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What Is a Ball Bearing?

Often, we encounter the question, ‘What is a ball bearing?’ This seemingly simple query opens the door to a world of intricate engineering. In this article, we delve into the specifics of a ball bearing, exploring its structure, mechanism, and pivotal role in modern machinery. From its basic design to its critical function in reducing friction and wear in mechanical systems, we unravel why a ball bearing becomes essential in various industry applications.

How Does a Ball Bearing Work?

A ball bearing is a precision mechanical assembly that reduces friction and allows smooth motion between moving parts. It consists of an inner race attached to a rotating shaft, an outer race that encases it, and spherical balls rolling between the races.

When there is a relative motion between the inner and outer races, the spherical balls roll to facilitate smooth movement, minimizing direct contact. This functionality helps reduce friction and evenly distributes loads, preventing concentrated wear on specific points.

The rolling action of the balls, facilitated by precision manufacture and even spacing by a cage, is key to ensuring the durability and efficiency of the mechanism in various applications.

Different Types of Ball Bearings

The following are several common types of ball bearings, each designed to meet specific requirements:

  • Miniature bearings: These are small-sized bearings intended for applications with limited space and low load requirements. They are commonly used in precision instruments, small motors, and other devices where reduced size and weight are essential.
  • Extra-miniature bearings: These are smaller than standard miniature ball bearings designed for ultra-compact applications with limited space. They are utilized in specialized devices that demand the smallest possible components.
  • Flanged bearings: These ball bearings have an extended flange, or lip, on one side of the outer ring. This feature serves as a support and helps in axial positioning, making them suitable for applications requiring stability and precise alignment.
  • Thrust bearings: These are designed to manage axial loads, supporting forces that act parallel to the shaft’s direction. They employ rolling elements (balls or rollers) or sliding surfaces to facilitate smooth axial movement.
  • High-precision angular contact bearings: These specialized bearings manage precise rotational movements at specific contact angles. They are widely used in applications demanding tight tolerances and minimal deflection.

Materials Used in Manufacturing Ball Bearings

Manufacturing ball bearings involves selecting materials tailored to meet specific performance criteria such as load capacity, speed, durability, and corrosion resistance. For example, high-carbon chromium alloy steel components provide exceptional strength, whereas stainless steel bearings excel in corrosion resistance.

There are also ceramic options — composed of silicon nitride or zirconia — popular for their high hardness and lightweight properties. Plastic can also be used to prioritize weight reduction and corrosion resistance. Another option is titanium materials, which are ideal in specialized applications due to their excellent strength-to-weight ratio.

Applications of Ball Bearings Across Industries

Ball bearings find wide-ranging uses across various industries. Some notable applications include:

  • Automotive: wheel hubs, transmissions, engines, and steering systems
  • Industrial machinery: conveyor systems, pumps, compressors, and electric motors
  • Aerospace: aircraft engines, landing gear, and control systems
  • Medical devices: dental drills, surgical instruments, and diagnostic devices
  • Construction and mining: heavy machinery, such as excavators, bulldozers, and cranes
  • Marine: ship propulsion systems, steering mechanisms, and other maritime equipment

Ball Bearing Maintenance Tips for Optimal Performance

Here are essential care and maintenance tips to enhance the performance and longevity of your ball-bearing components:


Regular lubrication reduces friction between bearing components, minimizing wear and maintaining long-term smooth, efficient performance. It is advisable to adhere to manufacturer guidelines when selecting the appropriate lubricant and ensure its application at the recommended intervals.


Regular inspections of seals help identify any damage or wear and ensure prompt replacement. Re-sealing prevents dust, moisture, and other harmful contaminants from entering the bearing housing and internal components.


Proper alignment of shafts and bearings prevents uneven loading and premature wear. Alignment checks help maintain optimal performance, reducing the risk of misalignment-related issues that could compromise the bearing’s efficiency.

