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Bearing friction, power loss and starting torque

Performance and operating conditionsBearing type and arrangementBearing sizeLubricationOperating temperature and speedBearing interfacesBearing executionSealing, mounting and dismounting

Bearing friction is not constant and depends on certain tribological phenomena that occur in the lubricant film between the rolling elements, raceways and cages.
Diagram 1 shows how friction changes, as a function of speed, in a bearing with a given lubricant. Four zones are distinguishable:
  • Zone 1 – Boundary layer lubrication condition, in which only the asperities carry the load, and so friction between the moving surfaces is high.
  • Zone 2 – Mixed lubrication condition, in which a separating oil film carries part of the load, with fewer asperities in contact, and so friction decreases.
  • Zone 3 – Full film lubrication condition, in which the lubricant film carries the load, but with increased viscous losses, and so friction increases.
  • Zone 4 – Full film lubrication with thermal and starvation effects, in which the inlet shear heating and kinematic replenishment reduction factors compensate partially for the viscous losses, and so friction evens off.

SKF model of bearing friction

In the SKF model for calculating bearing friction, the frictional moment, M, is derived from four sources:

M = Mrr + Msl + Mseal + Mdrag

Mrr the rolling frictional moment, and includes effects of lubricant starvation and inlet shear heating [Nmm]
Mslthe sliding frictional moment, and includes the effects of the quality of lubrication conditions [Nmm]
Msealthe frictional moment from integral seals [Nmm]
Where bearings are fitted with contact seals, the frictional losses from the seals may exceed those generated in the bearing.
Mdragthe frictional moment from drag losses, churning, splashing, etc., in an oil bath [Nmm]

Calculating values for these four sources of friction is complex. Therefore, we recommend using the SKF Bearing Calculator.
For more detail on the calculations, see The SKF model for calculating the frictional moment [PDF].
When the total frictional moment, M, of the bearing is known, you can calculate the bearing frictional power loss using

Ploss = 1,05 x 10–4 M n

Plossbearing frictional power loss [W]
Mtotal frictional moment [Nmm]
nrotational speed [r/min]

Starting torque

The starting torque of a rolling bearing is defined as the frictional moment that must be overcome by the bearing to start rotating, at an ambient temperature of 20 to 30 °C (70 to 85 °F). Therefore, only the sliding frictional moment and the frictional moment of seals, if applied, are taken into consideration.

Mstart = Msl + Mseal

Mstartstarting frictional moment [Nmm]
Mslsliding frictional moment [Nmm]
Msealfrictional moment of the seals [Nmm]

We recommend using the SKF Bearing Calculator for calculating starting torque values.
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