Stainless Ball Bearing Material Properties

Blog | May 8th, 2017

Stainless steel ball bearings have access to all of the material properties that make this robust alloy such a universally popular metal. Principally, the heat treated alloy is an excellent load carrier, but that sturdy build hardly tells the full story. It’s a corrosion-resistant material, obviously, a metal that won’t easily corrode. Forged with a chromium-smooth surface finish, here’s a deeper look into the ball bearing material properties that set this product family apart.

Nickel Film Augments 

Rated to endure, high-performance stainless steel ball bearings are capable of handling heavy loads and high RPMs. That’s a structural feature that comes at the top of any datasheet, any list of material properties that applies to this additive-refined iron family. Speaking of those special additives, nickel is almost as important as the corrosion-resistant chromium that’s blended into the hardened alloy, for a chromium oxide film forms when this particular element enters the amalgamate. That film, the oxide coating, goes some ways towards improving contact continuity and surface strength. Essentially, the film is finely grained and certain to reduce frictional build-up.

Bearing Material Properties 

As evidenced by the previous paragraph, stainless steel bearings adopt many contrasting features. There’s the alteration of the alloy recipe, for starters, a route that varies the percentage of carbon, chromium, and other additive metals so that certain desirable mechanical properties can be accessed. Then there are heat treatment processes that further augment those same characteristics. One example of that process-adaptable approach is the introduction of nitrogen as a heat treatment catalyst. The inert element alters the grain of the steel as it’s processed, so a harder microcrystalline structure is produced at the end of the post-treatment line. Built to carry heavier loads and to minimise material fatigue, this nitrogen-strengthened product won’t fracture when shaft stress pushes the loading envelope. Conversely, there are 300 and 400 stainless steel ball bearing material groups. When these families are intelligently sourced, the friction-handling product gains chemical resistivity and temperature handling characteristics, plus more. However, this is a give and take strategy, which is why a material-savvy engineering service is mandated. Remember, for every improved temperature handling attribute, there could be an unwanted magnetic feature or even a softening of the base hardness rating.

The stainless steel ball bearings inventory is full of material types that can fit any conceivable application. But balance is required when sourcing these materials. Increase the carbon and chromium content, but add nickel to that hard blend to ensure noise and vibration-free operation. Similarly, call upon a heat treatment process or a member of a specific stainless steel group when adverse conditions are part of the design mandate, but do remember a materials’ hardness quotient can be attenuated when another property is augmented.

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