How often do you think about bearings? Probably not a whole lot, right? But did you know that for the machine industry, their “bread and butter” are bearings?

Almost all machines have some sort of bearing in them. For example, let’s look at your car. How many bearings do you think are in it?

Five? Twenty? Try 100, and about 150 for high-end cars!

Most people don’t recognize the importance of bearings but they’re responsible for allowing parts to move smoothly.

Different types of bearings are designed for specific purposes and types of loads. If you’re trying to fix your child’s toy, the printer in your home office, or the washing machine, you’re gonna have to be familiar with bearings.

Let’s look at the different kinds of bearings and the practicable application of bearing to your project.

1. Radial Ball Bearings

Radial Ball Bearings

When you think of bearings, radial ball bearings are probably what you’re imagining. They’re found in everything from bicycles to fishing rods.

They belong to the classification of bearings with rolling elements. In this case, the rolling elements are tiny metal balls.

The term radial refers to the direction of the force or load. A radial load means that the force vector is perpendicular to the shaft.

Since the contact areas between the raceways (outer and inner) and the balls are just small points, you can minimize friction. The downside is overloading the bearing can deform or squish the balls.

2. Ball Thrust Bearings

Again, the rolling elements are metal balls. But this time, the force is applied in the same direction as the shaft. This is known as an axial load.

Ball thrust bearings, such as Nachi Bearings, are specially designed to handle axial loads.

A bar stool is a perfect example. The person sitting on it is the load. They can spin in either direction while sitting because of the bearing.

3. Radial Roller Bearings

Radial Roller Bearings

In essence, they perform the same function of bearing radial loads as radial ball bearings. But they can handle heavier loads because the rolling element is a cylinder. The contact area is much bigger and the cylinder shape isn’t as easily deformed as a sphere.

Conveyor belts are a textbook case of radial roller bearings.

4. Radial Thrust Bearings

Radial thrust bearings use cylindrical rolling elements to manage axial loads. Again, the advantage is the ability to support large thrust loads.

You’ll find this type of bearing in car gearboxes and water turbines.

5. Plain Bearing

Plain Bearing

This is the simplest type of bearing. There are no rolling elements. It’s basically a sleeve mounted on the shaft.

A furniture drawer uses plain bearings to allow the individual drawers to slide out and in.

6. Specialized Types of Bearings

These are bearings that have been developed for specific applications.

For example, air and magnetic bearings are almost frictionless. They’re used in critical, high-precision operations. Watches and gyroscopes have jewel bearings that are made from synthetic ruby and sapphire.

Knowledge Bearing Fruit

Did you find this article useful? How would you use your newfound knowledge of the different types of bearings in your next project?

Just remember that choosing the right bearing type mainly depends on two things. One is the direction of the load and the other is the magnitude of the load.

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