Ball Bearings vs. Sleeve Bearings: What is the Difference?

December 12, 2019

Generally, bearings are made to carry load and facilitate motion. As a result, they have a wide range of applications. They are commonly incorporated in automobiles, computer fans, washing machines and many other industries. There are two main types of bearings namely ball bearings and sleeve bearings. To further know where to apply them best, below are their differences.

Description, Composition and Structure

Ball bearings are usually visible in the wheel of a bicycle. They are composed of two hardened metal rings – one inside the other. These rings are separated by a number of spherical metal balls that are surrounded by lubricants. These spherical metals balls inside the ball bearings run in the concave grooves which are set into each of the rings.

A sleeve bearing, on the other hand, has a single internal rotating cylinder present in a metallic groove or sleeve. It is porous and self-lubricating. Its design has just two moving parts, the outer sleeve and the inner rotating cylinder, unlike ball bearings, which have a number of spherical metal balls lined up on its inside. The outer sleeve can be whole, clenched, or split between two halves.


Ball bearings generate a lot of noise, and this difference is typically noticed while considering the example of ceiling fans. It is also observed that, the noise created by ordinary fan blades usually overcomes the noise of the bearings. Since sleeve bearings are much more efficient and are measured to be one to three decibels quieter, they are widely used for applications like industrial motors which rotate at high speeds, or high-speed turbo machines.

Ball bearings are more tolerant as compared to sleeve bearings in terms of heat and functioning. Also, they can be positioned either horizontally or vertically, without any ill-effect. Since their inner balls contact each other, they generate very less friction on the inner walls. Sleeve bearings are more beneficial in cost-cutting since they are cheaper in cost as compared to ball bearings, and have a longer expected lifetime in an extremely low temperature environment.

Know more about ball and sleeve bearings from Global Bearing Imports P/L. We have extensive experience in sourcing and supplying many types of bearings for all industry and automotive applications. We are experienced in identifying and locating difficult types of bearings and are often able to supply within seven days of confirmed orders. Our extensive network of worldwide suppliers gives us access to inventory 24 hours a day for 52 weeks of the year. We also supply and recommend the ZEN brand of bearing, a German owned, engineered and operated company that produces stainless steel Miniature, flanged, angular contact ball thrust, locking-nut bearings in metric and imperial sizes.

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