3 Major Types of Ball Bearing Materials
Ball bearings are made in several materials to match the many different applications. Plastic, steel, and ceramic are the most popular options. The different ball bearings have their own benefits and characteristics, but still have the same four main parts, which includes a cage, an outer race, an inner race, and the ball. Here is an overview of the different materials:
Steel ball bearings are a long time favorite and mainly consist of all-steel parts. However, they can also include a phenolic cage or different types of steel for the balls and races.
They are the most practical option for the heavy-duty applications and built to work with extremely fast rotations per minute and the ability to accept up to 25,000 pounds. Also, this type of bearing is very precise and gives reliable clearance.
Additionally, there are many different manufacturers of these products so the pricing is very competitive in the market.
But, these ball bearings do have a few negatives. For instance, the steel is naturally noisy and heavy, and may also lack chemical resistance. To minimize issues with maintenance it is necessary to use a high-quality lubricant. Plus, steel is at risk of corrosion in wet or humid environments.
Ceramic ball bearings are a standard choice in a wide range of applications. This type of unit is seen as a hybrid with balls in ceramic while the cage, inner race and outer race are made of steel. The use of ceramic is great for low vibration and low noise. Plus, the operating temperature stays cool even in the event of the bearing running fast.
The ceramic material is a lot lighter, more rigid, and more corrosion resistant compared to the alternatives in steel. There is also the option of operating at high speeds and with lower coefficients. Ceramic is nonconductive which means it is a more practical choice to use in electrical applications. It has a working temperature range of up to 1,800° F.
The disadvantage of these ball bearings is the cost. They are the most expensive option, so it may be worth looking at alternatives, such as those in plastic.
The plastic ball bearings are the latest technology to enter the market and offer a few benefits over ceramic and steel. It is particularly lightweight and made with a plastic cage and races, while the actual ball is a choice between stainless steel, glass, or plastic. The complete plastic set up is the right choice where noise and weight is a critical factor; the glass is useful for applications that need to be free of metal. But, this option shouldn’t be used when the working temperature is likely to pass 300° F.
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