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A History Timeline of NMB Minebea

What do tobacco wrappers, Lancaster bombers and Cadbury Roses all have in common? They are all a part of NMB’s history! We are proud of our heritage, with roots in Lincolnshire dating back to the 1800s. Read more about our history below!  

It all started with a machine to automatically wrap packets of tobacco. William Rose, born during the Industrial Revolution in Lincolnshire, was only a boy when he came up with the innovative invention. William eventually took out a provisional patent in 1881 after days and nights teaching himself the rudiments of mechanical drawing, applied mechanics, mathematics, and all the other skills required to develop complex mechanisms. Tobacco became the first product to be mechanically wrapped for sale.  

A joint patent was taken out with Wills Tobacco of Bristol. Soon after, demand for machines to produce packets of various sizes for the American market rapidly increased, and a new factory was set up on the banks of the River Trent. 

In 1898 motoring was very much in its infancy when Mr Rose designed and built a motor car for himself. Due to its popularity, he started to commercially produce some of the world’s first motor cars under the Rose National brand. 

By 1905 he sold machines to the value of over £36,000, his profits for the year topping £3,000. In today’s money, this would be just under half a million pounds. William then joined his brother to become Rose Brothers (Gainsborough) Ltd, and in 1906 their machines were used for wrapping confectionery and bakery products. 

The Rose brothers’ company contributed to the First World War by manufacturing gun sights, shells and synchronisation equipment requiring high-precision design and manufacture allowing an aircraft gunner to fire through moving propellers. 

William Rose died in 1929 and the Rose Brothers company was left in the very safe hands of his son Alfred who ran the business successfully for another 28 years. 

In 1938 Cadbury’s Roses chocolates were named after the company, as Rose Brothers developed the first machine capable of wrapping multi-shaped sweets.  

With the outbreak of the Second World War, the business diversified into war production, including creating the Rose turret used in Lancaster bombers. They also developed connections for rods for Lancaster bombers, which led the company into the bearings market. 

By 1954, Rose Bearings began to concentrate exclusively on the development and production of bearings at Saxilby. Ten years on, ‘Rose’ had become a generic term for rod ends and spherical bearings in much the same way as we still clean our carpets with a ‘Hoover’. By the 21st anniversary of the factory, the company employed over 200 people. 

The Rose Bearings Division and Rose Brothers Ltd were merged with Forgrove Machinery Company Ltd to form Rose Forgrove Ltd in 1967, which was one of the first companies to offer self-lubricating materials with Uniflon. This technology remains at the forefront of the market. 

After producing bearings used in racing cars for many years, Rose Bearings sponsored its own racing driver for the first time. The driver was James Hunt, who later went on to be become the Formula 1 World Champion in 1976. And in 1983, Rose Bearings were used in Richard Noble’s land speed record car, Thrust 2. 

Two years later emphasis was focused on the sales of special and aerospace bearings specifically for Airbus and BA146.  

Minebea in Japan purchased the Rose Bearings business in 1987 and later branded the company NMB Minebea UK Ltd. However, in 2000 Mark Stansfield was promoted to Managing Director. At this time annual sales were £10m per year. Deliveries commenced of the first titanium bearing solutions for landing gear for the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner. This became the de facto standard for future programmes such as A350 and Boeing 787 and established NMB Minebea UK as the global leader in the provider of aircraft landing gear bearings. 

In 2002, Railway & Tram bearings commenced design, development and production. The standards for product design and manufacturing integrity and passenger safety are equally applicable to the rail and tram market as they are to aerospace. 

Today, the company is pushing the frontiers of bearing technology in aerospace applications to include performance testing and the development of coatings and weight-saving solutions. 

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