Blog Post

What are the components of bearings?

  • February 11, 2024
Reading Time: 12 minutes
bearing components

Bearings are useful elements in mechanical engineering, facilitating rotary movement between parts. Understanding their components helps to optimise their performance. The diversity of bearing types, such as ball and roller bearings, enriches the analysis. A thorough understanding of these components provides valuable insight into the design, operation and materials that contribute to bearing efficiency.

Introduction to bearings 

Bearings play a fundamental role in the transmission of rotary motion, whether in industrial machinery, motor vehicles or other mechanical applications. Their ability to reduce friction and support high loads makes them vital components. 

Basic structure and components 

Bearings, key elements in the transmission of rotary motion, have a basic structure made up of four fundamental elements. The inner ring, in direct contact with the shaft, ensures a solid connection. It determines the stability and alignment of the bearing. At the same time, the outer ring, in contact with the housing, provides robust support and protects the internal components.

The rolling elements, whether in the form of balls or rollers, ensure smooth movement by minimising friction between the inner and outer rings. They are chosen according to the specific load, speed and precision requirements of the application. The cage or separator maintains an even distance between the rolling elements, preventing direct contact and promoting smooth rotation. This component contributes to the bearing’s durability and optimum performance by preventing premature wear of the rolling elements.

Together, the inner ring, outer ring, rolling elements and cage form a coherent unit, enabling bearings to operate efficiently in a variety of industrial applications. A thorough understanding of these components enables bearings to be designed to meet the specific requirements of each mechanical application.

Types of bearings 

Bearings come in a variety of types, each adapted to specific needs in terms of loads, speeds and application configurations. Ball bearings are among the most common and are available in single-row, double-row, angular contact and thrust versions. Single-row bearings are ideal for radial loads, while double-row bearings offer increased load capacity. Angular contact bearings combine radial and axial capabilities, while thrust bearings are specialised for high axial loads.

Roller bearings, a versatile alternative, include cylindrical, spherical, needle roller and tapered variants. Cylindrical roller bearings are suitable for high radial loads, spherical bearings adjust to misalignments, needle roller bearings are compact and lightweight, and tapered roller bearings handle both radial and axial loads.

Other bearing types, such as thrust bearings, designed to support axial loads, and plain bearings, used where rotation is slow and loads are light, complete the diversity of solutions available. Understanding these variations enables the optimum bearing to be selected according to the specific requirements of each application, ensuring reliable and efficient performance.

A complex sub-assembly with ball bearings and the logo WIB

Internal components of a bearing 

The internal components of a bearing play a decisive role in its overall performance.

Inner ring 

The inner ring is a component of bearings, playing a central role in the transmission of rotary motion. Its precise design ensures a perfect fit with the shaft, ensuring smooth rotation. Generally cylindrical in shape, it can also adopt specific contours depending on the requirements of the application.

The main function of the inner ring is to support the radial load generated by the shaft, while maintaining correct alignment between the rolling elements and the outer ring. This stability contributes to the overall performance of the bearing by minimising friction and ensuring uniform load distribution.

In fact, the materials used in the manufacture of the inner ring are often alloy steels, stainless steels or other specific alloys. These materials offer an optimum combination of mechanical strength, durability and wear resistance. Some bearings may also benefit from special coatings to resist corrosion or improve tribological properties.

Outer ring 

The outer ring, a key component of bearings, plays a fundamental role in the transmission of rotary motion by establishing the link with the housing or surrounding structure. Its design, function and choice of materials ensure optimum bearing performance.

An outer ring is carefully designed to ensure the stability of the bearing as a whole. Generally annular in shape, it can be adapted to suit the specific requirements of the application. Its primary function is to support radial and axial loads, while maintaining the correct alignment of the rolling elements. This stability minimises friction and maximises bearing efficiency.

The materials used for the outer ring are chosen for their mechanical strength, durability and wear resistance. Hardened steels, specific alloys and heat treatments can be applied to enhance these properties. Some bearings can also benefit from surface coatings to increase their resistance to corrosion.

Rolling elements 

Rolling elements, whether in the form of balls or rollers, are components in bearings that make a significant contribution to reducing friction and transmitting loads efficiently. Their diversity in terms of type, design, function and materials offers solutions for a multitude of mechanical applications.

The types of rolling elements vary according to the specific requirements of the application. Balls, often made of steel, are preferred for light loads and high speeds. Rollers, whether cylindrical, conical, spherical or needle roller, are preferred for higher loads and varied operating conditions.

A precise design of the rolling elements ensures uniform load distribution and minimises friction. Their main function is to facilitate movement between the inner and outer rings, reducing friction and allowing the bearing to rotate smoothly.

The materials used in the manufacture of rolling elements directly influence their strength, durability and ability to resist wear. High-quality steels, specific alloys and surface treatments can be used to optimise their performance under a wide range of conditions.

Other bearing components

Bearings are not limited to their main components; several complementary elements ensure optimum operation.

Cage or separator 

The cage or separator maintains a constant distance between the rolling elements, preventing direct contact. Its purpose is to ensure uniform load distribution and minimise friction. Cages can be made of steel, brass, nylon or other materials suited to the specific application.

Screens and seals 

Protective shields and seals prevent dirt, moisture and contaminants from entering the bearing. Their purpose is to extend service life by preserving the bearing surfaces. They can be made of rubber, metal or composite materials, depending on the conditions of use.

Lubrication systems

Lubrication reduces friction and wear such as grease or oil, ensure that the bearing runs smoothly. The choice of lubricant depends on operating conditions and maintenance requirements.

Miscellaneous components

Various components, such as flanges, fasteners, snap rings, washers, housings and mounting accessories, complete the bearing configuration. They facilitate the installation, assembly and maintenance of the bearing in its specific environment.

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