Why are ceramic bearings so expensive?

Why are ceramic bearings so expensive? Because they are Faster, lighter, and more long-lasting. According to studies, a well-made ceramic bearing will roll quicker, saving you energy and enabling you to cruise at higher speeds than an equal steel bearing. This is due to the fact that the characteristics of ceramic allow for the production of rounder, smoother bearings.

Why are ceramic bearings so expensive?

:black_small_square: Are Ceramic Bearings worth the cost?

This amazing compound has had a significant influence, as has its oxide, zirconia (ZrO2), which is utilized to manufacture entire ceramic bearings.

Chris Johnson, general director of specialized bearing supplier SMB Bearings, describes the three most ignored aspects of complete ceramic bearings.

Ceramic bearings are much more costly than steel bearings. So, when is it worthwhile to invest in ceramic bearings? High-value applications, such as lab equipment, have certain criteria that must be met each time the application is utilized.

Due to the magnetic characteristics of these scanners, standard steel bearings cannot be utilized, hence ceramic bearings are the optimum solution for usage in these high-value applications.

Using silicon nitride bearings instead of typical alumina (aluminum oxide) bearings gives electrical isolation and superior corrosion resistance.

Full ceramic bearings can withstand the numerous demanding circumstances encountered throughout the phases of semiconductor manufacture, ranging from furnace temperatures approaching 1400 degrees Celsius to clean-room 1 air quality.

The extra expenditures are suddenly justified. Ceramic bearing components are sometimes substantially more costly than steel bearing components. Is the update worthwhile? Is it all a sham? Can they really speed me up?

The quick answer is that superior ceramic bearings do improve performance. They roll more smoothly and with less friction, which results in less resistance.

“Quicker” is important; they won’t cut 10 minutes off your next Ironman, but they could bring you over the finish line seconds faster in your next time trial.

Most manufactures claim a 1-3% watt save, which is substantial if you are a competitive athlete. The same watt savings, however, may most certainly be obtained by cleaning a filthy drive train.

Make careful to start with the simplest/easiest remedies, such as old or unclean components. The quality of ceramic bearings is quite important. Because they are significantly tougher than steel bearings, they must be exactly spherical.

A ceramic bearing will eat into the bearing races if they are even slightly out of round, increasing wear. Watt savings and component lifespan are heavily dependent on quality, and a good quality bearing might take several days to manufacture.

Ceramic speed charges a premium for its goods, but they can stand by their quality. If you get a good bargain on an off-brand ceramics bearing upgrade, it is most likely not worth it.

Consider using ceramic bearings throughout your bike. Pulley wheels, bottom brackets, and wheel bearings together give more watt savings than pulley wheels alone, but the cost is substantial.

You must consider the benefit of a tiny watt save. Ceramic bearings, on the other hand, will get you closer to the finish line if you desire a tiny advantage in your next race and are ready to pay for it.

Question 1 Does investing in ceramic bearings worth it?
Question 2 Zirconia or silicon nitride
Question 3 Full Ceramic or Hybrid Ceramic


Full ceramic bearings are rounder, smoother, and tougher than steel, with improved corrosion and heat resistance, higher dimensional stability, and reduced density. This, however, comes at a cost. Ceramic bearings are much more costly than steel bearings.

:black_small_square: Ceramic Bearings: Three Questions to Ask

Chris Johnson, Managing Director of specialized bearing supplier SMB Bearings, discusses the three most ignored aspects of complete ceramic bearings.

Scientists found zircon in rocks in 2000, indicating that life may have begun 500 million years earlier than previously believed.

This amazing compound has had a significant influence, as has its oxide, zirconia (ZrO2), which is utilized to manufacture entire ceramic bearings. But are the higher expenses justified?

Full ceramic bearings are rounder, smoother, and tougher than steel, with improved corrosion and heat resistance, higher dimensional stability, and reduced density. This, however, comes at a cost.

Ceramic bearings are much more costly than steel bearings.

1. So, when is it worthwhile to invest in ceramic bearings?

High-value applications, such as lab equipment, have certain criteria that must be met each time the application is utilized.

The use of the incorrect components in such equipment might taint research conditions or cause the study to be halted entirely. This is also true for medical equipment, where ceramic bearings’ non-contaminating and non-magnetic qualities are critical.

