Steel bearings have been the standard for many, many years now. And for some people, making a switch from an old standby to a new offering—no matter how promising—can be difficult. For most applications, steel bearings work perfectly fine, so why should someone even consider trying ceramic bearings—especially when they’re dealing with large, industrial equipment? As it turns out, there are many reasons to make the switch, some of which we discussed in this earlier blog post titled, Ceramic Ball Bearings vs. Steel Ball Bearings: Is There Any Real Difference?
First of all, we should mention that when people talk about ceramic bearings, they are typically referring to ceramic hybrid ball bearings. Ceramic hybrid bearings have ceramic balls and steel inner and outer races. Full ceramic bearings do exist, but they are less common and not recommended for most applications.
Ceramic Hybrid Bearings vs. Steel Bearings
When you think of steel, you probably think of an extremely hard material—the type of material you would want to use in heavy equipment. Believe it or not, the type of ceramic used in bearings is actually harder than steel, but at the same time, it is lighter and less dense. The relative lightness of the ceramic balls allows ceramic hybrid bearings to operate up to 40% faster than steel bearings, while using less energy to maintain that speed.
Ceramic balls are also smoother and rounder than steel balls. This results in better performance. Ceramic hybrid bearings can achieve higher speed at lower operating temperatures, due to less vibration and friction. There is also less need for lubrication in a high-quality ceramic hybrid ball bearing.
Because ceramic is chemically inert, the balls in ceramic hybrid bearings are naturally resistant to corrosion. Unlike steel, ceramic balls can stand up to corrosive materials such as acids, alkalis, and saltwater. This contributes to the durability of ceramic hybrid bearings, and also means they require less maintenance.
What About the Cost of Ceramic Hybrid Bearings?
It’s true that a ceramic hybrid bearing will typically cost more than a comparable steel bearing with the same dimensions. However, the difference in the initial cost is easily justified when you consider a couple of factors:
- Durability: A ceramic hybrid bearing can last up to ten times longer than a steel bearing. This means that not only will you be replacing your bearings less frequently when you go with ceramic, but you will also experience less equipment downtime.
- Less Maintenance: Because ceramic hybrid bearings run cooler and don’t need as much lubrication as steel bearings, maintenance intervals are increased without affecting the life of the bearing.
If you haven’t researched the cost of ceramic hybrid bearings recently, you might want to take another look. The prices on these bearings have come down considerably since they first began gaining popularity. Some of the larger bearing manufacturers may still charge a premium price for bearings with ceramic balls, but companies like CBR that specialize in ceramic have been able to bring the price down to a place where they’re much more affordable than they used to be.
If you have been considering making the switch from steel to ceramic bearings, but have some questions, feel free to contact us at CBR. We will give you all the information you need to make an informed decision.