Historically, steel was the go-to option when choosing bearings for industrial applications. However, we are now regularly asked whether ceramic bearings could be the better option.

Ceramic bearings certainly offer some unique advantages. This material can provide higher speeds and acceleration capability, as well as lower friction, when used in hybrid bearings. Full ceramic bearings are non-conductive and highly corrosion resistant, making them ideal for specialist applications that require non-magnetic components or applications that are regularly exposed to water or chemicals. At the same time, these bearings are also more expensive.

One clear disadvantage of full ceramic bearings is that they cannot handle the same loads as their steel counterparts. Ceramic materials are much harder than steel but also more brittle. This is why full ceramic bearings are not suitable for high speeds but even hybrid bearings need to be good quality as a cheap hybrids can be matched for speed by precision steel bearings due to better tolerances and raceway finish.

Steel and stainless steel bearings are still vastly more popular due to cost and durability, but what is best? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. Choosing the correct bearing depends on the application.

For more information on materials, check out our bearing materials guide.

Our determination to remain specialised gives us a high level of product knowledge, providing bearing and lubrication solutions to existing or potential customers, whether individuals or large corporations. We don’t just sell bearings, we help to solve your problems. - Chris Johnson, managing director of SMB Bearings.