Bearings are one of the most common assemblies in the world, providing smooth motion and friction reduction for moving parts in all industries. Without their presence, the metal-on-metal contacts of machines would quickly degrade, creating dangerous levels of heat and permanently causing damage. With such widespread use and numerous applications, it is not surprising that there are hundreds of bearing variations, each designed to accomplish a specific function. One of the most critical bearing types across the automotive, marine, and aerospace industries is the thrust bearing. These bearings, which are designed to support axial loads, are fundamental assemblies that will be discussed at length in this blog.
Before diving into the operating principles of thrust bearings, it is first necessary to review the definition of an axial load since it is this force that is supported by these assemblies. Simply stated, the axial load is the pressure applied to a surface perpendicular to the object's axis of rotation. The word "pressure" in this case is the proper mathematical version, which is defined as force over a given area. Depending on the configuration, the pressure applied to a weight-bearing component may vary considerably. For example, the pressure may be increased significantly with the addition of force or the reduction in area. Axial loads are also commonly referred to as thrust loads, which gives rise to the name of the assembly in question.
If a moving part was pushed out of its fixed axis by a load, it would immediately generate friction, heat, and degradation. When a thrust bearing is installed, it works to dissipate the axial load evenly, preventing unfavorable amounts of pressure from reaching the associated parts. Although thrust bearings are universal in action, their design may vary significantly based on the needs of the application.
For applications of low axial load, ball-bearing assemblies may be implemented as an affordable and reliable solution. However, This configuration significantly limits the axial load limits and cannot accommodate any radial loading.
Cylindrical Thrust Roller Bearings
Instead of employing bearing balls to distribute thrust, this assembly type relies upon thick cylinders, which are distributed evenly throughout the bearing and are pointed in the direction of the axis. This design is closest to the original "bearing," which involved moving a load across a series of logs to help distribute weight. Although cylindrical-type bearings have a higher axial capacity, they should also not be exposed to any radial load.
Tapered Roller Thrust Bearings
Used widely in the automotive industry, tapered roller bearings feature semi-conical rollers that all converge at a single point. This unique geometry allows the assembly to support both axial and radial loads, both with a higher capacity. Moreover, such bearings can be designed with rollers back-to-back so that axial loading may be supported from either direction. The major downside to this design is that it tends to generate more heat, owing to the greater surface area in contact with the bearing walls.
Spherical Roller Thrust Bearings
These assemblies combine elements from cylindrical and tapered roller bearings to create a product that can withstand higher axial and radial loads. Another benefit of this bearing is that it is self-aligning and can operate even in the face of shaft misalignment.
Instead of relying upon mechanical means alone, fluid bearings implement a pressurized gas or liquid between bearing surfaces. These devices provide the least internal friction since there are no moving surfaces while also maintaining a long operational lifespan. The major downside to this design is that the internal surfaces require a near-constant amount of fluid to be delivered, and if the application contains frequent starting and stopping, the bearings tend to lose efficacy.
Regardless of the assembly your application calls for, NSN Sphere has you covered with an unparalleled inventory, cost savings, and rapid lead times. We are an AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accredited enterprise with a NO-CHINA Sourcing policy, dedicated to providing customers with the highest quality products available. We are also the best choice for customers with shortened time requirements, with rapid shipping at all times supported by our robust global network of distribution centers. Feel free to give our team a call today if you have questions about any of the services we provide, or get started on the purchasing process immediately with the submission of an Instant RFQ form.
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