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What are Roller Bearings and Their Types?

Roller bearings are a type of bearing that carry a load by placing rolling elements between two bearing rings, or races. The structure of the races allows the rolling elements to move with little rolling friction and sliding. These bearings are often found in aviation cargo systems, solar panels, power houses, and engines. Roller bearings serve a particularly important role in engines as they support the crankshaft and allow rotation during engine operation. Moreover, they have an increased load capacity and can be used under varying temperatures. Roller bearings come in different types with specified functions, so selecting the one that best fits your application is important. 

One such type is a needle roller bearing which has small cylindrical rollers that resemble needles. These bearings are often found in automobile components such as pumps, compressors, and transmissions. Their structure prevents stress peaks that typically shorten the bearing’s service life. They have a large surface area that consists of a needle cage which contains the needle rollers, and an outer race. There are two types of needle roller bearings, one with inner rings and one without inner rings. Needle roller bearings without an inner ring are often used with hardened and ground shafts, which offer increased stiffness. Meanwhile, bearings with an inner ring are ideal for applications where a hardened, ground shaft is not feasible.

Another type of roller bearing commonly used in a number of applications is a cylindrical roller bearing. This kind of bearing has a high radial-load capacity and moderate thrust loads. The rollers in this bearing are cylindrically-shaped and crowned to relieve stress concentration. Similar in design to needle roller bearings with the exception of the diameter and roller length being nearly equal in magnitude, these bearings come in either a single row or double row. Double row cylindrical bearings offer a greater radial capacity and can transmit an axial load in one direction. Similarly, single row cylindrical bearings offer increased radial capacity and are designed to be interchangeable, which makes mounting and dismounting effortless.

Spherical roller bearings are another type of roller bearing that is self-aligning, double row, and uses a spherical or crowned roller as the rolling element. These kinds of bearings are made to handle demanding conditions, allowing you to adjust for potential deviations in shaft alignment. Moreover, they work best for low- and medium-speed applications like sewing machines, printing, gearboxes, and more.

Tapered roller bearings are another such type that is capable of taking high radial and axial loads in one direction. They consist of a cone-shaped inner ring, a cup-shaped outer ring, a cage, and tapered rollers, all of which are aligned in a way that evenly distributes the load across the roller. When implemented to a system, tapered roller bearings create a line of contact between the raceway and the rolling element, effectively distributing loads across a large area. Common applications include axle systems, engine motors and reducers, wind turbines, and more.

The last type of roller bearing we will be covering is thrust bearings which are designed to carry pure thrust loads and have very little to no capacity for handling radial loads. These bearings are constructed with raceways machined into the faces of mating rings, and their profile supports a load that is parallel to the bearing axis. Moreover, unlike the other bearings, thrust bearings are available in tapered, cylindrical, spherical, and needle roller types which makes them a versatile component for many applications.

If you are in search of roller bearing cages, listed as “cage roller bearings,” flange bearing and bolt roller bearings, fasteners, or other specialized aircraft parts and NSN components, look no further than NSN Gamut. NSN Gamut is a leading distributor of all types of aviation tools and components necessary for aircraft maintenance.Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we offer customers access to an unparalleled inventory consisting of over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find parts. We set ourselves apart from other NSN and aircraft part distributors in the fact that our supply chain network stretches across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, ensuring expedited shipping times for both our domestic and international customers. Peruse our expansive online catalog, fill out our RFQ form, and find out why customers steadily rely on NSN Gamut time and time again.


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