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Material Selection: Different Options for Thin Section Bearings

Material Selection: Different Options for Thin Section Bearings

February 6, 2020

Deciding on the right thin section bearing materials are like choosing what you wear – you need to dress your parts up for the right occasion. For example, it doesn’t make sense to invest in a standard bearing material if it’ll lead to early bearing failure or other issues. Likewise, it doesn’t make sense to pay for a premium material if a standard solution can handle your performance needs.

Proper material selection is very important for your thin section bearings. Let’s break down the various material options for these parts and why they may make sense for your needs.

Chrome Steel

Also known as carbon steel, this material is one of the most common options you’ll find for bearings. The 52100 bearing steel is a high carbon, low alloy steel that contains chromium. Thanks to its makeup properties, this material provides excellent strength and fatigue properties for operating temperatures less than 400 degrees Fahrenheit. These features make chrome steel a great choice for most general applications in need of thin section bearings.

Available chrome steel bearing options

  • R – no seals or shields
  • RJ – two seals
  • RN – thin dense chrome plating
  • RL – thin dense chrome plating with two seals
  • RH – one seal

Tool Steel

M50 tool steel is a molybdenum type material that works as an intermediate high-speed solution. The increase molybdenum gives this material option increased wear resistance, as well as strength for temperatures up to 800 degrees. In addition, M-50 tool steel boasts good oxidation resistance and high compressive characteristics. These characteristics makes M-50 tool a good option for bearings used in higher temperature environments that demand increased resistances, such as those for aircraft.

Available tool steel bearing options

  • RM – no seals or shields

Stainless Steel

If you have an application that operates at very high temperatures or demands clean room conditions, 440C stainless steel may be the right material for your needs. Stainless steel provides much better corrosion and chemical resistance than standards steels, making it an attractive choice for any application where potential product contamination is a major issue, such as food processing or semiconductor equipment manufacturing. Stainless steel also offers high stability in high temperature, although it’s also softer than lower-temperature options. However, this can be overcome by choosing a stainless steel part that meets your performance needs.

Available stainless steel bearing options

  • RS – no shields or seals
  • RW – two seals


While ceramic isn’t an option for the inner and outer races, you can opt for a hybrid thin section bearing made with steel raceways and cages and ceramic balls. Ceramic offers a few advantages other standard steel balls, starting with ceramic being a lighter material than steel. In addition, ceramic offer higher corrosion resistance and high-temperature capabilities up to 1,800 degrees.

Unlike steel, ceramic is also nonconductive, which makes it an appealing option for certain electrical applications. However, ceramic balls are more expensive than standard metal ones. Of course, this additional cost may be well worth the price depending on your exact performance and environmental requirements.

Available bearing options with ceramic balls

  • RX – chrome steel
  • RY – stainless steel with no seals or shields

Find the Right Bearing Material for Your Applications

There are several different factors that can impact the success of your thin section bearings, so it’s crucial to invest in the right parts for your specific needs. At SSB, we have the components and expertise available to tailor our inventory to your requirements. If you already know what you want, you can build your own custom thin section bearing through our SSB product builder. If not, contact us today to have one of our experts identify a solution for your performance needs and budget.

Solving Challenges in the Food and Beverage Industry with Food-Grade Bearings

Solving Challenges in the Food and Beverage Industry with Food-Grade Bearings

September 30, 2019

Every industry is different, which means that one bearing product may be better for one market than another. When it comes to the food and beverage industry, there are several issues that can impact the success of your bearings, including:

  • Extreme temperatures (both high and low)
  • Excessive moisture and chemicals due to continuous cleaning
  • Adherence to strict hygiene standards and regulations
  • The potential of product getting in your parts

Many or all these factors can come into play depending on your application. As a result, it’s crucial to find a food-grade bearing solution that caters to your exact needs. Here are some ways your bearings can address certain issues in the food and beverage industry.

Prepare for Extreme Temperatures

It’s not uncommon for food and beverage applications to encounter both high and low temperatures depending on the nature of the product being made. Each temperature range can cause issues if you use bearing products not designed for hot or cold environments.

High temperatures can cause a couple of bearing issues, starting with lubrication problems. Excessive heat can cause grease to purge its oil, which lessens that lubricant effectiveness and potentially even make the bearing seize up over time. High temperatures can also reduce the hardness of bearing metals if the right material isn’t used, which can lead to early failure.

Like heat, colder temperatures can also impact bearing lubricants. Low ambient temperatures affect lubricant viscosity for both oils and grease and can restrict the flow of lubrication to the bearings. As a result, colder environments can cause excessive friction and damage to the bearing without the proper parts.

To address temperature issues, it’s important to invest in parts designed for your specific environment. Special high- or low-temperature lubricants will resist the affects of temperature change better than standard solutions, while temperature-graded materials will better retain their hardness over time.

Deal with Excess Water and Wash Down Chemicals

Water and cleaning chemicals are no strangers for food-grade bearings. Regular required wash downs present quite a few problems for bearings not designed to encounter frequent contact with moisture or strong cleaning solutions.

One major issue with water and chemicals is that they can cause bearings to corrode over time. Not only does corrosion impact the lifespan of your parts, it can also cause corroded particles to come in contact with your products and contaminate them. Those are both massive issues that can be solved by investing in materials that are resistant to corrosion, like stainless steel.

Another problem with wash downs is that the process can blow the lubricants used in your bearings straight out of the parts themselves. With no lubrication, bearings will not be able to perform the way you had planned and will require you to replace those parts much sooner than you intended. Solid lubricants are like a sponge that releases oil while running and sucks it back up when stopped. This option helps you protect the lubrication while the bearing is not in use.

Embrace Strict Hygiene Standards

In addition to preventing corrosion, bearings must meet food safety concerns in other ways. Over time, there is a chance that a bearing’s lubrication may leak out of the part. While this isn’t an issue in some industries, it’s a major problem when something made for human consumption is involved.

To address this issue, it’s important to use food-grade bearing lubrication that will be fine if it happens to come in contact with food or beverage products. The USDA has set grades for these lubricants depending on where your bearings are used:

  • H1 – Designed for food processing environments with some possibility of incidental food contact
  • H2 – Designed for equipment and machine parts in where there’s no chance that lubricants or lubricated surfaces will contact food
  • H3 – Designed to clean and prevent rust on equipment like hooks or trolleys

Prevent Food from Getting in Your Bearings

Not only is it important to keep the contents of your bearings from getting into your products, it’s also good to keep your product from getting into your bearings. Depending on your applications, there is a chance that dough, meat, or any other substance may become lodged inside of your bearings. As you may expect, bearings aren’t going to work very well when jammed up with food.

Fortunately, a good seal can help you shield your bearings from intrusive food or beverage products. An option like a Buna seal can help you keep foreign debris like food and other contaminants out of your bearings while aiding in keeping lubricants in your parts.

Find the Right Food-Grade Bearings with Slim Section Bearings

Even if you know what challenges you face, it’s not always easy to find the right bearing solutions for food and beverage applications. At Slim Section Bearings, we can help you identify which thin section bearings are best for your situation, whether that involves a standard part or custom food grade bearings. Contact us today to talk to our experts about your bearings needs today.