Bearings play a key role in a wide variety of medical equipment. From X-ray machines and oxygen compressors to small, handheld surgical instruments, it’s important to find the right bearing for your specific design needs.
Every application provides its own design challenges, but there are a few criteria that typically play a big role in bearing selection for medical equipment. Here are some key factors that play a major role in helping you identify the right bearings for your medical applications.
Depending on your application, chrome steel may be perfectly suitable for your part needs. However, there are occasions where you may need an alternative solution to comply with regulatory standards or to set your bearings up for success. These materials can include:
There are several different factors that can impact your choice of bearing materials. Surgical tools and other equipment are often exposed to bodily fluids, harsh chemicals, and other substances that can cause corrosion or other issues. Stainless steel, ceramic, and plastic all offer greater corrosion resistance than other materials, allowing you to improve part life and maintain a clean environment.
Certain equipment may also need parts that can withstand high temperatures. For example, autoclavable bearings will need to withstand periods of heat exposure used to sterilize surgical tools and other equipment. Some environments may also call for shields and seals to help protect parts from contamination as well. Each element needs to be designed with your environment and function in mind, so your choice of material(s) will have a direct impact on the success and service life of your bearings.
Like materials, it’s important to select the proper lubrication for medical equipment. As with any lubricated part, the right type and amount of lubrication has a direct impact on the operation and lifespan of your bearings. For some bearings, they may be lubricated once to last the entire lifespan of the device. Others may require relubrication over time. There are also a wide range of greases and oils available, each of which are better at dealing with varying operating temperatures, chemicals, and other challenges.
Another potential factor involves regulatory requirements. Some medical devices are required to use food-grade lubricants. These lubricants are broken into three different groups:
- H1 – Designed for food processing environments with some possibility of incidental food contact
- H2 – Designed for equipment and machine parts in where there’s no chance that lubricants or lubricated surfaces will contact food
- H3 – Designed to clean and prevent rust on equipment like hooks or trolleys
While some medical equipment moves at a normal pace, tools like dental drills, medical saws, and other applications can operate at rotational speeds of 400,000 RPM or higher. These applications will require specialized bearings to handle these speeds without issue.
To start, high-precision parts, such as ABEC 5 and 7 bearings, will help minimize heat generation and noise. Angular contact bearings are a good example of a bearing style that can typically accommodate higher speeds. Certain designs may also require part modifications to improve part stability at high speeds. For example, tighter tolerances on raceways can improve the parts speed capabilities, which may be a necessity depending on your equipment.
Regardless of if you have a high-speed application or not, minimizing noise is a key part of bearing selection for medical equipment. High-speed applications are more prone to equipment noise, but it’s important to avoid unsettling sounds for patients and medical professionals.
Excess noise can be the result of a few factors. A lack of internal clearance can prevent bearing races from moving radially and axially relative to the other. Overloading can also lead to part fatigue, which will in turn generate more vibration and noise. An overly loose fit can cause micromotion between fitted parts where the fits are too loose in relation to the acting forces. Regardless of the issue, you’ll want to find a bearing solution that’s right for your design for smooth, quiet operation over time.
No matter the size of your application, it’s important to make sure your parts are right for your medical equipment. Even if you have major space constraints, it’s imperative to find a bearing solution that provides plenty of value in a pint-sized package.
Fortunately, there are some small-scale solutions available. Parts like thin section bearings and miniature ball bearings can provide plenty of performance without taking up too much space.
Find the right bearings for your medical applications
Whether you need a standard part or a custom-engineered bearing, it’s important to invest in the best, most cost-effective parts for your equipment. At Ritbearing, our experts work with you to identify a solution that accounts for all your design challenges.
Are you in need of quality bearings for medical equipment? Contact us about your bearing needs today.