Ball bearings are designed to decrease the amount of friction between radial and axial loads by reducing the friction between them. In short, ball bearings help facilitate smoother movement. They can be found in almost any machine that requires a linear or rotational motion, though they’re usually hidden from view. As such, not many people may be aware that the things they’re using have ball bearings in them.
With that being said, here are some of the most common uses of ball bearings across various industries and settings.
Conveyor systems or conveyor belts have two key components: two pulleys and a set of rollers. The pulleys are looped over a procession of buckets, gears, hooks, and a wide rubber belt. The rubber belt, meanwhile, is supported by rollers that also bear the weight of whatever is on top of the belt. These rollers have ball bearings that allow them to roll smoothly and move the belt along.
Almost everything you use around the home are made with components that has ball bearings in them. Washing machines, air conditioners and purifiers, water pumps, dishwashers, food processors, exhaust fans, vacuum cleaners, the list simply goes on and on. If a component of your home appliance spins or rotates, chances are, there’s a ball bearing in there somewhere.
Office and Business Machines
You may be surprised, but a lot of office machines actually make use of ball bearings, particularly micro ball bearings. For example, copiers and printers have shafts or cylinders that feed sheets of paper into the machine. Cash registers, which have drawers that roll in and out, also make use of these components. There are also a lot of banking and financial equipment that have moving parts made with the help of micro ball bearings.
Aerospace-grade ball bearings can be seen in all kinds of aircraft, particularly in pulleys, jet engine shafts, and gearboxes. Of course, the materials used in these ball bearings are designed to be much tougher to ensure that they can last through extreme conditions.
Ball bearings are used in a wide variety of medical equipment, including surgical tools, dental tools, and diagnostic equipment. The ball bearings used in such applications are made from high-purity materials that can also withstand both high and low temperatures. Moreover, medical equipment and devices make use of ball bearings that minimize noise and vibration output to improve patient comfort.
Cars and Motorcycles
In cars, there are ball bearings inside the cage of the wheels. These bearings “run” around the cage as the car moves forward to ensure even weight distribution. Of course, there are also ball bearings in the engine and transmission. The same can be said for motorcycles, which have at least 20 to 30 ball bearings that ensure the smooth transfer of power from the engine, allow proper movement, and reduce friction.
Agricultural vehicles and machines like tractors, as well as mining and construction vehicles like excavators, make use of ball bearings in the wheel hub, transmission, and engine, among others. These are, of course, apart from moving parts like the loader and backhoe. The ball bearings used in these heavy-duty vehicles and machines are designed to withstand muddy, dusty conditions and bear heavy loads.
Toys like yo-yos and fidget spinners have ball bearings in them so that they can spin easily. Skateboards, longboards, rollerblades, roller skates, and other similar toys also have ball bearings in their wheels.
Depending on the application, a ball bearing can be made out of steel, ceramic, and plastic. Steel ball bearings are usually made entirely of steel or steel alloys. These ball bearings are perfect for heavy-duty applications, since they can carry heavier loads while still maintaining top rotation speeds. Ceramic ball bearings are perfect for high-speed applications, with the added benefit of a silent and cooler operation and less prone to corrosion. They are also more lightweight compared to ball bearings made from steel. Finally, plastic ball bearings are even more lightweight and quiet. They are self-lubricating as well, although they have a lower weight capacity. Plastic ball bearings, which are often used with glass balls, are perfect for applications that prohibit the use of metal parts.
As you can see, ball bearings are part of everyone’s everyday lives. Small they may be, but ball bearings, quite literally, make a lot of things in this modern world run smoothly!