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What are some of the main types of bearings?

There are so many different types of bearings, and each one has it’s own operational advantages. For example, in a ball bearing, the load is transmitted from the outer race to the ball, and from the ball to the inner race. But because the ball is a sphere, it only makes contact with the inner and outer race at a minimal point, which helps it spin very smoothly. When you watch it in motion, it’s a rather beautiful thing to see, so elegant and so graceful. But it also means that there is not a great deal of contact area holding that load, so if the bearing is overloaded, the balls can deform, ruining the bearing and harming performance.

So what are the different types of bearings?

Roller bearings are employed in applications like conveyor belt rollers, where they need to hold heavy radial loads. In these bearings, the roller may be a cylinder. Therefore the contact between the inner and outer race isn’t some large expanse, but a line. This spreads the load out over a bigger area, allowing the bearing to handle much greater loads than a needle bearing. However, there is a drawback here because this sort of bearing can’t handle much thrust loading. A variation of this sort of bearing, called a ball bearing, uses cylinders with a minimal diameter. This enables the bearing to slot seamlessly into tight places.

Ball thrust bearings just like the one shown below are mostly used for low-speed applications, so it can’t handle too much radial load. Barstools and turntable turntables use this bearing, so they are still very popular here in the UK, as these are growing product lines.

Roller thrust bearings just like the one illustrated below can support large thrust loads. They’re often found in gear sets like car transmissions between gears, and between the housing and therefore the rotating shafts. The helical gears used in most transmissions have angled teeth, thus generating a thrust load that has got to be supported upon impact.

Tapered roller bearings can support large radial and enormous thrust loads. They’re used in car hubs, where they’re usually mounted in pairs facing opposite directions in order that they will handle thrust in both directions.

So there you have it, these are just a few of the most common types of bearings. You’ll have probably heard or even used most of these, but it’s important to understand their advantages in full, and the best way to do so is to buy a set and have a play with them. If you do so, be sure to research each of the bearing suppliers you find online, so you can find a great price and service. It’s remarkably clever how they work, and they’re incredibly useful components in many different motors and systems. 

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