Design & Solve: How To Properly Handle Bearings to Prevent Failure

How To Properly Handle Bearings to Prevent Failure

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I am Ron Sheppard. With over 22 years at Kaman Industrial Technologies, I have witnessed first-hand, the importance of proper handling of bearings, as well as the repercussions of poor bearing handling. Roller bearings are high precision machine parts and need to be handled carefully. Storage, handling and installation require proper procedures for maximized bearing life. Careless handling could result in damaged bearings leading to damage of machine equipment.

Today, we will discuss proper bearing handling to assure best performance and life of your bearings. These procedures are not complicated but the lasting effects can save both time and money in the long-run.

First, one of the major offenders for bearing failures is contamination. Dust and dirt, even if invisible to the naked eye, can greatly affect bearings. It is very important to keep the bearing and the surrounding areas clean during installation. You can see with this example that poor bearing storage prior to operation led to corrosion, pitting and staining on the raceways and balls.  If left in the operation they would eventually fail and cause damage to surrounding components.

Also, keep hands clean when handling bearings. Perspiration and other moisture on the hands can cause corrosion. Whenever possible, wear gloves when handling any bearing. Apply oil or grease to non-sealed bearings immediately after installation for further protection.

Heavy shock during handling may cause bearings to be scratched or otherwise damaged. Excessively strong impact, such as dropping on the floor or mounting forcefully with high impact can cause brinneling, cracking or fracture.

Always use proper tools when handling and installing bearings.  Avoid general purpose tools like hammers and screwdrivers.  They can cause permanent damage. Mounting and dismantling tools are available from Kaman. They include induction heaters, handling tools, pullers, fitting tools, sine bar gauges, hydraulic nuts and spanner wrenches. Using the proper tools is a significant part of proper installation.

When mounting bearings there are several factors to consider:

  • All components used to mount bearings should also stay clean of contaminants.
  • Know the dimensions and surface finish of the related parts.
  • Follow proper mounting procedures for the size and application of your bearing. If you are unsure of these procedures, contact your Kaman account manager for assistance.
  • Finally, assure that once installed you are following a proper lubrication schedule based on your application and manufacturer’s recommendations.

In this example, you can see where improper installation procedures caused major damage and eventually failure of the bearing. Improper installation led to a fit problem on the shaft, leading to an excessively tight clearance and excessive hoop stress on the inner ring. This resulted in an inner ring cracking. When bearings are in operation it’s also important to routinely check the condition of the bearing and its surrounding environment to assure that any unforeseen damage or improper operating conditions will result in future downtime.  Being proactive with maintenance and inspections will assure maximized performance.

When bearings are not in use and in storage there are also important procedures to follow.  Bearings should always be stored flat and in original packaging, indoors, free from vibration and in low humidity. The bearings storage area should be clean, dry, and have a consistent temperature fluctuation of 3 degrees C or 5.4 degrees F. They should be free from air flow that would alter temperatures, with humidity less than 75% and in an area that is free from vibration.  Vibrations can cause issues with the moving components within the bearing that can lead to damage like false brinneling once installed.

Following these procedures will offer a decreased chance of bearing contamination, damage or failures.  Proper storage, handling and mounting are all critically important to bearing performance and life.

If you need any more information specific to bearing handling procedures, please contact your Kaman account manager.

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

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