An Introduction to Mechanical Bearing

Posted on May 14, 2021

Mechanical Bearing

A mechanical bearing is an important mechanical element that is designed to reduce the friction between moving components and constrain relative motion to smoothen the operation.

What Is a Mechanical Bearing?

A mechanical bearing is an important mechanical element that is designed to reduce the friction between moving components and constrain relative motion to smoothen the operation. There are a wide variety of mechanical bearings, the design of them may be suitable for free linear movement on the shafts, for rotating operations around fixed axes, or for regulating the vectors of working forces/ loads that are applied on the components to prevent certain motions. 

Almost all the mechanical bearings’ goal is to minimize the friction in the operation to create desired motion. The simplest form of mechanical bearings is the bearing surfaces, which are formed into a part with the moving part that is worked. They vary in size, roughness, controlling ability, and the position of the surface. 

Other mechanical bearings that are easily found in flexible use are the separate devices, which are mounted into the machining machines like milling machines or machine components. As for the most sophisticated mechanical bearings that are used for the most critical, high-precision applications, they are produced with the highest levels of current technology.


What Is a  Mechanical Bearing Used For?

A broad variety of designs of mechanical bearing allow the rise of different industrial machining applications to achieve high performance with maximum efficiency, reliable operation, and equipment durability. Mechanical bearings can help with radial rotation like axle rotation, spherical rotation like a ball joint, linear motion such as a drawer, and hinge motion such as a door. 

Focusing on supporting rotating loads, rotary bearings can hold rotating shafts and axles within different mechanical systems. Also, they can support and transport radial or axial loads from the source toward the structure. In most types of mechanical bearings, lubrication is vital to help the structure of bearings to reduce the friction in the system. The most common type of mechanical bearings, the plain bearings, requires lubricants like oil or grease since the bearings utilize contacting surfaces to slide with the rotating shaft or sliding shafts.

:: Read more: What are the types of bearing


Different Types of Mechanical Bearings

The mechanical bearings can be classified but not limited to 6 widely-used types, including plain bearings, rolling element bearings, fluid bearings, magnetic bearings, flexure bearings. 


● Plain Bearing: 

Without any rolling element, plain bearings only consist of bearing surfaces rotating in a hole. There are some types of plain bearings that have specific design and use, including bushing bearing, sleeve bearing, journal bearing, rifle bearing, and composite bearing. Plain bearing’s feature will be discussed later in the next section.


● Rolling Element Bearing: 

As the name implies, there are rolling elements such as balls and rollers with a circular cross-section placed between the turning and stationary bearing rings in order to reduce sliding friction. Ball bearings and roller bearings are two widely-used styles. The former use spherical balls as the rolling element while the latter use cylindrical, tapered, spherical, or needle rollers. Roller bearings will also be discussed in more detail later.


● Jewel Bearing: 

Jewel bearings are plain bearings where one of the surfaces is made from glassy material like sapphire to decrease the wear and friction of the shafts. This type of mechanical bearings rolls the axle off-center slightly to carry the loads. They are often utilized in mechanical watches or clocks because the ability to reduce predictable friction can ensure the watch's accuracy.


● Fluid Bearing: 

This type of mechanical bearings is non-contact bearing because they utilize a thin layer of gas or liquid to support the loads. For example, the air bearing. Fluid bearings create a lubricating wedge from the liquids through rotation. They can be used in high precision, higher load, and high rotating rate applications where ball bearings cannot be used.


● Magnetic Bearing: 

The load is carried by the magnetic field with a magnetic bearing. The magnetic bearing has very low friction and is capable of working without lubricants or in a vacuum. This style of mechanical bearing is increasingly applied to motors and generators.


● Flexure Bearing: 

The motion is carried by the bending element where one part joins with two others, which is like a hinge. Manufactured with the right materials and design, flexure bearings are significantly durable. Another advantage of this mechanical bearing is the ideal resistance to fatigue. Some other mechanical bearings that rely on rolling elements can fatigue when the balls or rollers flatten against each other.


Features and Benefits of Plain Bearing

Bush bearing is the most widely-applied type in industrial machining among various plain bearings. Plain bearings are commonly utilized on rotating or sliding shafts. Without any rolling element, plain bearings are the simplest and most cost-efficient type of mechanical bearings. 

Also, the plain bearing is light in weight but has great load capacity at the same time. The advantages make them increasingly popular in a large variety of engine and turbomachine applications, such as steam turbines or compressors. Plain bearings are also suitable for shafts with lower speeds. For example, propeller shafts of ships, or many common linear, intermittent motion, since they are cost-efficient and effective. Most plain bearings require incorporation with lubricants, to reduce friction, and some plain bearings are produced with embedded lubricants like the plastic style used in the food processing industry.


Rolling element bearings

Rolling element bearings can basically be divided into radial bearings, angular contact bearings, and also thrust bearings. While supporting relatively light loads, ball bearings are an ideal choice while relatively heavy loads, or in the case that the loads might change in cornering, you should use a taper type. 

Ball bearings are made from stainless steel or chrome steel typically, which utilize balls to separate and work between the two rings. Ball bearings generally have lower load capacity than roller types, because balls have a smaller contacting area to the races. 

Their biggest strength is to tolerate the misalignment of the inner and outer races. Roller bearings, on the other hand, have higher load capacity, especially for radial load applications. However, they are less suitable for axial loads. Typically, less than half of the various rolling elements in this type of mechanical bearing support the considerable load portion, and the outer load will be constantly contributed during the operation among the rollers.


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