Types of Ball Bearings and How They Work

A ball is an elastic round object usually with a diameter of around three feet and a thickness of about one inch. It is typically used in sports, in which the game of ball playing follows the normal motion of that of the ball once it is being hit, tossed or thrown. Balls can also be played for simpler activities, like juggling or catch.


Ball bearings are used to reduce friction. Friction occurs when two objects make contact with each other and their relative speeds produce deformation in the shape of the contact patch. The objects may be soft or hard, elastic or rigid. Elastic balls can be deformed at the point of contact without deforming the surrounding parts.

Because of this property of elasticity, ball bearings have the advantage of providing a mechanical advantage in applications where high levels of friction are found, for instance, in ball bearings in cranes and other heavy equipment, air compressors and turbines, hand tools, printing presses, and some types of toys. The larger a bearing has to be to provide adequate counter-balance force against the torque of the moving object, the more expensive the bearing will be. High-performance steel balls are made from a special alloy that ensures high levels of friction resistance, ensuring low friction and high levels of efficiency. They are used in a variety of applications including oilfield gear boxes, bearing housings for forklifts, and hand tool axles.

High-performance bearings require good cooling to ensure maximum life and performance. To cool bearings, they are installed inside a cooling chamber, usually made of solid cast iron, to remove heat generated during operation. Cooling is usually achieved with water cooling systems. A drawback of ball bearing cooling chambers is that the temperature and pressure change continuously, making for inefficient use of energy. This means that the bearings will not remain balanced when changes in load or temperature occur.

Ceramic balls are an alternative to ceramic ball bearings. They have similar properties but are cheaper to manufacture and more cost-effective to use. They also have higher load capacities than both the former and the latter. However, they do suffer from a decreased level of reliability compared to their metal counterparts.

For axial loads, which include almost all axial loads, high-performance balls are the ideal choice. Ceramic balls are also highly suited for applications involving high stress and high speeds. However, while they are cost-effective and versatile, they may not offer the longevity of ball bearing structures. Their superior longevity can be attributed to their design and construction. In addition, while they are more affordable compared to other ball bearing products, their relatively small size makes them difficult to mount on machinery.