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What Are Precision Ball Bearings and Where Are They Used?

While most manufacturers use the word “precision” to refer to high quality bearings, precision ball bearings can refer to any ball bearing with a standardized level of precision capabilities. This most commonly refers to the ABEC scale, which provides standard measurements and tolerances for different levels of precision. These measurements include diameter and width of inner and outer rings, shape error, and smoothness of running surfaces. Therefore, almost all industries that use ball bearings also use precision ball bearings. For applications with high speed and accuracy requirements, super precision ball bearings are used, referring to bearings with relatively high performance quality. Common performance features include high accuracy, low noise production, controlled rigidity, long operating life, minimal friction and heat generation, suitable lubrication, and high rotational speed. Different types of precision bearings are used in different applications.


ABEC 1, 3, and 5 Bearings


Lower rated precision bearings are the most commonly used in a wide variety of industries. These usually include applications that do not have high speed requirements, such as skateboard and bicycle wheel bearings, and other slow moving objects such as a yo-yo. This does not mean the bearings are of low quality, as important factors such as material and engineering will provide high performance bearings for the relevant requirements. Other applications include:

  • agricultural equipment 

  • vehicles 

  • computer fans 

  • gearboxes 

  • pumps and motors 


ABEC 7 and 9 Bearings


These high rated ball bearings are often called super precision bearings, classified by exceptional accuracy and speed capabilities. Applications typically have specific performance requirements for high tech industries, such as:

  • aerospace 

  • robotics 

  • medical and surgical equipment 

  • machine tools 


Ceramic Ball Bearings


As stated before, there are a multitude of other factors not taken into account by the ABEC scale that influence bearing performance, including load capacity and material. A common category of precision bearings is ceramic or hybrid ball bearings, which are used in applications with challenging environments or strenuous conditions, such as underwater, vacuum, and high voltage environments. These applications include:

  • aerospace equipment 

  • submarines 

  • aircraft accessories 

  • dental handpieces 

  • centrifugal pumps 


Miniature and Instrument Bearings


Bearings falling below certain size measurements are classified as miniature, and are used for applications with limited space availability and high precision requirements, including:

  • industrial handpieces 

  • fishing reels 

  • power tools 

  • household devices 

  • air conditioners 


Angular Contact Ball Bearings


These bearings utilize axially asymmetrical raceways so that the angle of contact is the same for both the inner and outer race. They can support both radial and axial loads. Larger contact angles have higher load capabilities, while smaller contact angles have greater accuracy. Industries include:

  • agriculture 

  • chemical 

  • utilities 


Deep Groove Ball Bearings


In deep groove bearings, the raceway width is similar to the diameter of the balls. These bearings can support both axial and radial loads, similar to angular contact bearings, however they have greater load capacities compared to bearings with a shallower groove. They are the most common type of ball bearing used today, with applications such as:

  • electric motors 

  • fans 

  • conveyors 

  • compressors 

  • wind energy 

  • printing 

  • agricultural equipment 

  • food processing 

  • railway and transportation 

  • machine tools