Bearing Types & Applications

Bearing is a mechanical element that drives relative motion to only the desired motion. It helps in reducing the friction between the moving parts. They come in different types based on the types of operation, the motions allowed, or the direction of loads applied to the parts. So, the users need to know all the types and their suitable uses to get good results in their implementations. There are about 6 common types of bearings that work on different principles. Let’s dig into each type of bearing and its uses to get a wider vision.

Types of bearings and their uses:

1. Sliding Bearing - It comprises a shaft rotating in a hole. They come in various styles like bushing, journal, sleeve, rifle, composite type. They are designed in such a way that it can freely move in one dimension between structural elements. It is one of the simplest forms of bearing that possesses just a bearing surface and no rolling element. They are cheaper in rates. Also, they are compact in size and light in weight with a high load-carrying capacity.

Sliding Bearing

Uses: Its common application includes structural support of bridges and industrial buildings. They are used for sliding, rotating, oscillating or reciprocating motion.

2. Rolling element Bearing - It is the form of the rolling element that is placed between the turning and stationary objects. It is added to prevent the sliding friction. The relative motion of the races allows the rolling element to roll with less rolling resistance and sliding effect. It has a line contact that provides a higher load rating than ball bearing of the same size. It can also withstand high axial loads.

Uses: It is majorly used for rotary applications with the help of a rolling element. They are used in power generation, wind turbines, rolling mills, gear drives, etc.

It has 2 main types namely -

A. Ball-Bearing

B. Roller Bearing

A. Ball Bearing - It has a rolling element in a spherical shape. It helps in reducing rotational friction and supporting radial and axial loads. They have a lower load capacity due to the smaller contact area between balls and races. They are preferred for high speeds and precision.

Uses: They are primarily used in machinery that has shafts requiring support for low friction rotation. They are used in computer fans, aerospace jet engine shafts, skateboard wheel, fidget spinner toy, etc.

It has 4 subcategories that include -

i. Deep groove Ball Bearing

ii. Angular contact Ball Bearing

iii. Self-aligning Ball Bearing

iv. Thrust Ball Bearing

i. Deep groove Ball Bearing - It is known as a single row type and its versatility and performance is at its best. They have an inner and outer ring with circular arcs of a bit larger radius than that of balls. It comes at low cost, requires less maintenance, has low noise, and easy to install.

Deep groove Ball Bearing

Uses: It is used in mechanical engineering tasks like transmissions of helicopters and onboard equipment. They are used in various industrial machines, gearboxes, motors, pumps, etc.

ii. Angular contact Ball Bearing - In this type forces are transferred from one race to the other at a particular angle. Thus it is suitable for the case of combined loads where high axial forces have to be transferred to radial forces.

Angular contact Ball Bearing

Uses: They are ideally used in gearboxes, pumps, electric motors, clutches, or other high-speed applications. They are also used in material handling, machine tools, steel mills, and the wind energy sector.

iii. Self-aligning Ball Bearing - It has a double row of balls in a cage and a continuous spherical outer ring raceway. It helps in fixing the issue of misalignment between the shaft and housing. It is suitable for absorbing radial forces.

Self-aligning Ball Bearing

Uses: It is most commonly used in fan applications, textile segments, etc.

iv. Thrust Ball Bearing - It has 2 discs with raceways for the balls. It is designed solely for absorbing axial forces in one direction. Thus, they can locate the shaft axially in one direction.

Thrust Ball Bearing

Uses: They are commonly used in automotive, marine, and aerospace applications. They are also used in main and tail rotor blade grips of radio-controlled helicopters. They are used in cars and radio antenna masts to reduce the load on an antenna rotor.

B. Roller Bearing - It is the element that carries a load by placing the rolling element between two bearing rings called races. It is used to reduce rotational friction and support radial and axial loads.

Uses: They are widely used in heavy equipment and machinery to power generation, manufacturing, and aerospace.

It has 4 subcategories that include -

i. Spherical Roller Bearing

ii. Cylindrical Roller Bearing

iii. Tapered Roller Bearing

iv. Needle Roller Bearing

i. Spherical Roller Bearing - They work on the same principle as that of the self-aligning bearing. They help in fixing the issue of misalignment between the shaft and housing. They are suitable for absorbing high radial loads and moderate axial loads.

Spherical Roller Bearing 

Uses: Its common applications include gearboxes, wind turbines, material handling, pumps, fans and blowers, mining and construction equipment, etc.

ii. Cylindrical Roller Bearing - It is designed to carry heavy radial loads and is suitable for high-speed applications. They either have inner or outer rings with 2 ribs and another ring has one. They are thus capable of taking some axial load in one direction.

Cylindrical Roller Bearing

Uses: They are used in many air-crafts, jet engines, electric motors, brushes of machines, turbo compressors, tachometer generators, etc.

iii. Tapered Roller Bearing - They have conical raceways and support both radial and axial loads. They are more expensive and can carry heavy loads than ball bearings.

Tapered Roller Bearing

Uses: They are installed in reducers, wheels of landing gears, in heavy equipment and machinery to power generations, manufacturing, and aerospace, etc.

iv. Needle Roller Bearing - It has long thin cylindrical rollers that look like needles. They are used to reduce the friction of the rotating surface.

Needle Roller Bearing

Uses: They are widely used in automobile components such as pumps, compressors, and transmissions, industrial bearing, aircraft construction equipment, gasoline engines, etc.

3. Jewel Bearing - It is the bearing having the surface made up of ultra-hard glassy jewel material such as sapphire or ruby to reduce the friction and wear & tear factor. The system possesses a metal spindle that turns into a jewel lined pivot hole. They are known for low friction, long life, and dimensional accuracy.

Jewel Bearing

Uses: They are used in precision instruments, mechanical watches, galvanometers, compasses, dial calipers, turbine flow meters, etc.

4. Fluid Bearing - It is also known as non-contact bearing where the load is supported by gas or liquid called an air bearing. It has near-zero wear if operated properly. They are mostly used in high load, high speed, or high precision applications. Hydrodynamic and hydro-static bearings are its 2 types.

Fluid Bearing

Uses: They are used in high-speed turbine applications, air hockey is based on the air bearing, ice skating based on the hydrodynamic fluid bearing, etc.

5. Magnetic Bearing - It is a type of bearing in which the load is supported by a magnetic field. It supports moving parts without any physical contact. It works at high speed and has no maximum relative speed. They do not suffer from wear, friction, and experience very low vibration.

Magnetic Bearing

Uses: They are used in various industrial applications such as electrical power generation, petroleum refinement, machine tool operation, and natural gas handling. They are also used in the centrifuge and turbo-molecular pumps.

6. Flexure Bearing - The tool that supports the motion by a load element which bends. They are one of the forms of compliant mechanisms. It requires no lubrication and experiences no friction. They are compact, lightweight, and easy to repair.

Flexure Bearing 

Uses: As they operate by bending of materials that cause the motion at the microscopic level, thus the friction is standard. Thus, they are often used in sensitive precision measuring equipment.


Bearings find application in  every industry that comprises components and equipment. It’s important  to keep in mind various factors such as bearing friction, temperature, and lubrication while selecting these bearings. Also, the design and construction of bearing does have an impact on performance . Factors such material, seal, race, locating, and maximum static and dynamic loads should be evaluated while choosing bearings.

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