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Guide to ball bearing materials

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tech talk Learn more at A Guide to Ball bearings can be used in a range of applications, from medical and packaging technology to electronics and office technology. Since these components are available in different types of materials, each with their own set of features and benefits, weighing the pros and cons of a specific kind of ball bearing can become an important part of the design process. Ball bearings are most commonly made of steel, ceramic or plastic. While every ball bearing is comprised of four main parts—an outer race, an inner race, a cage and balls—each has its own set of unique characteristics. Ball Bearing Materials Steel Ball Bearings Partly because they are an older technology, steel ball bearings are a trusted solution for many design engineers. Typically, these types of bearings are comprised of all-steel parts, but are available with different types of steel races and balls, or with a phenolic cage. Steel ball bearings are ideal for robust applications handling extremely high loads and fast rotations per minute (RPMs), and some feature a radial load capacity of up to 30,000 pounds. Another advantage of steel ball bearings is that they tend to be very precise due to the clearance that can be achieved during the manufacturing process. Steel ball bearings are ideal for extremely high loads and fast RPMs, but can be noisy and require constant lubrication. There are also quite a few disadvantages to steel ball bearings. They are heavy and noisy, and, depending on the grade of steel, they lack chemical resistance. They require constant lubrication, which means time and money spent on maintenance. Steel is susceptible to corrosion in humid or wet environments. Due to the need for lubrication, most steel ball bearings must also be sealed to eliminate dirt and debris from getting in and lubricant from getting out. Failure to seal them adequately can lead to bearing failure. Furthermore, in medical applications, their magnetic properties can cause problems. In addition, the extremely large number of steel ball bearing manufacturers leads to tremendous price variances, ranging from inexpensive to extremely costly. This could be perceived as an advantage or disadvantage but, either way, the options can be overwhelming, leaving steel ball bearing buyers wondering if they are getting the quality they desire.

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