Ball Bearing Guide

What Is a Ball Bearing?

A ball bearing is a type of bearing that uses balls to maintain the separation between two “races", or bearing rings, to reduce rotational friction across moving planes. The radial and axial loads are transmitted through the balls, the rotation of which causes a reduced coefficient of friction when compared to flat surfaces rubbing against each other. A ball bearing normally has a lower load capacity for its size than other types of rolling-element bearing. However, they can tolerate certain misalignment of the inner and outer races.  

The Advent of Ball Bearing

It is hard to imagine the modern industrial era without ball bearings. The concept of ball bearings was already largely present in the early days of human civilization, where people place rolling logs underlying heavy objects to make them easier to drag across the surface. 

As the technology of metal forming processes developed in the industrial age, wooden bearings were gradually replaced by ball bearings made of steel, which had worked far better than wooden and bronze bearings. And in 1869, radial ball bearings were created which were fitted into bicycles. Then self-aligning and rolling-element designs were subsequently invented that had made advancement into the automotive, machine tool, and military industries. It is safe to say that ball bearings have had a long and complex history over the course of their development from wooden bearings to modern, self-lubricating metal bearings.

What Is a Ball Bearing Made of?

Most ball bearings in the modern days are made of a type of steel known as high carbon chromium steeled, often shortened to chrome steel. The reason behind this is the superior durability and affordability compared with other types of metals. A ball bearing can also be made of other materials such as stainless steel, ceramics, or plastic. For higher corrosion resistance requirements, stainless steel is generally the more suitable choice for the relative applications. Ceramics are ideal for very corrosive or extreme temperature use while plastics also offer superb corrosion resistance but at the expense of low load and low speed.

What Are the Different Types of Ball Bearings?

A ball bearing can be of several designs, each offers various performances for different applications. See some of the more common types of ball bearings as outlined below:

Angular contact bearings: An angular contact ball bearing is designed to work under combined radial and axial loads. This type of ball bearing is commonly used in the headsets of bicycles because the forces are in both the radial and axial directions.

Axial bearings: An axial bearing is also referred to as the thrust ball bearing. This type of bearing has side-by-side races which are designed to work under force applied parallel to bearing’s axis or thrust loads.

Deep-Groove bearings: As with angular contact ball bearings, deep-groove bearings are designed to carry both radial and light axial loads. Their race dimensions are close to the dimensions of the balls that run in it. 

Linear bearings: Linear ball bearings are designed to allow movement in one direction along a linear axis, and are considered the most basic of all motion.

High-speed contact bearings: This is a type of precision ball bearing that has high-speed bearings designed to handle high RPMs with enhanced precision and accuracy.

What Are the Modern Applications of Ball Bearing?

In the industrial world, you can find a bearing in pretty much any application that involves moving parts. Its purpose is to carry loads, reduce friction, and position the moving machine parts. 

First and foremost, a ball bearing is used in computer fans or many spinning devices. The relative bearings are usually highly spherical. This however is no longer true for hard disc drives as fluid bearings have proven to be the better alternative. Next, a ball bearing is also largely used in the aerospace industry, applications of which span from commercial, private, and military aircraft to inner components like pulleys, gearboxes, and jet engine shafts. A ball bearing also finds its use in the manufacturing of skateboard wheel, yo-yo’s, fidget spinner toys, centrifugal pumps, as well as railroad locomotive axle journals.

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