Stronger by Design: Split Ring Bearings offer Greater Thrust Capacity


Marketing Coordinator

Aircraft engine manufacturers, due to the very specific nature of their hardware, have likely long known: Split ring angular contact ball bearings are a viable option for main shaft jet engine applications.

But what about a typical industrial original equipment (OEM) manufacturer?

Let’s say, for example, that this mechanism rotates at an average speed and contains a reversing thrust load. In need of a bearing, one might think, my only choices are a deep groove ball bearing or two one-direction angular contact ball bearings.

A split ring bearing might not immediately come to mind. That’s due largely to unavailability or unfamiliarity.

Napoleon Engineering Services is out to change that thinking.

“There’s not enough out there for that person to know that there’s maybe another option,” said Andrew Hvizdzak, an NES senior bearing application engineer. “That’s why we see this as an opportunity to insert ourselves to kind of fill that void.”

A SPLIT RING is an angular contact ball bearing with a one-piece outer ring and two-piece inner ring construction. Its makeup is like that of a deep groove ball bearing aside from the inner ring. And its advantages are many.

And its advantages are many.

The split ring is a two-directional maximum thrust capacity bearing requiring minimum space. Also different from a deep groove, it features a one-piece machined ball cage, which allows for a maximum ball complement and, therefore, greater load capacity. Essentially, a split ring bearing supports axial loads in both directions, is smaller in width and weight than a traditional duplex set and results in less endplay than a single deep groove ball bearing.
“So, for an application that can tolerate some shaft endplay, in a lot of instances you can replace two bearings with one,” Hvizdzak noted.

Indeed, a split ring bearing may be ideal in several applications, but primarily those that have heavy thrust load condition or reversing thrust loads. It should also be considered for any vertical shaft applications that have heavy downward thrust capacity requirements. The inherent benefit is pairing a split ring bearing with a standard angular contact ball bearing, thereby creating double the load capacity in the primary thrust direction.

Until recently, the availability of split ring bearings was lacking. NES, however, produces the highest-quality split bearings at its 46,000-square foot facility in Olean, N.Y.

BY NOW, one might be asking, “why would I ever use a deep groove ball bearing again if a split ring is so much better in many ways?” Hvizdzak said.

But split rings have their weaknesses too.

Due to the two-piece inner ring assembly, a split ring bearing with a dominant radial load couldoperate with three points of contact, meaning balls are touching the ring surface in three places rather than two, which creates increased rolling friction. It’s also always going to possess a certain amount of endplay, though certainly not as much as a deep groove bearing due to the gothic arch raceway design created by the split inner rings.

Therefore, these bearings would not be recommended for applications with pure radial loads.

“There could be too much friction and heat generation,” Hvizdzak said. “That’s why it’s important to have a bearing engineer, like me, or a bearing design program available to evaluate the running contact angles based on load and speed conditions.”

Still, split ring bearings can often be the way to go.

And NES has long manufactured them But now the Western New York-based bearing specialists are better positioned to both promote this product and increase its overall visibility.


NES has greatly expanded its bearing engineering team over the last half-decade, swelling its capacity for such projects. “This is something that we’ve been meaning to do for a long time,” Hvizdzak said. “I think we’re in that position now, where we have a bigger team behind us and can put what we’ve learned on that subject into action.”

Moreover, “our customer base has changed too,” noted Skip Giberson, senior product design engineer. “We’re also seeing a request for more of them than we used to. They’re arguably as easy to manufacture (as other bearings) too.”

Mostly, however, demand has been growing for a bearing that meets these specific requirements. NES’ aim is to help raise awareness about the split ring bearing’s many benefits.

“The timing is right because it’s a niche enough option that there’s not a lot of people out there that understand it,” Hvizdzak said. “But that’s partly because you can’t really open a catalogue and find one with a good enough description of what it is or what it’s advantages or disadvantages are.”

Again, enter Napoleon Engineering Services.

NES HAS been working with MESYS and MASTA to populate their BC and SMT software
programs with basic NES bearing designs. Indeed, it has built a database of NES part numbers which will be integrated into catalogues for both companies.

NES wants customers to know: It’s available for application engineering analysis to create custom designed solutions for specific applications. But that involves much more than merely saying, “here’s a part number that we offer; just buy it.” NES is unique in that, after answering the phone within two rings, it’s eager to discuss the technical side of things as well.

“If they see what we offer and then reach out to us to have that technical discussion, I mean, that’s the intent,” Giberson said. “And it seems headed in that direction because we’ve already had several examples of customers with a unique application where (a split ring angular contact bearing) ended up being the solution for it.

“We design it for them, we make it for them, we consult with them as far as bringing them up to speed on why that’s the solution and how it works. And then things just kind of take off from there.”


Napoleon Engineering Services


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