Steel ball bearings have been the industry standard for industrial electric equipment for many years. When most people think of steel, they think of strength and durability. Those are certainly important characteristics when it comes to engine components like bearings, but what if there were something even better out there?
Actually, there is.
Ceramic hybrid ball bearings are quickly becoming the go-to bearings for equipment with industrial electric motors—especially those that are controlled by variable frequency drives (VFDs). Ceramic hybrid bearings are superior in pretty much every way to steel bearings.
What Is a Ceramic Hybrid Ball Bearing?
A ceramic hybrid bearing is a type of ball bearing composed of a steel ring with silicon nitride (ceramic) balls inside. The best bearings use quality, aerospace-grade ceramic balls that will not chip, fracture, corrode, or fail, even under harsh conditions.
Read on to find out the distinct advantages that ceramic hybrid ball bearings have over traditional steel bearings.
When compared to all-steel bearings, ceramic hybrid bearings perform with 40% less friction, due to the fact that ceramic balls are rounder, lighter, and smoother than steel balls. This makes them more efficient because less friction leads to more power and less heat build-up. In addition, bearings made with ceramic balls require less lubrication.
Since silicon nitride is electrically non-conductive, ceramic hybrid bearings eliminate any chance of electrical arcing through the bearing. Electrical arcing is one of the leading causes of bearing damage.
Ceramic hybrid bearings have been shown to last up to ten times longer than comparable steel bearings. This means the bearings have to be replaced less frequently and there is less equipment downtime.
Downside of Ceramic Hybrid Bearings
I know what you’re thinking: “There must be some downside to ceramic hybrid bearings that you’re not telling me about. Otherwise, why wouldn’t everyone make the switch and render steel bearings obsolete?”
Currently, the only downside to ceramic hybrid bearings over their steel counterparts is the that the upfront price is higher. This is largely due to the fact that silicon nitride is a more expensive material than steel. However, when you take into account all of the factors listed above (especially the fact that ceramic hybrid bearings last much longer), any sticker shock goes away pretty quickly. All things considered, ceramic hybrid bearings provide an excellent return on investment.
In addition, there are bearing companies out there selling quality ceramic hybrid bearings at affordable prices, such as CBR Bearing. CBR is a smaller bearing company located in California that specializes in ceramic hybrid bearings. They keep many sizes in stock, ready to ship out same day. They also make custom bearings with short turnaround times and can convert certain steel bearings into ceramic hybrid bearings, which can also save money. CBR has an informative website with a blog that is regularly updated with information related to ceramic hybrid bearings. You can also place orders with them directly.