Bearings play an essential role in construction, manufacturing, engineering, mechanics and just about any other field that involves multiple moving parts. They represent an important advancement in our ability to products mechanised products that both perform better and do so for longer. Why is this the case, you may ask? Well, bearings function as machine parts specifically designed to enable different parts to rotate, and help to alleviate friction within the process. This makes bearings often one of the most highly stressed machine parts in any machine that they are included in. As a consequence of this fact, bearings need to be produced to a high standard in terms of quality and usability. Since their initial invention in the late eighteenth century, the number of specialised shapes and sizes of bearings has exploded, and this article will list a few of them and then explain the importance of their function to essential processes for modern society.
In 1794 a British inventor developed the first bearing ever used, the ball bearing. They were first developed to enhance the functionality of a horse drawn carriage, by essentially enhancing the durability of the wheels via its attachment to the axle of the vehicle. This was a revolutionary invention at the time, and likely helped to fuel the industrial revolution that was underway at the time. Its importance cannot be overstated, as prior to the instalment of ball bearings to reduce friction in the axle joint, carriages often broke down, clogging up carriageways and slowing down one of the most important vehicles for commerce at the time. Even today, you will find ball bearings in use among many different mechanised products that we use on a regular basis. Since their development, other types of bearings have also come into regular usage, however ball bearings still remain an effective method for mediating the radial contact between components at lower stress levels and lighter loads, making them an ideal solution for smaller mechanised products.
An alternative to ball bearings are cylindrical roller bearings, that also mediates radial loads, however they are able to do so under much greater stress levels. You will typically find them in use in larger machines, as they can bear greater loads which means that they lifespan will be significantly longer. The downside of these in comparison to ball bearings is that they are generally more limited in reducing friction, which can slow down functionality. Other types of bearings resemble cylindrical roller bearings in the fact that balls have been replaced by cylinders, however they can achieve much different results. The tapered roller bearing is one such example, which tapers off on one side of the unit to enable their use for complex bearing solutions that involve either radial or axial loads.
Depending on your bearing stockists, you may find that there is an even wider range of bearing options, however they generally represent slight variations of the ones described here. One of the most significant differing features is the housing that they are contained in, which can enable their application in mechanised products more broadly, as well as expand the bearing stockists offerings for their clients.