Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
The unpatented invention of the wheel, a circular component rotating on a thrust bearing axle, dates back several thousand years to the Neolithic and Bronze Age, and the ancient civilizations of India, China, Egypt and the Olmecs in Central America! But it wasn’t till 1978 that the wheel was re-invented by James Dyson as a Ground engaging member for movable structures, in the British tradition of the hovercraft!.... And the first embodiment of this invention was the Ballbarrow!
A Ballbarrow is a wheelbarrow equipped with “two relatively rotable [nylon] cups….having flanges ….which provide the axial thrust bearing…”, that is, a ball, functioning as a wheel!
Beyond impressing your neighbors with your cool-looking and stylish British barrow…. there are plenty of advantages to Ballbarrows! The ball at the front gives stability to a loaded barrow, preventing it from tipping. It also prevents the barrow from marking or sinking into muddy ground. The ball also facilitates the negotiation of uneven terrain. And finally, it also never rusts, since it is made of plastic.
On another level, of course, the scope of this invention is hardly limited to barrows! Indeed, and still many years later, your favorite Dyson vacuum cleaner also negotiates the uneven terrain of your living room with a large yellow or purple ball instead of wheels!....
Here is the abstract of this invention and one of the drawings of the GROUND ENGAGING MEMBER FOR MOVABLE OBJECTS:"A combined radial and axial thrust bearing for a movable structure e.g. a wheelbarrow [...] comprises two relatively rotatable cups 22, 25 having flanges 24, 26 which provide the axial thrust bearing. Preferably the bearing cups are made of nylon 6. [GB1510011]