Is the smaller the radial clearance of the bearing, the better?

The radial clearance in a bearing refers to the internal gap between the rolling elements (such as balls or rollers) and the inner and outer raceways. This clearance is essential for the proper functioning of the bearing, and the optimal amount of clearance depends on the specific application. The relationship between radial clearance and performance can be summarized as follows:

1.Smaller Radial Clearance:


1.Reduced play and backlash: Smaller radial clearance minimizes the play between the rolling elements and the raceways, which can be beneficial in applications where precise positioning and minimal backlash are critical.

2.Enhanced rigidity: Smaller clearance generally leads to increased rigidity, which can be advantageous in applications where deflection or flex is a concern.


1.Heat and friction: Smaller clearance may result in higher heat generation and increased friction, potentially impacting the overall efficiency and lifespan of the bearing.

2.Sensitivity to misalignment: Bearings with smaller radial clearance are often less tolerant of misalignment, which means proper alignment becomes more critical.

2.Larger Radial Clearance:


1.Better tolerance to misalignment: Bearings with larger radial clearance are generally more forgiving of misalignment, which can be beneficial in applications where perfect alignment is challenging.

Reduced sensitivity to thermal expansion: Larger clearance can accommodate greater thermal expansion, making the bearing more suitable for applications with varying operating temperatures.


Increased play and backlash: Larger radial clearance may result in more play between the rolling elements and the raceways, leading to reduced precision and increased backlash.

Lower rigidity: Larger clearance is associated with lower rigidity, which may be a concern in applications requiring high stiffness and precision.

In conclusion, the optimal radial clearance depends on the specific requirements of the application. A balance needs to be struck between the advantages and disadvantages associated with smaller and larger radial clearances. Factors such as load conditions, speed, precision requirements, and the operating environment should be considered when selecting the appropriate radial clearance for a bearing in a given application.

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