Nearly every industry involved in the production of complex machinery relies upon bearings. These versatile devices are implemented alongside numerous components to provide friction reduction and motion limitation. One industry that relies extensively upon bearings is the automotive industry, with their application enhancing safety by extending the operational lifespan of vehicular elements. Within the bearing domain, there are several designs, each serving a unique purpose for particular applications. One such design that has become a staple in the automotive industry is the needle bearing which is finding use in multiple automobile components. In this blog, we will discuss everything you need to know about needle bearings and how they are being used in the automotive industry to promote safety and performance.
Mechanical bearings of all types help reduce friction between two moving or nonmoving parts, and they can also function to limit movement within a desired range. In general, bearings should feature high compressive and fatigue strength, dust particle aversion, and corrosion resistance. With those characteristics in place, bearings can be broadly classified as plain or rolling. Plain bearings rely on a thin layer of oil to help lubricate and provide a gap between two surfaces, whereas roller bearings feature various types of rolling elements to provide friction resistance.
Needle bearings are a specialized type of roller bearing that employs thin and long cylinders to protect against friction. What makes them unique when compared to other bearings is their high length-to-diameter ratio which provides a much larger surface area than other designs. This increase in surface area translates to a much more efficacious friction reduction profile while also keeping the overall assembly small and lightweight. In terms of strength, needle bearings perform similar to other designs in the same category, if not better. They are also the most cost-effective when compared to other bearings on a strength-to-weight ratio.
Needle bearings are chosen over other types in the automotive industry for several reasons. First, their load-bearing ability is much higher than similar bearings, particularly when accounting for their weight. Additionally, their superior friction resistance contributes to higher torque transmission while also requiring minimal clearance between the bearing and contact surfaces. We will now explore several applications for which needle bearings serve as the primary choice.
The transmission and differential gear produce significant amounts of force to be transmitted to the driveshaft and rear wheels. Without bearings, transmission components would quickly wear out and lose efficacy. Here, needle bearings with resistance to dirty oil should be chosen to provide the longest operational lifespan.
Rocker Arm Pivots
The rocker arm helps transfer force from a pushrod to an intake or exhaust valve. With constant contact between both components and regular movement, bearings are needed to prevent item failure and degradation. Since these elements are much smaller on average, needle bearings are favorable.
Bearings play a critical role in supporting the load of the pumps while also permitting smooth centrifugal motion. While most other roller bearings fail long before the ascribed theoretical lifespan, needle bearings show resilience against misalignment, vibration, and contamination.
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