Routine Inspections

Periodic inspections are a preventative measure that may reveal early wear, damage, or unusual sound indicators. When performed at scheduled times, these examinations enable maintenance staff to identify and address possible ball-bearing concerns before they escalate. This reduces the possibility of unexpected failures.

SPB-USA: Your Trusted Source for High-Quality Ball Bearings

If you’re looking for a trusted manufacturer of top-notch ball bearings, look no further than SPB-USA! Explore our range of precision miniature and medium-sized bearings, available in inch and metric dimensions and various materials. We are ISO 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 14001 certified, ensuring that we meet the needs of OEM users and industrial distributors.

Contact us to understand more about our EZO precision ball bearings, or request a quote to get started!

Essential Bearing Tolerance Insights

Click to ExpandEssential Bearing Tolerance Insights

Precision tolerance is essential in machinery and mechanical systems, particularly for the operation and performance of ball bearings. These small yet indispensable components ensure the smooth functioning of various industrial machinery. Therefore, engineers, designers, and manufacturers must understand the significance of bearing tolerance, as it directly affects system efficiency, durability, and performance.

This article will delve into ball bearing tolerance and its significance in mechanical systems.

What Is Bearing Tolerance?

Bearing tolerance is the acceptable range of differences in a ball bearings dimensions and geometry. It establishes the permissible limits within which the key components can deviate from their specified measurements while maintaining the intended functionality. These include the ring diameters, ball size and shape, raceway curvature, and clearance between rolling elements and bearing surfaces.

Tolerance is crucial in bearing manufacturing, ensuring consistency and precision in producing these critical components. The tolerance level directly affects the load capacity, rotational accuracy, friction, heat generation, and overall system performance. Furthermore, bearings manufactured with tighter tolerances exhibit minimal variation in dimensions. This results in improved load distribution, reduced frictional losses, and enhanced energy efficiency.

Annular Bearings Engineers Committee (ABEC) Tolerance Ratings

Established by the American Bearing Manufacturers Association (ABMA), the ABEC tolerance ratings provide a systematic framework to measure ball bearings precision and accuracy. They range from 1 to 9, with higher numbers indicating tighter tolerances and greater precision. They also provide reference points to help engineers, designers, and manufacturers select bearings for specific applications.

The ABEC ratings consist of five main tolerance classes: ABEC 1, ABEC 3, ABEC 5, ABEC 7, and ABEC 9. Each category signifies a higher level of precision and tighter tolerance specifications than the previous one.

  • ABEC 1is a precision mechanical component that meets basic requirements.
  • ABEC 3offers an additional precision level with tighter tolerances regarding dimensional variations.
  • ABEC 7possesses smaller variances than ABEC 5, ensuring exceptional accuracy in dimension and geometry.
  • ABEC 9represents the highest precision level, with extremely tight tolerances allowing minimal dimensional variations.

Specifications Based on ABEC Standards

ABEC ratings primarily focus on dimensional tolerances and do not encompass other critical factors such as material quality, lubrication, or load capacity. Nevertheless, here is an overview of some specifications dictated based on ABEC standards:

Inner Ring Diameter

ABEC standards specify the allowable range of inner ring diameters for ball bearings. For example, in ABEC 1, the inner ring diameter may have a tolerance range of ±0.0254 mm (±0.001 in.). Meanwhile, the tolerance range could be as tight as ±0.0051 mm (±0.0002 in.) in ABEC 7. These specifications ensure consistent dimensions and proper fit of the inner ring within the bearing assembly.

Outer Ring Diameter

Like the inner ring, ABEC provides specifications for the outer ring diameter of ball bearings. For instance, the tolerance range for the outer ring diameter may be around ±0.0508 mm (±0.002 in.) in ABEC 3. In ABEC 9, it could be as precise as ±0.0076 mm (±0.0003 in.).

Raceway Curvature

The curvature must meet specific requirements to ensure proper contact between the balls and raceways, minimizing friction and facilitating smooth rolling motion. The exact tolerances for raceway curvature vary depending on the ABEC class. Lower classes,such as ABEC 1,may have relatively looser tolerances for raceway curvature. As the class increases, the tolerances become stricter and more precise.


