All About Thin Section Ball Bearings: Selection and Applications

Blog | December 8th, 2017

If you’re curious about thin section ball bearings, here’s where we address those concerns. The technical label alone is a bit of a mouthful, but it does faithfully describe this bearing family. First of all, picture the skinny profile, the narrow outlines of this component. Designed to perform without pause in those applications that prohibit standard width ball bearings, thin section products still deliver a great deal of functionality.

Built to Match Their Thicker Siblings 

By applying a little deductive reasoning, shouldn’t a thin section ball bearing be weakened by its narrower form factor. Granted, if engineering acuity was left out in the cold, this skinny rolling element type would not be capable of carrying a load. Design intelligence counteracts that real-world drawback. The cross-sectional size of the metal rings is thin, but that slighter body still exhibits torque-resisting strength. This impressive feat is achieved by using some of the hardest stainless steel grades in the industry. Still, even with that alloy-reinforced material in place, there are load limitations to account for when these ball bearings are used.

Thin Section Ball Bearing Applications 

Take a look at one of these products. If you can’t get your hands on one, try looking at a detailed photograph, one that includes a commonly used object. In that way, you can compare this skinny bearing type to an item you recognize. It’s thin, so thin that a little finger can’t fit between the inside and outside diameters of the rings. The hardened stainless steel rings and rolling elements are rigid, but they’re obviously not built with a high-capacity load in mind. Picture industrial robots and dynamic processing equipment. Electronic assemblies, perhaps articulated gripper arms, use servo motors and other miniaturized drive sections, all of which operate via a series of bearings. When space is at a premium, which it always is in one of these tiny machine enclosures, thin section ball bearings are installed. Camera lens focus motors, medical devices, power tools, they all rely on this slender bearing type.

The selection criteria is a little harder to satisfy when the cross-sectional area of a bearing shrinks. Thrust loads are more damaging here because the width of the ring is so narrow. However, once the contact angles and critical design features are scrupulously addressed by a top-notch engineering establishment, the ball bearings will manipulate some relatively large radial loads. Installed in an antenna directing mechanism or a camera turntable, medium-duty thin section ball bearings can easily manipulate items on slow-moving drive systems or an intermittently operating robot arm.

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