Bearings are an essential element in a wide variety of machines and moving structures. Through one or more design strategies, bearings work to reduce friction in order to increase the associated component’s lifespan and improve functionality. With extensive implementation in aerospace, electrical motors, and other industrial equipment, bearings are important components to understand for anyone interested in engineering of aerospace. In this blog, we will discuss roller bearings, which are specialized components that find use in supporting rotating or oscillating machines.
The simplest and most commonly used bearing type is the plain bearing, which employs a thin oil film to lubricate and slightly separate moving and fixed surfaces. Conversely, roller bearings use a series of movable elements to support the load. Whether using cylindrical rollers or balls, all bearings in this class are designed to have a high load-to-weight ratio and superior accuracy to other types.
Before diving into the various applications for rolling bearings, it is first necessary to appreciate the differences between the several subtypes available.
Ball bearings are one of the most commonly known and used machine elements available. These bearings consist of movable balls which roll along a track created by two circular components called races. When a load is applied to the assembly, both the race and enclosed balls slightly deform in order to better dissipate pressures.
Cylindrical roller bearings are based upon the ancient practice of placing a heavy object atop logs while actively replacing the front log with that of which exited out the back. This concept was then applied to a circular containment system and then made to fit the requirements of the application in question. Due to the wider rolling components, cylindrical roller bearings are equipped to handle a more significant radial load than ball bearings but lose efficacy in axial loading. Their longstanding clever design ensures that the total load is evenly distributed among a small number of cylinders at any time.
Unlike other designs, which feature tightly packed roller elements across the circumference of the assembly, this bearing type uses only a few circular gears that travel along teeth-lined races. Comparatively, gear bearings have a much simpler installation process than other designs while also increasing efficiency due to a decrease in sliding friction. However, these bearings require precision manufacturing with narrow tolerances, making them more expensive on average.
Tapered roller bearings use conical raceways that all point to a common point along the component's central axis. These elements are unique in that they may easily withstand both radial and axial forces, whereas most other designs fail at the latter.
Roller bearings may be found wherever there is a requirement to reduce friction in a machine with moving parts, but they are especially instrumental in aerospace. Ball bearings are used on both gas-turbine and radial engines to support radial and thrust loads. Likewise, cylindrical and tapered roller bearings are commonly found in high-performance reciprocating aircraft engines, as well as in crankshafts.
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