ABEC standards address the clearance between the rolling elements (balls) and the bearing surfaces (raceways). The specified clearance values ensure appropriate space for lubrication and account for thermal expansion while maintaining proper load distribution and performance. Like the raceway curvature, the clearance requirements become stricter as the ABEC class increases.

Trust SPB-USA for Top-Notch Bearing Solutions!

SPB-USA is a leading manufacturer of precision bearings renowned for their superior performance! With a wide range of sizes and load capacities, our products are tailored to meet the diverse demands of various industries. Moreover, our unwavering commitment to quality and dependability is evident through our prestigious ISO 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 14001 certifications.

Contact us today to discover more about our products and services! You can also request a quote now.

How To Use Miniature Ball Bearings

Click to ExpandHow To Use Miniature Ball Bearings

Miniature ball bearings are small components designed to operate in applications requiring compactness and precise rotational motion. They are characterized by their small outer diameter, ranging from millimeters to a few centimeters, although specific configurations may vary. They also offer low friction, high-speed capability, and high durability.

Here are the general instructions on how to effectively use miniature ball bearings:

1. Bearing Selection

Miniature bearings are available in various sizes, typically measured by their outer diameter, inner diameter, and width. Determine the appropriate bearing size based on the available space and the applications shaft or housing dimensions. Moreover, assess the load requirements, both in terms of magnitude and direction. Consider whether it will primarily handle radial, axial, or combination loads.

2. Mounting and Installation

Before installation, ensure that the shaft or the housing seats are dirt-free. Cleaning the surfaces helps prevent contamination and provides a proper fit. Then, carefully fit the ball bearing onto the shaft and ensure it is aligned correctly. Poor alignment can cause increased friction, premature wear, and compromised performance.

Use suitable tools for the installation process to avoid bearing damage. Depending on the specific requirements, pullers, presses, or other appropriate equipment may be necessary. It is also crucial to adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions, including torque specifications, recommended tools, and specific installation procedures.

3. Lubrication

Proper lubrication helps reduce friction between the bearing components, minimizes wear, dissipates heat, and protects against corrosion. It ensures smooth rotation and prolongs the material’s service life. Some bearings also feature lubrication holes or grooves in the inner or outer ring. These provide direct access points to inject the lubricant.

In addition, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding the recommended lubricant volume.Excess grease can cause greater friction, overheating, and seal damage. On the other hand, inadequate lubrication can lead to premature wear and decreased performance.

4. Axial and Radial Clearance Adjustment

Axial clearance is the amount of free axial movement between the bearing’s inner and outer ring. Meanwhile, radial clearance is the space or gap between the rolling elements and the raceways in the radial direction. The goal of clearance adjustment is to find the right balance between minimizing play and ensuring smooth rotation without generating excessive tightness.

5. Proper Handling

When handling miniature ball bearings, it is important to prevent contamination by avoiding direct contact between the surfaces and bare hands. The natural oils, dirt, or sweat on the skin can contain contaminants that may affect the bearing’s performance. Dropping the components can also lead to deformation, surface damage, or misalignment of the internal parts.

6. Monitoring and Maintenance

It is important to regularly monitor the ball bearing’s performance. This involves observing and assessing noise, vibration, and heat generation during operation. Unusual and excessive noise or heat can indicate potential issues, such as misalignment, wear, or inadequate lubrication. Regular inspections also help detect problems early and allow for timely maintenance or replacement.

Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines and specifications for monitoring and maintenance. They provide valuable insights specific to the products. This includes recommended inspection intervals, cleaning procedures, lubrication requirements, and other maintenance considerations.

Rely on SPB-USA for Premium-Quality Bearings!

SPB-USA is a trusted and industry-leading manufacturer of precision bearings, recognized for delivering superior performance in various applications.Our extensive product range is meticulously designed to cater to the demands of diverse industries, including automotive, aerospace, industrial machinery, and robotics.

