The Functional Capacity of Bearings

Bearings are used in many of the machines we use on a daily basis. If bearings didn’t exist, we would constantly be replacing parts, which would inevitably slow down productivity. The bearing was designed with a simple concept in mind— objects can roll better than they can slide. Bearing design is based on the magnitude and direction of the load that they are intended to support.

The beauty in the simplistic design of bearings is something to be admired. The ball bearings are essentially made up of a ball and a dual sided surface for dissipating stress that is applied to it. The ball carries the load of the weight while the force associated is what enables rotation. The method in which the force is absorbed depends on two factors: thrust load and radial load.

Radial loads apply tension to the bearing which causes it to rotate. Thrust loads put stress directly on the bearing from an angled position. A deep groove ball bearing and a tapered roller bearing can facilitate both loads. The load type and capacity to support weight are factors to consider when choosing the proper bearing for a job.

The ball bearing is the most common type on the market and can handle both thrust and radial loads. There are also roller bearings, ball thrust bearings, roller thrust bearings, tapered roller bearings, and magnetic bearings. Each one supports a different function.

Roller bearings are used in objects such as the conveyor belt rollers and are capable of holding heavy radial loads. The roller is constructed as a cylinder meaning the contact between the inner and outer race is a line. Ball thrust bearings are used in instances where low speed is key, and a radial load can’t fully be handled.

Roller thrust bearings are constructed to support large thrust loads. These bearings are commonly found in vehicle transmissions and are used to separate the gears. Tapered roller bearings have the ability to support both large thrust loads and large radial loads. Magnetic bearings contribute to the functionality of high-speed devices. This includes advanced flywheel energy storage systems. Bearings with rollers or balls can’t withstand the high-speed temperatures and would ultimately melt.


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