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Types of Bearings and Bearing Applications

Posted: Feb 2, 2021 3:11:17 PM


A bearing is defined as “a machine element that constrains relative motion to only the desired motion, and reduces friction between moving parts.” Designs and subsequent applications of bearings vary, however, bearings for the most part function to minimize friction within a given application. 

Bearings primarily use balls, precision pins and rollers in their assemblies. Bearings may undergo applications that have high radial loads and/or high thrust loads. Radial load means loads perpendicular to the axis of rotation while thrust loads are parallel to the axis of rotation ( Different types of bearings specialize in different types of forces depending on their applications and requirements. To follow is an overview of the primary types of bearing and bearing applications. 

Types of Bearings and Bearing Applications

Ball Bearings

Ball bearings use precision ground balls as rolling elements and can handle fairly heavy thrust and radial loads. They are great for high speed applications such as gear boxes and pumps.

Roller Bearings

Roller bearings are used for applications that have heavier radial loads. Roller bearings are very similar to ball bearings, except they are composed of cylindrical rolling elements rather than spherical elements. Needle bearings are a type of roller bearing with very thin cylindrical elements and can withstand high loads. Applications include automotive power transmission systems, drive shafts, and air compressors.

Slide bearings

Slide bearings are also known as plain bearings and typically don’t have any rolling elements. They are one dimensional bearings that do not require lubrication, have very low friction, and a high load bearing capacity. Slide bearings are extremely useful for structural support. Common applications include compressors, ship propellor shafts, and seat sliders.

Jewel bearings

Jewel bearings are slide bearings made from synthetic jewel material such as sapphire or ruby to better withstand friction. Jewel bearings are employed in applications that require miniature, ultra-precision wear resistance such as mechanical watches.

Fluid bearings

Fluid bearings are bearings in which the load is supported by a thin layer of rapidly moving pressurized liquid or gas between the bearing surfaces.  The fluid is typically water, oil, or air and is usually pressurized by a pump.  Fluid bearings are great for applications that require incredibly low amounts of friction. Applications include hard disk drives and industrial equipment.

Thrust Bearings

Thrust bearings are a type of rotary bearing and are essentially ball bearings in a ring. They are ideal for supporting axial loads. Fluid bearings are a type of thrust bearing. Thrust bearings are commonly used in clutch release mechanisms and automotive A/C compressors.

When determining the best bearing type for any given bearing application, it is important to consider the types of forces that will be applied within the application. This will also influence choice of bearing materials and tolerance grades.

Whether or not you’re in need of bearings for valves, regulators, couplings, or something else altogether, Hartford Technologies has the expertise and deep industry knowledge to assist. We invite you to learn more about our pins, precision specialty balls, our customized bearing assemblies for industries such as automotive manufacturing by visiting our website.