Bearings are a staple of countless apparatuses and machine assemblies, serving to facilitate the movement of equipment while minimizing friction to prolong the health of parts that slide across one another. Bearings get their name from their role in bearing the loads of a part as it moves, and there are many types of bearing designs that have been made to accommodate different applications and needs. In this piece, we will be covering the radial bearing and thrust bearing in particular, both of which are fairly common options that can be found in numerous settings.
Radial bearings are true to their name, acting as a bearer of radial loads that source from the moving parts they support. Radial loads are described as a force that is perpendicular to a rotating shaft, such as is in the case of a motor or similar equipment piece. Generally, radial bearings will be implemented on the ends of rotating shafts, and they will have an appearance similar to basic ball bearings with a cage, inner race, outer race, and ball set for the radial bearing assembly.
There are various types of radial bearings that one may take advantage of, common examples including cylindrical roller bearings, needle bearings, and deep groove ball bearings. Cylindrical roller bearings are capable of taking on radial or axial loads with the design of their rollers, and they may be used for agricultural equipment, AC compressors, pumps, steering systems, wind turbines, and much more. Needle bearings feature cylindrical rollers that have a smaller diameter when compared to their length, and they may be found within gearboxes, automotive power transmission systems, piston engines, air compressors, and more. Deep groove ball bearings are one of the most widely used bearing types, versatile in their use while also presenting low noise and vibration during operations.
While a radial bearing is generally intended to take on radial loads, thrust bearings are specifically designed to handle axial loads. Axial loads happen along a rotating shaft’s axis, and a thrust bearing will reduce the friction that stems from this force. Like radial bearings, thrust bearings come in numerous subtypes, each of which slightly differ in design to take on certain applications. Tapered roller thrust bearings are commonly used, and they feature varying bearing axis angles and line of contact values to determine the amount of thrust they can take on. Cylindrical roller thrust bearings utilize cylindrical rollers that are placed in a radial fashion, allowing them to handle axial loads with ease. Another major subtype is the spherical roller thrust bearing, and they feature self-aligning capabilities which makes them highly beneficial for assemblies where shaft deflection or shock loads are an issue.
While radial and thrust bearings both feature a similar design and role in preventing friction, the choice between each will depend on the types of loads that one needs to support, as well as various environmental factors. As bearings are mechanical elements that are put under heavy stress throughout operations, it is important that they are well maintained, lubricated, and inspected on a regular basis. If bearing components begin to falter or reach the end of their service life, they should be replaced in a timely manner to guarantee the well-being of the assembly.
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