Bearings are used to help reduce friction. Metal-upon-metal contact produces large amounts of friction. The friction adds to wear and tear of the metal, producing grinding that slowly degrades the metal. Bearings reduce friction by having the two surfaces roll over each other, reducing the amount of friction produced. They consist of a smooth metal ball or roller that rolls against a smooth inner and outer metal surface. The rollers or balls take the load, allowing the device to spin.
The load acted upon a bearing is either a radial or thrust load. Depending on the location of the bearing in the mechanism, it can see all of a radial or thrust load or a combination of both. For example, the bearing in the wheel of your car supports a radial and a thrust load. The weight of the car on the bearing produces a radial load while the thrust load is produced as the car turns a corner. Here we will examine some types of common bearings.
Ball bearings are most common type of bearing and can handle both radial and thrust loads. Ball bearings are also known as deep-groove single-row or Conrad bearings. The inner ring is typically fastened to the rotating shaft and the groove on the outer diameter provides a circular ball raceway. The outer ring is mounted onto the bearing housing. The ball bearings are housed in a race and when the load is applied, it is transmitted from the outer race to the ball and from the ball to the inner race. The raceway grooves have typical curvature radii of 51.5% to 53% of the ball diameter. Smaller curvature raceways can cause high rolling friction due to the tight conformity of the balls and raceways. Higher curvature raceways can shorten fatigue life from increased stress in the smaller ball-race contract area.