Plain bearings are the simplest in their category and are also referred to as solid bearings or bushings. It involves only a bearing surface and no rolling components. A part of the shaft which is in contact with the bearing, called as a journal, moves over the surface of the bearing. They come at very low costs, as compared to other bearings and are compact having good load bearing capacity. Based on the design, there are different types of plain bearings namely, linear bearing, journal bearing, angular contact plain bearings and thrust bearing. Plain bearings are used in various industries such as aerospace, automotive, energy, construction, oilfield machinery, gardening equipment and agricultural equipment.
Depending upon the work and usability of bearings, the plain bearings can come with external lubrication or even zero lubrication in cases which need dry bearings. Either they are soaked with lubricants or they are available with lubricant plugs inserted within. It is important to select the right type of plain bearings based on the work to be carried out which requires technical know-how of the requirements along with experience in bearings. The material used for plain bearings is durable and low wear. Various material such as bronze, Babbitt, cast iron, Bi-material, plastic, graphite, etc., are used in plain bearings.
The plain bearings are a good replacement for rolling component bearings considering their usability. They are simpler in design and have low maintenance involved. They provide compact structure with better load carrying capacities. Another reason for carrying high loads is the larger area of contact. This also helps in resisting shocks and endure misalignment. They save more space, if properly placed, and can damp the vibrations with convenience, even better than rolling component bearings. They are more durable and have longer life, which makes them the ideal affordable choice for designers. The designers in the automotive industry have started replacing the roller bearings with plain bearings owing to their subtle advantages, both in terms of cost as well as usability.
Since they are a one-piece structure, there no complications involved which again reduces their maintenance. The advancements in technology and heavy research have made it possible to fruition different advancements in plain bearings making them even more important and useful, for example, self-lubricating plain bearings that need no external lubrication, spherical plain bearings which are maintenance free and composite plain bearings. Also, smart bearings and bearings with compressed air cushioning are in process. Plain bearings have increasing acceptance in various industries, not only automotive, but also, in aerospace, construction, energy and other machinery equipment. All these aspects facilitate good growth for the plain bearings market.
North America is expected to have good market for the plain bearings owing to the growing technological developments in that region. Developing countries such as India, China and Japan have good growth potential and hence are more likely to witness faster growth rate. This is possible owing to the rise in population and easy availability of labour class.The key players in the plain bearings market include NSK Ltd. (Japan), THK Co. Ltd. (Japan), NTN Corporation (Japan), SKF Group (Sweden), SGL Group (Germany), Schaeffler Technologies (Germany) and RBC Bearings Incorporated (USA).
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