What Is a Sleeve Bearing?

Sleeve bearings, often called bushings, journal bearings, or plain bearings, facilitate linear movement between two parts. Typically, they consist of a metal, plastic, or fiber-reinforced composite sleeve that has the capacity to reduce vibrations and noise through a sliding motion that allows them to absorb friction between the two moving parts. More than that, they are available at low price points, are easy to install, and require less maintenance than other bearings.

A sleeve bearing is also distinguished by its ability to handle higher loads and resist shock loads because of its larger contact zone. Equipped with a conformal liner, sleeve bearings make up for irregularities in alignment and can dampen excessive vibration. Moreover, by having a thin wall section, these low-friction bearings reduce housing dimensions and weight.

Available in bronze, steel, and stainless-steel variations, sleeve bearings suit a myriad of applications and operational environments. Brass bearings and plastic sleeve bearings, in particular, are manufactured as per the requirements of an application. For applications that necessitate constant lubrication, bronze sleeve bearings that feature lubricant plugs made of PTFE or graphite help with lubrication issues.

Another popular sleeve bearing material is oil-impregnated bronze. Generally utilized for light to medium applications, such bearings contain pores that absorb oil which is eventually released under applied force, then reabsorbed back into the bearings once the force diminishes. Alongside material selection, there are two common sleeve bearing designs, those of which are flanged and cylindrical types.

A flanged sleeve bearing provides more surface area at one end of the sleeve to support axial loads. On the other hand, a cylindrical bearing is flush with its outer and inner diameters, and it is usually mounted inside a housing. Apart from such subtypes, sleeve bearings are often confused with ball bearings, despite being very different.

With regard to the differences between ball and sleeve bearings, it is critical that you understand their uses prior to choosing one over the other. First off, the cost of using a sleeve bearing is lower than the price point of ball bearings. Secondly, sleeve bearings are limited to mounting and installation only in the horizontal direction to minimize friction.

Sleeve bearings perform optimally at low temperatures below 70 degrees Celsius, and they have a short service life. Among other advantages, they are also relatively quiet at low speeds. In contrast, ball bearings are noisy and expensive. Unlike sleeve bearings, ball bearings can accommodate radial loads or loads that are perpendicular to the shaft. However, keep in mind that either type is available as self-lubricating bearings as well.

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December 29, 2020

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