Contact us today to learn more about our products and services! You can also request a quote now.

Benefits of Thin Section Ball Bearings

Click to ExpandThin-Section-Ball-Bearings

The unique dimensions and cross-sectional design of thin section bearings make them ideal for constrained spaces and applications with weight limits. Their compactness, light weight, and load capacity are valuable for designs that conventional bearings cannot accommodate. This blog will discuss how these bearings lend themselves to smarter product designs and budgetary savings. Learn more about why bigger is not always better.

What Is a Thin Section Bearing?

Thin section bearings, as the name suggests, have cross-sections with thicknesses that are not as wide as conventional bearings, and they come in open or shielded configurations. However, they are available in a large selection of bore diameters to fit numerous applications. The unique aspect of thin section bearings is that the cross-section remains constant as the bore diameter changes, rather than increasing or decreasing proportionately. These rugged components can reduce friction in anything from industrial equipment to regular office machinery, applicable in rotational motion tasks.

What Are the Benefits of Thin Section Bearings?

Thin section bearings solve some of the design issues that conventional ball bearings don’t address. Manufacturers create them with the least amount of difference possible between the inner and outer diameters. While the initial cost of thin section bearings is typically higher than conventional ball bearings, they equate to cost savings over time as they enable more flexibility in design optimizations, particularly regarding the following:

  • Size. The bearings have smaller cross-sections compared to conventional bearings, and so they can accommodate tight spaces. Also, as bore size increases along with an application’s diameter, the bearings’ cross-sectional dimensions will remain the same, meaning they won’t require additional space in the design.
  • Weight. The light weight of their cross-sections makes these bearings indispensable for precise designs that have weight restrictions. Additionally, even as bore size grows, the change to the bearings’ weight will be inconsequential.
  • Decreased friction. These bearings operate with low friction, reducing vibrations and enabling smooth movement and stable axis rotation. As a result, thin section bearings offer optimal running accuracy.

Downsizing the weight and size of your overall design can cut down on manufacturing expenses. Also, thin section bearings play a beneficial role in performance, running stability, action accuracy, and reliability of applications. Despite their width, they still have the capacity to handle large loads with an optimal strength-to-weight ratio. These features make them essential for design work in industries such as robotics, aerospace, and medical and scientific equipment.

What Applications Benefit From Thin Section Bearings?

Applications primarily use thin section bearings as solutions for tight spaces. Some examples of applications that utilize thin section bearings include:

  • Heat rollers
  • Rotary encoders
  • Stepping motors
  • Robotic joints
  • Healthcare devices
  • Optical tools
  • Fishing reels

How SPB Can Help

To choose the right ball bearings for your application, consider the expected load capacity, rotation and rotating speed, friction, and environment in which the bearings will perform. This will help you select the appropriate bearing design for high operational performance and accuracy. At SPB-USA, LLC, we understand that these components are important elements of complex machine systems and applications, and our team is here to help you select the bearing type and size that will meet your needs.

As a manufacturer of precision ball bearings at our ISO-certified facilities, we specialize in everything from extra-miniature flanged bearings and thin section bearings to large, open ball bearings. Sapporo Precision’s high-quality EZO Precision Ball Bearings can facilitate smooth, dependable motion between moving parts in critical equipment like medical instruments. The SPB line also has applications in motors, pumps, encoders, power tools, automation and measuring devices, and more.

Trust SPB to help you assess the criteria for your application and work with you to determine the optimal ball bearing type with the least wear resistance to achieve success in your operation. Contact us today for more information on how SPB can support your business, or request a quote today.

How Are Ball Bearings Made?

If you use machinery with rotary motion such as engines, turbines, and car wheels, bearings play a vital part in ensuring a smooth and efficient operation. Ball bearings may seem like simple elements, but they reduce the friction in rotational applications, thereby making your work easier. 

ball bearing manufacturing

At SPB USA, we specialize in ball bearings that suit a variety of shape, material, and size requirements. You can get our ball bearings in steel, stainless steel, or chrome. Our ball bearings are in appliances such as pumps, office automation products, medical equipment, power tools, encoders, AC/DC motors, flow meters, and measuring devices. Read on for more details.

