Contamination and Bearing Life: Common External Factors that Affect Bearings

February 27, 2017

In a realm that allows for nothing but a series of rolling elements and a complementary set of polished rings, any contaminant whatsoever can cause major problems. These pristine moving parts only have room for a thin lubricating film, not coarse-grained hitchhikers. Still, knowledge is power, so let’s see what common external factors are out there.

Manufacturing Miscreants 

Fine metal shavings are small enough to pierce the rolling parts and produce parts interference. The shavings, fine iron filings, and finer airborne particles adhere to the race surfaces to produce a scoring effect on the bearings. Dents and near invisible scratches accompany this effect. These abrasive marks will destroy case hardened bearing surfaces over time.

Elemental Ingress 

Abrasive materials cut into polished metals, but they don’t affect the chemical characteristics of the components. No, that’s a job best reserved for water. Oxidizing chemicals also carry a gift for corrupting bearing alloys. The corrosive fluids react chemically with certain alloy surfaces until metal fatigue spreads like a viral influence across the formerly unblemished parts. This contaminant reveals itself as an orange-brown blotch, plus there may be a powdery deposit around the bearing. Mechanically, the unit will vibrate excessively and generate more heat.

In Summation: Common External Factors 

Keep metal grinding stations far away from exposed bearings. Chemically active processes with known reagents should, likewise, be segregated from bearing locations. New processing methods, including powder coating technology, must adhere to their processing procedures so that floating particulates don’t make their way into open machinery housings. In short, all foreign materials, especially those that habitually float suspended in the air, should be properly isolated from moving machinery. Otherwise, an abrasive or metal fatiguing event will likely transpire within the bearings

Extending Bearing Life 

Contemporary rolling elements are made from scores of different materials, including the most durable engineering plastics on the market. Use one of these polymer families if corrosive action is likely. Alternatively, select an alloy or ceramic equivalent that’s designed to handle a uniquely hazardous environment. Finally, external protection mechanism should be adopted whenever possible. These are the housings and bearing seals that stop contaminants in their tracks.

Small particles are light enough to float on the lightest breeze. They’re basically harmless, yet they can really corrupt a tough rotating part. The tremendous forces in there push the invading particles together. Even particles of sand become like little diamond-edged blades when these forces have their way. Fortunately, there are bearing housings, advanced labyrinth seals and fasteners, and bearing seals to prevent this abrasive situation.


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