Tapered Roller Bearing Guide


A bearing is a machine component that constrains relative motion to only the designated motion to reduce friction among moving parts. Bearings in general may provide for free linear movement of the moving parts or free rotation surrounding a fixed axis. It is also able to prevent a motion by controlling the vectors of forces that the moving peats bear. Tapered roller bearings, also known as tapered bearings or tapered roller thrust bearings, are rolling element bearings that are capable of supporting axial forces and radial forces. In this article, we are going to specifically address the tapered roller bearing.

Advent of Tapered Roller Bearings

The tapered roller bearings were invented by John Lincoln Scott in 1895 – a farmer and carpenter from Wilmot, Indiana – who was awarded a patent from the United States Patent Office. The primary purpose of such invention was to improve the wagon wheels used in farming at the time.

The tapered roller bearings were without a doubt a major breakthrough at the time because the bearings used in wheel axles remained undeveloped for quite some time. These old bearings (now referred to as the journal bearings) were comprised of cylindrical seat on the frame with lubricant held in a case. These journal bearings were not as durable especially in the event of inadequate lubrication.

In light of this, the bearings were further improved by reducing the friction on the axle bearings by adding the tapered element, which allows load to be transferred uniformly from axle to frame. The improved version of the bearings (by Timken) are now referred to as the tapered roller bearings.

The tapered roller bearings that we see nowadays are coupled with modern lubricants that make them extremely durable. They’ve also been made versatile enough to become applicable in virtually everything involving rotating axle and transmission shafts. Being one of the most durable bearings, the shafts normally do not require much maintenance as well even after large amounts of uses. 

How Do Tapered Roller Bearings Work

The inner and outer ring raceways of the tapered roll bears are basically segments of cones with the rollers tapered so that the roller axes (if projected) and the conical surfaces of the raceways would converge at a point on the primary axis of the bearing. The motion of the cones stays coaxial under such geometry without any sliding motion among the raceways as well as the OD of the rollers.

The conical geometry of tapered bearing enables greater loads to be carried than ball bearings (which have point contact) by creating a linear contact. The geometry indicated that the tangential speed of the surfaces for each roller are identical to the raceways extending the entire length of the contact patch without the occurrence of differential scrubbing. 

Tapered roller bearings can actually be separated into a cup and a cone assembly, and the con assembly itself is composed of the rollers, inner ring, and a cage in which the rollers are uniformly spaced. The cup is equivalent to the outer ring. Internal clearance is created during mounting by the cone’s axial position with respect to the cup, even though preloaded installations without clearance are quite normal. 

Applications of Tapered Roller Bearings

Tapered roller bearings in most cases are used in back-to-back pairs to enable axial forces to be supported evenly in either direction. To be more precise, tapered roller bearings are typically used in the bearings of automobile wheels wherein they must be able to handle large radial and axial forces simultaneously. 

Tapered roller bearings are widely used for heavy duty and moderate speed applications where durability is emphasized. These include applications in construction and mining equipment, agriculture equipment, axle systems, sports robot combat, gearbox, engine motors and reducers, railroad axle-box, propeller shaft, differentials, wind turbines, etc.  

The unique construction of the tapered roller bearings makes them ideal for combination loads, namely dual acting axial and radial loads. They are typically used in pairs for optimal handling of radial load, which is why you can find two or four rows combined in a single unit in some heavy duty application. This is also attributed to the fact that the load capacity of tapered roller bearings can be increased or decreased based on the condition of the contact angle. The higher the degree of angle, the larger the contact angle.

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