Common Ball Bearing Problems and How to Avoid Them

May 26, 2016

Rolling bearings are productive radial motion enablers. They’re the compact metal rings and wheeling elements that fully transmit rotational momentum while neutralizing incurred frictional events. Of course, as essential to driveshaft operation and as mechanically productive as these components undoubtedly are, they’re not without flaws. A ball bearing is a spheroidal component, a part made from a tough alloy, but it’s rarely an ideal form.

Uncooperative Neighbours 

Small imperfections on the surface of the balls generate noise. In fact, should the velocity of the bearing exceed its specified limits, then these vibrational events will cause micro-weld events to occur, likely due to finite surface contact between the neighbouring balls. Added lubrication solves this issue. Additionally, ceramic ball bearings do not suffer from micro-weld problems.

Loading Problems 

Heavy burdens work their stubborn way into ball bearings, crushing the spheres until they flatten. Balls fabricated from high-gauge stainless and chrome steel materials offset weight issues, factoring tensile strength against overburdening effects.

Thrust Issues 

The concentrically configured spheres do manage light axial (thrust) loads, but this isn’t considered a mainstay of the product. Spheroidal bearings are designed to run perpendicular to a load. If side-generated forces pass the light thrust margin, then the ring of balls reacts poorly. Correct the mounting assembly, adjust the mount seat, or replace the bearings with specialized variants.

Configured to Succeed 

The ability to select the right ball bearing for an intended application will make the difference between a long life of friction-cancelling prowess and a foreshortened life dominated by undesirable losses. For example, point contact is a major feature of this bearing class, one that minimizes friction but increases high-slippage velocity. But then we’re back at square one, the issue where the point contact zones can’t support large loads. Axial weight must be reduced if this point contact feature is to work correctly.

An exactingly designed ball bearing partners with its ring of identically manufactured cousins to wheel across two smooth races and deliver optimal power savings. Friction is eliminated, but common issues need to be assessed and solved before the product is mounted. Strong materials stop the spheres from flattening. Polished alloys and ceramic variants vanquish noise and vibrations. Finally, thrust loads and eccentric forces are managed by adopting a corrective mounting practice, one that properly mates the bearing to the drive shaft and axial burden. Otherwise, opt for a design that is designed to partner with these offset loads.

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