What Are Ball Bearings?

Ball bearings are rolling-element bearings that facilitate motion while also positioning moving machine parts, carrying loads, and reducing friction. Ball bearings rely on balls to separate two bearing rings or races. This helps to minimize surface friction and contact across moving parts. When the balls rotate, they cause a reduced coefficient of friction compared to when flat surfaces rub against each other. 

Ball bearings differ by the mechanism involved, with the most common ones being radial ball bearings or the rigid single row. The spherical ball bearings have minimal contact with their containing races, so they can transfer axial or radial loads with rapid, fluid motion. As the name implies, double-row ball bearings have two rows of balls; this design gives extra rigidity to the motion of the bearing. These bearings are mostly used in centrifugal pumps, electromagnetic clutches, and electric motors. Angular ball bearings have a side of the outer ring cut off to allow more balls to insert themselves.

How Are Ball Bearings Manufactured?

The ball bearing manufacturing process involves comprehensive procedures to ensure that the end products are smooth and perfectly round. 

  1. Select material and cut rings. The initial process involves using an automatic machine to cut the rings to the recommended shape. The extra materials left after cutting are usually machined.
  2. Stamp bearing with manufacturing information. The second step is to stamp the outer-ring faces with the necessary manufacturing information and bearing number. Access our Bearing Numbering System to learn more about bearing numbers.
  3. Heat and harden. Next up is the hardening stage. Here, the rings go through a heating operation at 1,565° F for 15 to 20 minutes. The rings are then quenched in oil at 375° F for a duration of 15 to 20 minutes. The next step involves tempering the rings at 340° F for about two hours. 
  4. Grind to proper dimensions. The rings then go through a grinding operation using specialized grinding machines to produce the desired finished dimensions. Race grinding helps to achieve race location, geometry, and radius. Face grinding ensures that the ring has a proper bearing width. Bore grinding is then applied on the inner rings while grinding is for the outer rings.
  5. Apply final finishing. Finally, the races go through a honing process to bring out a perfect surface finish and geometry.

how are ball bearings manufactured

Some bearings, such as the angular contact bearing, may require additional grinding steps to ensure the inner and outer rings have the same width.

Custom Solutions from SPB USA

If you were wondering how ball bearings are made or were questioning what they are, now you have the right answer. Ball bearings are essential elements in various components from power tools to pumps, motors, flow meters, and more. At SPB USA, we are the go-to specialists for all your ball bearing needs. We have premium EZO bearings with bore diameters from the extra-miniature of 0.0236″ to a large of 3.543″Contact us for more details about our products or to request a quote.

Chrome Steel vs. Stainless Steel Ball Bearings: Which Is Best for My Project?

At SPB-USA, LLC, we manufacture precision ball bearings for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and industrial distributors across North and South America. Our parent company, Sapporo Precision, Inc., is an industry-leading provider of miniature and medium-precision ball bearings. 

chrome vs. stainless steel ball bearings

We provide bearings in different materials and sizes, enabling us to serve a variety of applications and industries.

Two of the most popular material choices for precision ball bearings are chrome steel and stainless steel.

Chrome Steel

Stainless Steel Ball Bearings

Chrome steel encompasses any standard steel core that has been plated in a thin layer of pure chromium. This protective layer imbues the object with a higher resistance to oxidation and corrosion. Over time, however, this metal can develop a corroded patina, losing its characteristic sheen. Chrome steel is commonly used in these applications:

  • Automobile components
  • Structural and aesthetic elements in healthcare facilities
  • Low-temperature ball bearing applications

