What are the basic types of bearings?

by Kevin Sweeney
29 December, 2022
3 min read

Types of bearings

Bearings have evolved into three basic types

  • Plain 
  • Ball 
  • Roller 

Plain Bearings

Plain Sleeve Bearings referred to as Friction bearings are the oldest known to exist. Sleeve bearings can be manufactured from bronze, metallic alloys, sintered bronze metals, nylons, ceramic and other materials. Thousands of years before the Industrial Age, man learned to replace sliding by rolling. The cost of moving things changed dramatically when loose rollers were changed to a wheel connected to the frame of a vehicle using a rolling bearing.

Ball and Roller bearings

Ball and Roller Bearings are classified as Antifriction bearings, as they rely on a rolling element between two surfaces to reduce friction.

Antifriction bearings consist of an inner and outer ring and rolling element. In theory, balls are point contact and rollers are line contact.

In addition to the three major categories of Plain or Sleeve, Ball and Roller, many iterations exist based on differing design characteristics.

Roller Bearings

Roller bearings consist of two rings with a set of rolling elements in their raceway or tracks. Standard shapes of rolling elements include the ball, cylindrical roller, needle roller, tapered roller, symmetrical barrel roller and unsymmetrical roller. The numerous rolling bearing types are classified according to their design features and uses.

For example, Roller bearings differ when used in Road and Rail applications versus Agricultural and Construction machinery. The uses for the variations of the three major types of bearings include gearboxes, electric motors, machine tools, textile machinery, robotics, drones, aerospace and the list goes on.

When selecting which type of bearing to use, you must know the operating conditions, speeds and loads. Manufacturers such as SKF, TPI, FAG, Schaeffler Group and others provide data tables for selecting by dimensional size, load and speed ratings.  When more information is needs, please contact PIB for assistance.

Go to for more information

Found this useful? Share with:

Written by

Kevin Sweeney

Founder and CEO at Pacific International Bearing Sales Inc (PIB)
Education: BS Business and Economics California State University Hayward Ca
CBS (Certified Bearing Specialist)

My role with PIB is currently CEO having worked in the bearing industry beginning in 1976. Worked in manufacturing Sales with NTN bearing and Bearing Distribution before creating PIB in 1990.
The last 46 years in bearings have been both rewarding and challenging helping so many customers in a broad spectrum of applications.
My interests outside of bearings are family, woodworking, motorcycling, cars, gardening, and golf.
Clear All