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Nearly four decades of research in bearing steel metallurgy and processing has resulted in improvements in bearing life by a factor of 100 over that obtained in the early 1940s. For critical applications such as aircraft, these improvements have resulted in longer-lived, more reliable commercial aircraft engines. Material factors such as hardness, retained austenite, grain size and carbide size, number, and area can influence rolling-element fatigue life. Bearing steel processing such as double-vacuum melting can have a greater effect on bearing life than material chemistry. The selection and specification of a bearing steel is dependent on the integration of all these considerations into the bearing design and application. The paper reviews rolling-element fatigue data and analysis, which can enable the engineer or metallurgist to select a rolling-element bearing steel for critical applications where long life is required.
bearing steel, carbide, fatigue, grain, hardness, lubricant, retained austenite, rolling element, vacuum
Chief engineer for structures, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH