with deionized water. In other words, an environment that does not exist in the real world. This test, however flawed, is where all data is obtained for large rotating shafts without consideration of water quality, PH, temperature, impurities, imbalance, or alignment.

Unlike many composite or oil-based bearings available today, our bearings are water lubricated, require no filtering, are produced without harmful VOCs, toxic metals, or chemicals, and remove the risk to air, water, and landfills.

What does it mean to conform?

It is the only material that conforms to an imperfect shaft and operating environment without costly shaft removal offering the long-term performance that operators require.

Each Bearing solution has a different molecular structure with different strengths and weaknesses. Metallic bearings require oil or grease and are subject to failure with just 2% water intrusion. Even after 100 years plastics and polymers remain an ongoing experiment with over 30 different chemicals in play attempting to overcome friction, add lubricity, adjust hardness, avoid scoring, avoid swelling and seizing shafts, the experiment continues to this day.

Lignum vitae is an anomaly of Nature and is the only known wood with no silica and thus is free from abrasion; it has an innate lubricity originating from Guaiac resin imbued in every cell; and a hardness like aluminum, based on its long-chain tenacious molecular cellulose structure. The mixture of the smooth resin bound up in an extremely dense cellulose structure yields a natural bearing material with a high lubricity and a massive compression strength. Manufactured plastics have not achieved the required cell by cell, molecule by molecule formation nature provides which instead results in voids of structure, tenacity, and lubricity.

How can operators determine if lignum vitae is the right solution for their needs?

Call us and ask. Our business has been built by focusing on problem machines with repeat failures. Our basic philosophy revolves around the idea that if we can get your “problem machine” operational we have an opportunity to earn more of your business. We are problem solvers at heart – and we are not satisfied until we have found the right solution. Everyone on our team shares a singular passion – to identify a challenge, and then dig in until we can find the solution – and we’ve heard from our customers that this collaborative and personalized approach sets our team apart.

Our 13,000 square ft. facility features state-of-the-art technology to meet the growing global demand and enhance production capabilities. With an eye toward solving problems our R & D is uncovering additional uses of lignum vitae. Recently our team went to work when a valued customer revealed having mechanical seal failures within minutes and hours of startup. After months of trials and testing, LVNA is now producing mechanical seals in unlimited diameters. Our robust seals will operate in both wet and dry applications and could care less if a fingerprint gets on it.

Short service life, degradation, and poor performance issues in synthetic or composite bearings and seals do not have to be the new norm in today’s environments.

Lignum Vitae North America
2487 Judes Ferry Road
Powhatan, VA 23139
O 804.372.6206
D 804.372.6817