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Bearings Are The Invisible Heroes Inside Many Mechanical Devices. Learn About All Different Kinds Of Bearings, Including 5 Foot Ball Bearings That Keep Buildings On Solid Footing!

1012 words - 4 pages

A tapered roller bearing from a manual transmissionHave you ever wondered how things like inline skate wheels and electric motors spin so smoothly and quietly? The answer can be found in a neat little machine called a bearing.The bearing makes many of the machines we use every day possible. Without bearings we would be constantly replacing parts that wore out from friction. In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll learn how bearings work, we'll look at some different kinds of bearings and explain their common uses, and we'll explore some other interesting uses of bearings.The BasicsThe concept behind a bearing is very simple: Things roll better than they slide. The wheels on your car are like big bearings. If you had something like skis instead of wheels your car would be a lot more difficult to push down the road.That is because when things slide, the friction between them causes a force that tends to slow them down. But if the two surfaces can roll over each other, the friction is greatly reduced.A simple bearing, like the kind found in a skate wheelBearings reduce friction by providing smooth metal balls or rollers, and a smooth inner and outer metal surface for the balls to roll against. These balls or rollers "bear" the load, allowing the device to spin smoothly.Bearing LoadsBearings typically have to deal with two kinds of loading, radial and thrust. Depending on where the bearing is being used it may see all radial loading, all thrust loading or a combination of both.The bearings that support the shafts of motors and pulleys are subject to a radial load.The bearings in the electric motor and the pulley pictured above face only a radial load. In this case, most of the load comes from the tension in the belt connecting the two pulleys.The bearings in this stool are subject to a thrust load.The bearing above is like the one in a barstool. It is loaded purely in thrust, and the entire load comes from the weight of the person sitting on the stool.The bearings in a car wheel are subject to both thrust and radial loads.The bearing above is like the one in the hub of your car wheel. This bearing has to support both a radial load and a thrust load. The radial load comes from the weight of the car, the thrust load comes from the cornering forces when you go around a turn.Types of BearingsThere are many types of bearings, each used for different purposes. These include ball bearings, roller bearings, ball thrust bearings, roller thrust bearings and tapered roller thrust bearings.Ball BearingsBall bearings, as shown below, are probably the most common type of bearing. They are found in everything from inline skates to hard drives. These bearings can handle both radial and thrust loads, and are usually found in applications where the load is relatively small.Photo courtesy The Torrington CompanyCutaway view of a ball bearingIn a ball bearing, the load is transmitted from the outer race to the ball, and from the ball to the inner race. Since the ball is...

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