Bearing All: The Importance of Ball Bearings


While they are rarely recognized or considered, bearings are some of the most critical components in modern machinery. Bearings are what allow for parts in a machine to rotate freely with reduced friction, which in turn enables everything from cars and trucks, to washing machines and dentist’s drills. While there are many different types of bearings for many different uses, this blog will focus on one of the most ubiquitous, the ball bearing.
 
As a subset of rolling-element bearings, ball bearings consist of an inner and outer ring, called races, and a set of small metal balls between them that allow the two races to rotate. These ball bearings are typically made from steel, either chrome alloys or stainless, but different types exist for different roles. As an example, MRI machines use ball bearings, but because they cannot have anything magnetic in them, the bearings are made from plastic polymers. Bearings used in the marine industry must be resistant to rusting, so bronze is a favored material. In the aerospace industry, heat and corrosion are constant concerns, so bearings are machined and chemically treated to be resistant to those stresses.
 
The starting material for the bearing is developed through heat treatment, hardened, and then ground down into the proper shape. Once manufacturing is complete, the bearings are closely inspected to make sure they are up to quality standards and ensure their measurements are correct. If the roller is improperly manufactured, it will not align properly within the bearing, and its bearing capacity will decrease. Misalignment can also occur due to mechanical stresses and vibration (some types of roller bearings, such as spherical rollers, are able to re-align themselves).
 
 
The design behind ball bearings is particularly ingenious because they share the stress of weight and friction across multiple components. As the bearing rotates, the balls take turns bearing friction and weight of the load. At any time, a little less than half the balls in a ball bearing are experiencing stresses
While they are rarely recognized or considered, bearings are some of the most critical components in modern machinery. Bearings are what allow for parts in a machine to rotate freely with reduced friction, which in turn enables everything from cars and trucks, to washing machines and dentist’s drills. While there are many different types of bearings for many different uses, this blog will focus on one of the most ubiquitous, the ball bearing.
 
As a subset of rolling-element bearings, ball bearings consist of an inner and outer ring, called races, and a set of small metal balls between them that allow the two races to rotate. These ball bearings are typically made from steel, either chrome alloys or stainless, but different types exist for different roles. As an example, MRI machines use ball bearings, but because they cannot have anything magnetic in them, the bearings are made from plastic polymers. Bearings used in the marine industry must be resistant to rusting, so bronze is a favored material. In the aerospace industry, heat and corrosion are constant concerns, so bearings are machined and chemically treated to be resistant to those stresses.
 
The starting material for the bearing is developed through heat treatment, hardened, and then ground down into the proper shape. Once manufacturing is complete, the bearings are closely inspected to make sure they are up to quality standards and ensure their measurements are correct. If the roller is improperly manufactured, it will not align properly within the bearing, and its bearing capacity will decrease. Misalignment can also occur due to mechanical stresses and vibration (some types of roller bearings, such as spherical bearing, are able to re-align themselves).
 
The design behind ball bearings is particularly ingenious because they share the stress of weight and friction across multiple components. As the bearing rotates, the balls take turns bearing friction and weight of the load. At any time, a little less than half the balls in a ball bearing are experiencing stresses


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