What are Bearing Seals and Their Common Types?

Bearings are highly beneficial components to countless systems, minimizing friction between moving surfaces while constraining motion as needed. In order for bearings to optimally perform over long periods of time, bearing seals must be used. With the use of bearing seals, bearing components may be protected from contamination and a loss of lubrication. With such abilities, bearings can have their service lives extended for cost savings and efficient operations. Depending upon one’s particular needs, there are multiple types of bearing seal components that may be used. In this blog, we will discuss the most common bearing seal variations and their applications.

Contact Seals

Contact seals, often referred to as lip seals, are a type of rubber element that is bonded to a steel insert. Often constructed from Buna-N or nitrile, such seals may apply continuous pressure on the inner ring of a bearing. With direct contact on the inner ring, contact seals prevent substances such as dirt, dust, or fluids from entering the inner assembly of a bearing. Additionally, such components also maintain the sealing of lubricants. Despite such benefits, contact seals can cause friction and heat within the bearing, potentially leading to damage or premature part failure. Contact seals also reduce the maximum speed that the bearing may operate at.

Non-Contact Seals

Non-contact seals are somewhat similar to contact seals, also coming in the form of Buna-N or nitrile components that are bonded to steel inserts. Despite this, non-contact seals are fixed to the outer ring of the bearing, and thus do not exert pressure on the inner ring. Nevertheless, a thin lip is situated adjacent to the inner ring, ensuring that contaminants cannot enter the assembly. As construction differs from contact seals, non-contact seals are not as optimal for preventing contamination. With their lack of contact, however, less friction is exerted on the inner ring so that overheating and premature part failure is well avoided.

Labyrinth Seal

A labyrinth seal is another common bearing seal variation, coming in the form of a bearing isolator that shares characteristics of contact and non-contact seals. To prevent the chance of the bearing becoming contaminated by dirt, dust, or moisture, such substances would have to travel through a difficult path. Composed of multiple elements, one part of the labyrinth seal is fixed while the other part will rotate alongside the system. By interlocking, the labyrinth seal can deter contamination while also ensuring that lubricants remain in the system.

With the design of labyrinth seals, such components offer high sealing capabilities. As they also lack major contact with the inner ring, they can both prevent contamination while ensuring that friction remains low for part health. Despite sharing major benefits from contact and non-contact seals, labyrinth seals are not without their own disadvantages. For one, their complexity requires such components to be larger, meaning that they are less optimal for constricted spaces. Additionally, they can also be more expensive than other options. As a result, one should always balance their particular needs against the size and cost requirements of an application.

Whether you require a contact seal, non-contact seal, labyrinth seal, shaft slingers, or other bearing components, look no further than Methodical Purchasing. Methodical Purchasing is a premier online platform for new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find items that cater to a diverse set of industries and applications. With over 2 billion items sourced from leading global manufacturers, we are more than capable of fulfilling all your operational requirements quickly and easily. Take the time to explore our offerings, and our team of industry experts is always readily available to assist customers throughout the purchasing process however necessary. Begin procuring the parts you need today and experience why customers steadily rely on Methodical Purchasing for all their needs.


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