What Are Ceramic Bearings Good For?
When riders upgrade their bikes, they want the most out of it – and one area that often gets overlooked is friction.
Ceramic bearings offer reduced friction, potentially saving cyclists up to six-to-nine watts of power based on some test data. Unfortunately, their advantages come at the price of higher maintenance costs which make it ceramic bearings hard for some cyclists to justify the added expense.
Ceramic bearings reduce friction by minimizing the force that the race groove exerts on a ball, due to their lighter weight which can be up to 40% less than steel balls. This also leads to less noise and wear on other components in your machine.
Hybrid ceramic bearings are also lubricated with a lighter grease than steel bearings, providing greater efficiency and increased lifespan.
Ceramic bearings boast lower friction than standard steel bearings, helping to prevent abrasion – the primary cause of failure in standard steel ones. This is especially beneficial for applications requiring dry running bearings such as semiconductor manufacturing.
Ceramic bearings offer greater longevity than steel ones due to their inability to expand or contract in hot temperatures like standard steel bearings do, allowing them to last much longer in extreme environments (heat/cold).
These same properties make them ideal for medical and surgical applications as well. For instance, they’re frequently utilized in cleanrooms since they don’t need lubrication and can withstand sterilisation processes without becoming contaminated.
Unfortunately, longevity cannot be ensured without proper maintenance and servicing. Regularly injecting light oil into the bearings is necessary to ensure smooth running and replacing balls when they become worn is a must.
Non-magnetic ceramic bearings are ideal for high speed, non-corrosive applications where steel alternatives cannot be used. They’re often chosen by medical robots and centrifuges that must withstand sterilisation environments.
Silicon Nitride, the primary material used in ceramic bearings, boasts an impressive strength-to-weight ratio and is 58% lighter than steel. This reduces centripetal force generated by rolling elements within the bearing, making it less vulnerable to shock loading.
Ceramic bearings also boast a lower coefficient of friction than their metal counterparts, combined with higher hardness to reduce heat generation at high speeds.
Ceramic bearings are notoriously difficult and costly to produce, so they must be manufactured under clean conditions. This is especially critical for smaller manufacturers that may only have a few people working on assembly of the bearings; any contamination could lead to premature failure.
Ceramic bearings offer an alternative to standard steel, which can rust and become contaminated by solutions. As non-corrosive, they make them suitable for many applications where contaminates must be avoided – such as mixing chemicals in medical equipment or other similar situations.
Medical and diagnostic equipment often requires precise specifications that must be met each time it’s used. Ceramic bearings are ideal for these demanding applications due to their non-contamination and non-magnetic qualities, as well as offering greater precision than metal bearings.
Corrosion resistance is one of the primary advantages of ceramic bearings over metal counterparts. Due to their chemically inert nature, corrosion is reduced or eliminated, leading to less maintenance needs and downtime.
Ceramic bearing ball materials typically used include zirconia (ZrO2), silicon nitride (Si3N4) and silicon carbide (SIC). These materials can withstand extreme temperatures and vacuum environments without needing lubrication.
SKF offers a selection of ceramic bearings tailored for specific applications. The all-ceramic ball and ring type provides high speed capabilities while being lighter in weight, plus they’re corrosion resistant and nonmagnetic.
In conclusion, ceramic bearings are good for a variety of applications that require reduced friction, longevity, non-magnetic properties, a sanitary environment, and corrosion resistance. They offer greater efficiency and increased lifespan compared to steel bearings, making them ideal for high-speed and extreme temperature environments. However, they do come with a higher maintenance cost and may not be suitable for all applications. It is important to select the right type of ceramic bearing tailored for a specific application to ensure optimal performance. SKF provides a range of ceramic bearings designed to meet different requirements, offering high speed capabilities while being lighter in weight, corrosion-resistant, and nonmagnetic.