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How do ball bearings reduce friction?

Remember the three-pronged, hand-held fidget spinner that spun with a simple hand movement and twirled endlessly between your fingers, becoming the low-tech therapeutic gadget of 2017?

How could it spin so fast without stopping? What was the physics behind it?

In one (maybe two) words: ball bearings.

When two objects slide against each other, friction keeps them from moving smoothly. However, when you have an object rolling against another surface, rolling friction turns out to be much weaker than sliding friction because the point of contact between the two surfaces is very insignificant.

Ball bearings produce extremely low friction. Think of watch movements, jet engine shafts, and skateboard wheels, all of which have ball bearings of varying quality and coefficient of friction.

Even in fidget spinners, these bearings are located in the center of the toy between the “inner race” and the “outer race” of the toy. By replacing sliding friction with rolling friction, the small ball bearings are used to reduce the friction of moving parts of a machine or device.

In other words, ball bearings are used for improved linear or rotational motion about a fixed axis.

However, a high-quality ball bearing is a matter of precision. These bearings are finely ground and machined to high tolerances to produce a polished surface. Therefore, finding trustworthy ball bearing suppliers is critical for the long-lasting, smooth movement of machinery.

How can ball bearings reduce friction?

The rings and ball bearings are precision machined to high tolerances and high roundness. The ball bearings and ball raceways are highly polished to allow frictionless rotation. This reduces frictional torque, or you might say rotational resistance.

Although unlubricated bearings have the lowest rotational resistance or friction, high-quality steel bearings must be lubricated until rotational speeds become very low.

By using a low-torque oil, these bearings will be lubricated depending on the running time and speed of the machine and may need to be constantly lubricated with grease or lubricants. In fact, bearings without proper lubrication can lead to premature failure.

An alternative to this is the protected ball bearing, which is a pre-lubricated bearing with a low-torque (friction) grease that provides a constant film of oil between the raceways and the balls while dissipating heat at the contact points.

Without ball bearings, there would be excessive production of heat and noise energy. Take the example of a vehicle wheel mounted on a stationary shaft without a  bearing: the inner wheel would rub against the shaft, causing friction and thus stopping the motion. In addition, constant metal-to-metal contact leads to wear and the generation of thermal energy (and noise, too).

Fortunately, there are enough low-friction technologies available today to enable frictionless and frictionless motion.

Where are ball bearings used?

Ball bearings are used in a wide variety of applications and are cost-effective for many industries and products. This type of bearing is typically used in high-speed, low-load applications. Bearings are used in the manufacture of everyday items such as blenders, skateboards, and hard drives for maximum performance and functionality.

For industrial applications, bearings are primarily used in the following industries:

Automotive industry

Ball bearings are used in important parts of automobiles such as the engine, driveshaft, steering column, wheels, and drivetrain. These bearings help improve vehicle performance, reduce friction, lower carbon dioxide emissions, and increase fuel efficiency. They also allow vehicles to realign themselves when traveling over rough terrain and dampen shock and vibration during sudden braking. Various types of ball bearings are used in motor vehicles, such as deep groove ball bearings, tapered roller bearings, and thrust bearings.

Electrical energy

Most power generation methods today use electromagnetic induction. Which requires a conductor to move relative to a magnetic field to generate electricity. Ball bearings are commonly used to provide the rotational motion that generates electricity in turbines. These bearings are also found in other equipment. Such as pumps, compressors, and electric motors in coal, wind, and hydroelectric power plants. In wind turbines, bearings are used in subcomponents such as rotor shafts, gearboxes, and generators.

Food and beverage industry

In the food and beverage industry, bearings are often involved in several stages of the manufacturing process. For example,  bearings are used to move various products from one part of the plant to another, often at high speeds and with a high degree of accuracy. Ball bearings are also critical to improving overall cost efficiency and play a critical role in process automation. Conveyor belts in the food and beverage industry, cutting machines, and form and fill machines all require ball bearings to perform their tasks.

In summary, bearings effectively reduce friction between moving parts of a machine by taking advantage of simple physics. They replace sliding friction with rolling friction. They improve both linear and rotary motion about a fixed axis. For details, please visit:


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