Friction vs. Anti-Friction Bearings

Posted on May 3, 2024

Bearings provide smooth rolling motion that can help machines function with less wear or friction. The less friction generated, the less energy is lost through heat. However, different machines require different types of bearings, and choosing the right kind will optimize the equipment’s day-to-day operations, long-term maintenance needs, and reliability. Learn more about the key differences between friction vs. anti-friction bearings to select the right type for your needs.

What Are Friction Bearings?

A friction bearing is a fixed, stationary surface that supports a sliding or rotating surface. Because of the direct contact between the mating components, friction bearings require lubricating oil to help separate them and minimize friction. Friction bearing materials are usually softer than the material of the supported component.

Examples of friction bearings include bushing bearings and sleeve bearings. These bearings are typically more cost-effective than roller or ball bearings, and they can be used in a wide array of environments, even underwater and in confined spaces.

What Are Anti-Friction Bearings?

Anti-friction bearings have rolling elements that support sliding or rotating surfaces. They typically consist of hardened rolling elements like rollers or balls contained in races, and a separator maintains the alignment and position of the rolling elements. Compared to friction bearings, anti-friction bearings don’t need as much lubrication and produce less friction, resulting in less engine power needed to rotate components. They are ideal for handling higher loads and/or operating moving machinery at higher speeds.

Some of the most common types of anti-friction bearings are:

  • Ball bearings: These bearings feature metal balls between bearing races, which minimize the total point of contact.
  • Needle bearings: Rather than having balls in the housing, needle bearings have thin cylindrical rods that sit on shafts rather than rings.
  • Roller bearings: These bearings have rollers of different styles that can bear axial, radial, and thrust loads.

Friction vs. Anti-Friction Bearing

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Friction vs. Anti-Friction Bearings

Both types of bearings can help reduce friction and wear from moving parts, but they each have their unique advantages. Friction bearings are solid, non-moving parts ideal for simply designed configurations. However, they can wear out quickly because of the greater surface contact and friction, and they will need ongoing lubrication and maintenance.

Anti-friction bearings are more complex, but they produce much less friction between mating components while facilitating fast and agile motion. All of the friction is restricted to the bearings’ rolling elements, significantly reducing overall machine wear. Anti-friction bearings cost more but have a wider range of applications. They are available at various price points with worldwide sourcing.

Sleeve Bearings vs. Anti-Friction Bearings

Sleeve bearings are a type of friction bearing composed of an outer sleeve that mates with the shaft being supported. They have a simple design that absorbs vibration and motion, and they're commonly used for simple but heavy-duty applications. Manufacturers can build sleeve bearings from materials including:

  • Babbitt
  • Bronze
  • Glass-filled Teflon
  • Nylon
  • Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW)

Contact Emerson Bearing for Your Friction and Anti-Friction Bearing Needs

At Emerson Bearing, we specialize in both friction and anti-friction bearings. Contact our team today to learn about our inventory of standard components or options for custom projects. When you're ready, request a quote to start your order.



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