Benefits of Chrome Steel

Chrome steel offers a cost-effective alternative to stainless steel. While less resistant to corrosion, chrome steel is durable and still resistant to corrosive factors in certain environments. Chrome steel is known for durability in dry environments or applications with low usage demands. It also has an appealing shiny finish when new. High-carbon chrome steel is a popular material for ball bearings, offering high load capacity, low-noise operation, and a long operating life. 

benefits and applications of chrome steel and stainless steel ball bearings

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a steel alloy that has a chromium concentration of at least 10.5%, making it more resistant to moisture and corrosion damage. It’s a popular material for producing consumer, commercial, and industrial goods, especially in applications that face potential moisture or high levels of usage. Some of the most common applications for stainless steel is in the production of:

  • Cutlery
  • Cookware
  • Commercial and industrial appliances
  • High-temperature ball bearings
  • Highly corrosion-resistant ball bearings

Benefits of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel offers a few advantages over chrome steel. Primarily, stainless steel is well-regarded for its resistance to corrosion. The material is also durable, scratch-resistant, and resistant to tarnishing. These properties grant stainless steel a long and durable lifespan, making it a preferred choice for sustainable items and construction.

Along with its durability characteristics, the material is strong, environmentally inert, and has an appealing surface finish. While more expensive than other steels, stainless steel is still fairly cost-effective for most projects. Stainless steel ball bearings are typically more expensive than chrome steel, but also perform better in wet environments or high-temperature situations. 

Differences Between Stainless and Chrome Steel

Stainless steel and chrome steel are both highly versatile, durable, and strong steel alloys that are more resistant to corrosion than carbon steel alone. Stainless steel features at least 10.5% chromium, nickel, and various other metals within the actual alloy, whereas chrome steel is made by plating carbon steel with a chromium layer. Stainless steel is generally preferred in conditions where corrosion and oxidation are a risk, but chrome steel is more affordable and offers a higher load rating by approximately 20%.

Contact SPB-USA, L.L.C. Today for Precision Ball Bearings

Choosing the right metal for your bearings can help to ensure long and reliable operation. Chrome-plated steel offers strength, affordability, and resistance to corrosion in the right conditions. Stainless steel offers greater protection against moisture, high temperatures, and corrosion. For more information about metal material options and how they affect the functionality of your bearings, please contact our team or request a quote.

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Sapporo Precision’s Miniature Bearings Tackle Mighty Jobs

(Sarasota, FL) Precision miniature bearings, such as the one pictured within a paper clip, may be something of a curiosity among ordinary citizens, but they are a necessity for the manufacturer of products used in the medical, aerospace, electro-mechanical and packaging equipment industries, according to Mitchell Dutton, President of SPB-USA LLC, Sarasota, FL, the U.S. subsidiary of Sapporo Precision Inc.

SPB bearings are available in both corrosion resistant stainless steel and high carbon chromium steel, and are produced in a wide range of precision miniature bearings, as well as extra thin and flanged bearings in both medium and larger sizes.

The complete line of SPB-USA products can be downloaded from their website: Or you can email

SPB-USA Highlights its Extra Thin Metric Series

(Sarasota, FL.) For many customers in the USA, Sapporo Precision Bearings (SPB) is perhaps best known for its precision miniature bearings, and rightly so, maintains Mitchell Dutton, President of SPB-USA LLC. “But Sapporo’s miniature bearings, while playing a unique, very visible, role in the marketing of our products, is only one among several series of precision bearings we manufacture and market,” Dutton stated.

A prime example, Dutton said, is SPB’s Extra Thin Metric Series bearings. These bearings are available Flanged and Un-flanged with bore diameters from10MM to 50MM, and are widely used in the food processing, packaging, medical equipment, aerospace, office automation equipment and electro mechanical design industries worldwide.

SPB-USA warehouses an extensive line of bearings including the Extra Thin Series in the most asked for sizes and the type of steel required (stainless and high carbon chromium). Orders received by 2:00 pm EST usually ship from the Sarasota facility’s warehouse the same day to any city in the U.S. and Canada. For more information call 941.358.1655 or e-mail