3 Different Types of Materials for Ball Bearings

Ball bearings are popular in a wide range of applications, from office technology and electronics, to packaging equipment, aerospace technology and medical supplies. The bearings come in several different types and have specific benefits and features. The most popular materials are plastic, ceramic and steel. But, the different ball bearings are still made up using the same components: the balls, a cage, an inner race and an outer race.

Here is an overview of the different types of materials:

Steel

Ball bearings in steel are one of the earliest technologies and well-respected in the industry to provide a trusted solution. They are practical to install in machinery that is required to accept fast rotations per minute (RPMs) and extremely high loads. Most have the ability to accept a total load in the region of 30,000 pounds. They are also very precise and less likely to fail under stress or pressure. But, this type of ball bearing does have a few down points. For instance, they can lack chemical resistance and quite noisy and heavy. Most need a regular application of lubricant which leads to increased maintenance costs. Plus, this is a material that is vulnerable to corrosion in wet or humid environments.

Ceramic

The ball bearings termed ceramic are made up of a steel cage, inner race and outer race, while the actual balls are ceramic. A benefit of this design is faster and smoother operation. This gives less vibration, cuts noise issues and minimizes problems with high operating temperatures. They are light weight and not impacted by issues with corrosion. The acceptable operating temperature is in the region of 1,800° Fahrenheit. Even though they are a practical option for plenty of different applications, they do come with a high price tag. This has limited their use with many low-cost manufacturers looking at alternative solutions.

Plastic

One of the latest types of ball bearings is plastic which has a few benefits that aren’t noticed with the alternatives in ceramic or steel. They are entirely built with plastic for the cage and races, but the actual ball can vary from stainless steel, glass or plastic. The preferred type is based on the use and environment. A complete plastic unit is preferred when noise and weight are critical, while the glass balls contain low magnetic properties. The use of the glass ball is practical when a metal-free setup is required. The most cost-effective balls are in stainless steel, but this is the heaviest option.