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Angular Contact Bearings Basics

Angular contact bearings are essential components in many mechanical systems, offering high-speed capabilities, precise positioning, and reliable performance. They are designed to support combined radial and axial loads.

The key feature of angular contact bearings is the contact angle between the inner and outer raceways. Angular contact bearings can have either ball or roller elements, and their design principles include preload, lubrication, seals, and shields. By understanding the design and working principles, engineers can select the appropriate bearings for their applications.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the details of angular contact bearings, including their design, working principles, and applications in various industries.

Understanding Angular Contact Bearings

Angular contact bearings are precision bearings designed to support combined radial and axial loads. Unlike radial bearings, which primarily support radial loads, angular contact bearings have raceways with angled contact surfaces, allowing them to handle both radial and axial forces simultaneously.

This design makes them suitable for applications where the load direction varies or where axial loads need to be supported.

Contact Angle

The key feature of angular contact bearings is the contact angle between the inner and outer raceways. This angle determines the distribution of the load between the radial and axial directions.


Bearings contact angle (picture source: SKF catalogue)

Figure 1: Bearings contact angle (picture source: SKF catalogue)


Angular contact bearings are classified as follows:

Single-Row Angular Contact Bearings

These bearings have a single contact angle and can only support axial loads in one direction. The contact angle is typically between 15° and 40°, with smaller angles providing higher axial load capacity and larger angles providing higher radial load capacity. 


Single-row angular contact bearing (source: SKF catalogue)

Figure 2: Single-row angular contact bearing (source: SKF catalogue)

Double-Row Angular Contact Bearings

Double-row angular contact bearings have two sets of raceways and can support axial loads in both directions. They have contact angles in both the inner and outer raceways, allowing for greater versatility in load handling.


Double-row angular contact bearing (source: SKF catalogue)

Figure 3: Double-row angular contact bearing (source: SKF catalogue)

Cage Design

Angular contact bearings may feature different cage designs to optimize performance. Common cage designs include:

Pressed Steel Cage

These cages are lightweight and provide good guidance for the rolling elements. They are commonly used in low to moderate speed applications. 

Machined Brass Cage

Brass cages offer high strength and temperature resistance, making them suitable for high-speed and high-temperature applications. 

Polyamide Cage

Polyamide cages are lightweight and offer good resistance to wear and corrosion. They are often used in applications where low noise and vibration are essential.
 

Design and Working Principles

Angular contact bearings are designed to accommodate combined radial and axial loads while maintaining high precision and rigidity. Here's how they work and their design principles:

Ball or Roller Elements

Angular contact bearings can have either ball or roller elements. Ball bearings are typically used for light to moderate loads and high-speed applications, while roller bearings are preferred for heavier loads and applications where higher rigidity is required.

Inner and Outer Ring Geometry

The inner and outer rings of angular contact bearings have raceways designed to facilitate the contact between the rolling elements and the raceways. The raceway geometry, along with the contact angle, determines the distribution of the load between the radial and axial directions.

Preload

Angular contact bearings often require a preload to ensure proper operation. Preload is a slight internal load applied to the bearing elements to eliminate play or clearance in the bearing. This preload helps to minimize vibration, reduce noise, and improve accuracy in the system.

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Lubrication

Proper lubrication is essential for the performance and longevity of angular contact bearings. Lubrication reduces friction between the rolling elements and raceways, preventing wear and overheating. Grease or oil is typically used as lubricants, with the choice depending on factors such as speed, temperature, and application requirements.

Seals and Shields

Seals or shields are used to protect angular contact bearings from contamination and retain lubrication. Seals provide better protection but may generate more heat, while shields offer less protection but lower friction. The choice between seals and shields depends on the operating environment and requirements for cleanliness and efficiency.

By understanding the design and working principles of angular contact bearings, engineers can select the appropriate bearings for their applications, ensuring optimal performance and reliability.

Applications of Angular Contact Bearings

1. Machine Tools

Angular contact bearings are widely used in machine tools, such as CNC machining centers and milling machines, where high-speed operation and precise positioning are critical. These bearings provide the necessary rigidity and accuracy to handle heavy cutting loads and maintain tight tolerances. 
Angular contact bearings for spindle (source: SKF catalogue)

Figure 4: Angular contact bearings for spindle (source: SKF catalogue)

2. Automotive Applications

In automotive systems, angular contact bearings are found in wheel hubs, transmissions, and steering systems. They provide support for radial and axial loads, ensuring smooth operation and longevity in demanding environments. 

3. Aerospace Industry

Angular contact bearings play a vital role in aircraft landing gear, jet engines, and helicopter rotors. They offer high-speed capabilities, reliability, and resistance to extreme temperatures and loads, making them suitable for aerospace applications. 

4. Medical Equipment

In medical devices such as MRI machines and surgical instruments, angular contact bearings provide smooth and precise motion. Their high-speed capabilities and accuracy ensure reliable performance in critical healthcare applications.


Advantages of Angular Contact Bearings

1. High-Speed Capability

Angular contact bearings are designed for high-speed operation, making them ideal for applications requiring rapid rotation or oscillation. 

2. Axial and Radial Load Support

These bearings can support both axial and radial loads simultaneously, allowing for efficient force transmission and reduced friction. 

3. Precise Positioning

Angular contact bearings offer precise positioning and alignment, ensuring accurate motion control in various mechanical systems.

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Angular Contact Bearings Manufacturers

Numerous manufacturers produce angular contact bearings, offering a wide range of sizes, designs, and quality levels to suit various applications. Here are some prominent manufacturers known for their expertise in angular contact bearings:

  • SKF (Svenska Kullagerfabriken AB)
  • NSK (Nippon Seiko Kabushiki Kaisha)
  • NTN Corporation
  • FAG (Fischers Aktien-Gesellschaft)
  • Timken Company

When selecting angular contact bearings, it's essential to consider factors such as load capacity, speed, precision, and operating conditions.

Consulting with manufacturers or authorized distributors can help in choosing the right bearings for specific applications, ensuring optimal performance and reliability.

Conclusion

In conclusion, angular contact bearings are versatile components with widespread applications in various industries. Their ability to support combined radial and axial loads, high-speed capabilities, and precise positioning make them indispensable in machine tools, automotive systems, aerospace applications, and medical equipment.

By understanding the design, working principles, and advantages of angular contact bearings, engineers and designers can optimize their designs for efficiency, reliability, and performance.

 

About the author


Jure Pleško is co-owner of Tuli, a family business that helps innovative mechanical engineers by supplying them with machine elements to assemble machines and devices. As part of a family tradition, he grew up with machine elements from an early age and also completed his studies in mechanical engineering, earning a Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering. As a 2-year-old child he was also the inspiration for the company name, because at that time he was shouting a lot and hence the name Tuli, which in translation means screaming. Jure is an innovative mechanical engineer himself, which he proved during his student years with the construction of an electric vehicle, which was also awarded by the Slovenian Fund for Human Resources Development and Scholarships.

 

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