Bearings 101: What are they and why do they matter?

You probably would have come across the term, “bearings” in your daily life. Very often, when a home appliance like the water motor or a ceiling fan breaks down, the electrician would blame the cause of failure on a faulty bearing. But, have you ever wondered, what bearings are? What do they do? And, why are bearings so important in all appliances.
In this guide, we introduce bearings in a fun way. No technical terms or complicated jargon. With simple terms, we explain bearings so that the next time when a bearing fails, you get a better idea of what’s wrong and why it went wrong.

What are bearings?


Bearings are a fundamental mechanical part using in majority of appliances and equipment. They are key to the machine industry that they are often referred to as the bread and butter of machines.
“A bearing is a mechanical part that enables rotational/linear movement, while reducing friction between the moving parts.”
Bearings can be attached to a casting like in the ends of an electric motor, or separated from a casting like a pillow block or plate. Bearings are found in all machines like electric generators, motors, airplanes, automobiles, etc. They are present in almost all household appliances like vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, refrigerators, ceiling fans, etc.
Bearings support the parts that enable rotation like the shaft inside a machinery. They support rotors, gears, turbines, wheels, etc., helping the machine rotate more smoothly.

Why are bearings so important? The role of bearings


Bearing play two major roles in a machine. They are:

1. Reduce friction and make the rotation/linear movement smooth


When two rotating parts come in contact with each other, friction happens. Bearings help in reducing the friction between the rotating shaft and the part that assists rotation. It paves the way for smoother rotation, reducing the energy consumed by the machine. As a result of reduced friction, wear and tear is reduced, helping to extend the lifespan of the machine.

2. Maintain the correct position and protect the part that supports rotation


To ensure proper rotation, a large amount of force is required between the rotating shaft and the part that supports rotation. Bearings help in preventing damage to the supporting part due to the force generated. It also helps in maintaining the correct position of the rotating shaft.
The two major functions of bearings help us to use our appliances, equipment and machinery for years to come without wear and tear.

What are the types of bearings?


Bearings can be classified into two primary categories:

1. Ball bearings


Ball bearings use balls as the rolling elements.

  • Can rotate quickly
  • Cannot support heavy loads

These bearings are classified into:

  • Deep groove ball bearings – Easy to maintain, due to their simple design. They can be used in a wide range of applications. They have a low torque and can operate at high speeds.
  • Angular contact ball bearings – These bearings transfer forces at a specific angle and they are suitable for combined loads.
  • Self-aligning ball bearings – These bearings include a double row of balls, with an inner ring and outer ring, that makes it possible to self-align these bearings.
  • Thrust ball bearings – It consists of two bearing discs, that can absorb axial forces in one direction.

2. Roller bearings


They have a line contact instead of using balls as contact. The line contact makes it suitable to carry higher load ratings that ball bearings of the same size. However, the speed of roller bearings is lower than the ball bearing due to increased friction along the contact line.

  • High load rating
  • Lower speed

Roller bearings are classified into:

  • Spherical roller bearings – These bearings are extremely robust and work on the same principle as self-aligning bearings. It compensates for misalignments between the housing and the shaft.
  • Cylindrical roller bearings – These bearings distribute stress factors along the point of contact. Cylindrical bearings have a high radial load rating.
  • Tapered roller bearings – These bearings have tapered raceways between the inner and outer rings. They can absorb axial and high radial forces in one direction.
  • Needle roller bearings – They are a subcategory of cylindrical roller bearings and contain needle rollers, thin long rolling elements.

Applications of Bearings: Where are they used?

Bearings are used in almost all appliances. From small remote controlled toy cars to large automobiles, household appliances to massive industrial equipment, bearings are used in all machinery. To give an example, the average sedan has over 150 bearings to ensure smooth operation.
If there were no bearings,

  • The rotational movement of machinery would become rough and consume tremendous energy
  • The part that supports the rotation would break down quickly, making it impossible to use the equipment

Wrapping Up

Though bearings may seem like a minor component, they play a crucial role in all machinery. This is why, companies spend millions of rupees on developing new bearings that are more durable and precise.
If you are looking for industrial bearings of high quality, get in touch with EuroIndustriel. As the leading bearings supplier and distributor, we have a huge network of bearings manufacturers. We help you find the right sized and right type bearings, as per your custom requirements. Give us a ring and let’s get started.


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