What causes roller bearings to fail and break?

What causes roller bearings to fail and break?

Roller bearings are small components of a mechanical process that requires two parts to be connected without friction. Although they are cheap as a single part, their failure can be the cause of thousands of hours of downtime.

This frictionless resistance (or rather, friction-reduced resistance) is a critical factor in ensuring that infrastructure remains consistent and the likelihood of damage is low. This is because a ball or roller bearing typically consists of an inner ring with rotating parts and an outer ring connected to static elements.

Not surprisingly, these two opposing components can cause roller and ball bearings to fail and break. Usually, these failures are due to problems such as corrosion, age, overloading, or lubrication. However, it is important to recognize the symptoms of all aspects of rolling bearing failure in order to act accordingly and perform important preventive, predictive, and reactive maintenance to reduce costs and downtime. Visit also: Ball Bearings Self Align Series

This article presents the most common causes of rolling bearing failure and the reasons for these factors:

1. lubrication contamination

Protecting the bearing from contamination is key to ensuring continued smooth operation and lubrication integration. Without proper lubrication practices, bearing failures can occur.  If foreign matter gets into the bearing or the bearing’s lubricant, you must filter the bearing.

As part of preventive and predictive maintenance strategies, it is important to look for discoloration, improper lubricant usage, overheating, lubricant leaks, slowed operation, grooves in the race, and excessive wear in the bearing.

To identify this problem, you need to establish a maintenance plan that looks for the use of heavy-duty seals, accumulation of debris around the bearing, washing of hands and tools when handling the bearings, worn seals, use of excessive amounts of grease, and cracks or vibration in the raceways of the bearing.

You can also read one of the best practices for bearing maintenance, how to fill a tapered roller bearing with grease, here.

2. corrosion

When purchased, bearings are packaged and sealed with a corrosion-inhibiting material. However, this material wears off after they are opened. Only when they are ready to be installed should they be unpacked, inspected, and given a protective coating before being inserted into the mechanism. When they are not ready for use, they must be stored in a place with 22 °C and 60% humidity.

If a bearing has been exposed to dirt, dust, sand, or other oils, it may corrode and rust, causing abrasion. This can severely affect performance quality and is likely to cause seizures, resulting in downtime and possible breakage of connecting parts.

To identify corrosion, look for red or brown rust, vibrating bearings, or reduced load capacity. Then, obtain a bearing from a trusted bearing supplier and make sure the new bearings have additional protective coatings and external seals for the harsh factory environment.

3. overload

Overloading a bearing is when the bearing operates well beyond the manufacturer’s specified guidelines for temperature, load weight, and processing speed. In these cases, a bearing is likely to show signs of wear and fatigue, as well as signs of temperature overheating and wear marks on the rolling elements.

In these cases, the only solution is to procure a new bearing as soon as possible to avoid further damage and/or production line downtime. When sourcing a new bearing, it is important to either look for a bearing with an increased load to compensate or change the design of the mechanism. When you contact a bearing supplier, they will refer you to a quality manufacturer and advise you on the best bearing for the job.

4. false brinelling

False brinelling (not to be confused with true brinelling) occurs when the bearing is subjected to extreme vibration or wear, even when the inner ring remains static. This can wear out the lubrication and cause linear wear marks in the axial direction.

Causes of False Brinelling include improper or careless transportation of the bearing or the entire mechanism.

To combat the effects of False Brinelling both preventatively and proactively, use lubricants at the recommended dosage and ensure that the entire mechanism has effective shock-absorbing properties to prevent vibration from affecting the bearing. Without this care, you will need to obtain a replacement roller bearing.

5. shielding

Some roller bearings can be manufactured or purchased with shielding options to suit the application. However, if shielding is not used for the bearing balls or the bearing rollers, it can pave the way for other problems such as contamination.

For most types of bearings in radial and axial designs, there are two main types of shields. The first can be steel, which seals the bearing from dust particles and other contaminants that are common in the field. The second is plastic, which hugs the bearing and protects against contamination from oil or lubricants. In this regard, good plastic shielding can also maintain lubricant levels in the bearing. This reduces the need for further maintenance and relubrication.

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