Chris Wilson is the general manager at Ritbearing Corporation, a U.S. manufacturer of specialty thin section ball bearings that also serves as an international distributor of ball and roller bearings and specializes in custom-engineered bearing solutions for unique applications. Chris can be reached at 1-800-431-1980 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Chris Wilson
If you need a bearing that maximizes your internal dimensions and minimize your external dimensions, you should consider thin section bearings. Like other types of bearings, these parts play a key role in the success of your applications, so it’s important to find a supplier that can not only meet your needs, but also exceed them.
To find out if a thin section bearing supplier is right for your business, you should start by asking a few questions to gauge their abilities. Some suppliers might not be a good fit for you based on capabilities or requirements. Others might not give you a straight answer. Either way, a little investigation can help you find a good bearing partner. Here are some questions that you should ask thin section bearing suppliers to find out if they’re the right fit for your business.
What is Your Minimum Order Size?
You may not always want to order parts in large quantities, but some supplier may require you to do so. Certain thin section bearing suppliers may have minimum order requirements in place that could force you to order more than what you need. Others may charge a premium to ship smaller quantities and won’t drop the price point unless you order hundreds of parts. Not only can this cause you to spend more to meet those order requirements, it can also force you to find storage space to house these extra parts.
Make sure to ask upfront about minimum order sizes and pricing. Some suppliers may keep extra inventory on hand or have the rings available to quickly make specific products. This allows them to quickly ship small orders without forcing you to take on unwanted product.
Do You Offer Custom Bearing Solutions?
Sometimes standard bearing parts just won’t work for your applications. When that’s the case, ask your supplier what they can do to customize thin section bearings so that they’re better suited for what you need them to do.
There are many ways that a supplier may be able to customize a thin section bearing. If the bearing materials are an issue, the supplier may provide different options for the rings, ball, or cage. Another possibility is that you can have differences in the preloads of the bearings. Other customization options can include adding a special part number on your bearings so that people will come to you for replacements. Some suppliers will be better suited to customize your parts than others, so make sure to ask about what they can do before you settle for a standard part that may not be right for your applications.
Do You Provide Other Bearing Services?
Your supplier may be able to do more than just ship bearings or customize your parts. Some suppliers can also provide certain engineering services that can provide additional value. For example, a supplier may be able to run life calculations before you make a purchase. Other capabilities may include determining the stiffness and dampening values of a bearing and provide them to you in a report. These services may not be the main reason you’ll turn to a specific supplier, but they can be very helpful once you find out about them.
What Information Do You Need from Us?
Your company shouldn’t be the only party asking questions. A good thin bearing supplier will have a list of questions that will help them determine what you need and the best solution for your applications. These questions can range from general information gathering like ring widths and bearing numbers to specific details about application environments and other critical factors that can impact the effectiveness of your thin section bearings.
For example, a supplier could ask if your thin section bearing will encounter an overturning moment? An axial bearing can handle an overturning moment whereas a standard radial won’t. Another question could involve if the shaft in your application is hollowed or not. That answer can affect your bearing’s design, as thin section bearings are very dependent on the stiffness of a shaft or the robustness of the housing.
Most manufacturers will make recommendations for your parts, but you can affect a thin section bearing much more than a standard bearing based upon how it’s press fitted or inserted into a housing or onto a shaft. Because of this, you want to work with a supplier that gets as much information as possible to better serve your needs.
Are Your Bearings Made in the U.S.?
As you may expect, this question is dependent on whether it’s important for your business to use American-made bearings. While some businesses won’t care about a part’s country of origin as long as it’s a quality product and priced right, others are required to buy products from the U.S.
Businesses that have U.S. Government or defense-related contract are often bound by DFARS (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement) to buy American. DFARS is designed to limit the U.S. defense industry from being too reliant on foreign supply sources by setting restrictions on the origins of raw materials. This forces the businesses who hold these contracts to get their materials from locations within the U.S. or other DFARS-qualified countries. There are also instances where an American business may want to buy U.S.-made bearings for marketing purposes, as well.
If it’s important to your business that thin section bearings are made in the U.S., make sure to find out if a supplier is DFARS complaint. If they can’t come up with any evidence of where they get their materials, it may be time to consider a different supplier.
Find the Right Bearing Supplier
You shouldn’t have to settle for a mediocre bearing supplier. By asking the right questions ahead of time, you can identify if a supplier makes sense for your business and can become a partner you can trust for years to come.