Should I Use Bearing Seals or Shields?

Should I Use Bearing Seals or Shields?

While the basic function and design of a ball bearing hasn’t drastically changed since it was first invented in the 1700s, some features–such as bearing seals and shields–have since adapted. To protect ball bearings from contamination, as well as retain their proper lubrication levels, both seals and shields can be necessary parts; but, how do you know which is the right one to use?

So, how do you know which is the right one to use? While deciding between bearing seals and shields can be challenging, our experts at IBT are here to help make the decision a little bit easier.

3 Questions to Determine the Right Bearing Protection for Your Application and Environment

According to Tim Zerger, IBT’s Bearings & PT Director, there are a few key questions you can ask yourself to help determine whether a seal or a shield could better extend the life of your bearing. These questions include:

1. What Do I Need to Protect the Bearing From?

First, the environment in which your bearings operate in can help you identify potential contaminants, allowing you to select your shields or seals accordingly.

For example, shielded bearings have a gap that can allow finer contaminants or water from washdown applications to enter the bearing and get into the raceways. This could wash out the grease or cause the roller or balls to skid, creating heat and infusing the metal surfaces together.

On the other hand, selecting a sealed bearing could help prevent this kind of bearing failure. Unlike shields, standard seals can be trusted to keep out most contaminants. However, according to Zerger, it is important to note that, in harsher washdown applications, high water pressure between 1000-1800 psi could potentially fold the lip of the seal and allow water to get into the bearings. That is—if the bearing is not protected or covered.

2. How Fast Will the Bearing Be Going?

Speed also has a key role to play in the bearing seals vs. shields debate. When it comes to standard bearing seals, although they are ideal for keeping out contaminants, they are fairly limited in terms of speed—as the size of a sealed bearing increases, its speed capacity decreases.

For example—a larger bearing (40mm bore / 80mm od) can handle up to 5,600 rpm sealed, while a smaller (10mm bore / 30 mm od) can handle up to 17,000 rpm sealed.

Shielded bearings, on the other hand, are not limited by speed.

3. What Temperature Will the Bearing Be Operating Under?

Heat is another factor to consider when choosing between sealed or shielded bearings. Whether the heat source is internal or external, bearing seals, typically made of rubber or plastic, risk melting if the temperature reaches 212° F. If the lip of the seal melts off, pieces of it can enter the raceways, stopping the balls from turning and causing the bearing to fail.

Shielded bearings can withstand higher temperatures up to 250° F, which is the standard operating temperature maximum of bearing steel and grease.

Koyo-RD-TypeSealed-Ball-BearingKoyo Offers A Better Solution—The RD Type Sealed Ball Bearing

What if there was a third option that was the best of both worlds? That is, something with he reliable contaminate protection of a seal, and with the speed and heat capacity comparable to a standard or shielded bearing.

Koyo introduced RD Type (Light Contact) Sealed Ball bearings for exactly that purpose. Developed forthe racing industry, these types of bearings are designed to create less contact between the rubber lip of the seal and the inner ring, ultimately reducing friction and heat.

The improved seal technology allows the Koyo RD bearing to operate at up to 90% of open bearing speeds, while reducing contamination linked to early bearing failure. It is especially helpful in washdown applications, as it keeps moisture out when high water pressure is applied to the bearing. Learn more about it here.

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Want More Insight On Bearing Seals and Shields?

Bearings have been the cornerstone of IBT Industrial Solutions since the company was founded in 1949. If you’re looking for the knowledge and expertise you need to select the best parts for your application and environment, contact Tim Zerger, IBT’s Bearing and Power Transmission Director, or give us a call at 913-677-3151 today!

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