Ball Bearing with Plastic Cages: What are they?

Blog | March 15th, 2016

The cage of a ball bearing shuns the spotlight, leaving the twin races and the rolling elements to claim center stage, but that doesn’t mean the hidden mechanical separator isn’t important. Quite the opposite, the cage is responsible for keeping the sandwiched balls evenly spaced as they interact with the deep-grooved rings. It offers radial spacing and symmetrical balance, an even distribution of all rolling balls. Indeed, a ball bearing with plastic cages levers the unique attributes of a specially engineered polymer, enhancing sliding thanks to the anti-abrasive features of leading engineering plastics.

Plastic as Part of a Traditionally Metal Domain 

The use of plastic in ball bearings isn’t exactly a new concept, but the development of ever-stronger engineering polymers has made the design far more attractive than it once was, resulting in hybrid designs that utilize metal, plastic, and ceramics. The purposeful variation of materials indicates a desire to eradicate friction in scenarios where radial loading meets axial motion, of course, but this motion is occurring in diverse and challenging environments, places where metal alone is not always the most realistic choice. A ball bearing with plastic cages, for example, functions happily in circumstances where water and chemicals are present. The plastic retains its smooth run around the races of the bearing, never submitting to corrosion or chemical attacks, and does so while keeping the balls evenly distributed. In turn, the metal, plastic, or ceramic rolling elements reinforce this smoothly lubricated run, maintaining the frictionless operability of the component while supporting massive radial loads that move at great speed.

Toughening the Plastic Profile 

No ordinary polymer is fit for this purpose, not when contaminants can spoil the performance characteristics of the device. If we make the plastic too soft, then the hard-grained dirt actually sinks into the plastic and rubs at the balls to cause damage. A hardened plastic with tailored thermal properties fits this application, meaning that even if excess heat should be observed, the structure of the thermoplastic retains dimensional stability, never expanding or contracting to destroy the balance of the equidistant balls. This attribute aligns with the chemical and corrosion resisting properties of the material to deliver a product that can function in any maritime product, chemical setting, or even simply a scenario where the air is heavy with moist clouds of metal-eroding steam.

Made from polyamides and other plastics, a ball bearing with plastic cages also gains added lubrication due to the microcrystalline structure of the plastic’s tailored makeup.

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