Consider Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), the imaging method most often associated with hospital MRI scanners. This method generates two- or three-dimensional photographs of any live thing using a powerful magnetic field.

Because of their magnetic qualities, standard steel bearings cannot be utilized in these scanners, hence ceramic bearings are the optimum alternative for use in these high-value applications.

Similarly, as integrated circuit makers try to develop quicker, smaller, and less costly chips, semiconductor manufacturing equipment manufacturers grow increasingly reliant on sophisticated ceramic components to accomplish the needed performance.

Using silicon nitride bearings instead of normal alumina (aluminium oxide) bearings gives electrical isolation and superior corrosion resistance.

The resistivity and dielectric constant of silicon nitride are comparable to those of alumina, however the material is significantly stronger owing to its microstructure.

Full ceramic bearings can withstand the numerous demanding circumstances encountered throughout the phases of semiconductor manufacture, ranging from furnace temperatures approaching 1400 °C to cleanroom 1 air quality.

2. Zirconia or Silicon Nitride?

There are many commercially available ceramic bearing types, all of which provide several benefits over conventional bearing parts. Silicon nitride (Si3N4) and zirconia are two common ceramics used as bearing materials (ZrO2).

Silicon nitride is a material that is both very hard and extremely light. It has a very broad temperature range and is appropriate for use in high vacuum applications, as well as great resistance to water, saltwater, and many acids and alkalis.

Because silicon nitride is very hard, it is also quite fragile, thus shock or impact loads should be kept to a minimum to prevent breaking. Silicon nitride has been used as the primary material in a number of aeronautical applications.

Notably, NASA’s space shuttles were initially built with steel bearings inside their turbo pumps, which was not a healthy mix when the space shuttle, and especially its engines, were subjected to enormous loads and temperatures.

Because of the high stresses, NASA engineers updated the bearings to silicon nitride equivalents, which perform better in vacuum situations.

According to the NASA research report, Si3N4 bearings demonstrated a 40% increase in runtime when compared to steel bearings.

Ceramic bearings constructed of ZrO2, or zirconium dioxide, are a strong ceramic material that has very comparable expansion qualities to steel but is 30% lighter.

This is beneficial when evaluating shaft and housing fits for higher temperature applications, when bearing expansion may result in the shaft no longer fit.

Although they are often referred to as ZrO2 bearings, they are really formed of ZrO2 stabilized with yttrium oxide, which provides better strength and fracture resistance at normal temperature.

They are also exceptionally water resistant, thus they are often used in maritime applications, especially when the equipment is entirely immersed or typical steel bearings cannot handle the weight or speed.

Choosing between a Si3N4 and a ZrO2 bearing is a hard choice, although ZrO2 bearings are more typically selected owing to their great corrosion resistance and harsher qualities.

3. Full Ceramic or Hybrid Ceramic?

Most people think of hybrid ceramic bearings when they think about ceramic bearings. Hybrid bearings are a cross between ceramic and steel, using stainless steel races or rings and ceramic balls.

A hybrid bearing’s steel inner and outer rings may be manufactured to extremely tight tolerances, making them ideal for applications such as electric motors, laboratory equipment, and machine tooling.

Because of the decreased friction, combining ceramic hybrid bearings and synthetic grease lubrication to a grinder machine may reach 25% higher revolutions per minute (RPM).

Grinding spindles made of hybrid ceramics may last 4000 hours without failure, compared to 3000 hours for steel bearings.

Hybrid bearings may also reduce temperatures by almost 50%. Switching from standard bearings to the hybrid option has been proven to reduce bearing temperature from 60 °C to 36 °C at 12,000 RPM in a horizontal machining center.

Because the less brittle metal rings are less prone to unexpected catastrophic failure at high speed or load, using a hybrid bearing combination allows for higher speeds than complete ceramic solutions.

However, the corrosion resistance of a hybrid bearing pales in contrast to that of a complete ceramic counterpart.

Choosing the correct bearings for harsh situations has always been a difficult task. However, just as Zirconia elucidated the genesis of life, asking these three questions will aid in decision making.


Ceramic bearings are made up of ceramic rolling components (balls) that are surrounded by a ferrous (usually steel) inner and outer race. Because these bearings are made of a variety of materials, they often work in hybrid capacities.

:black_small_square: Benefits of Ceramic Bearings

Ceramic bearings are highly valued by manufacturers due to their superior speed over steel bearings.

This advantage arises from four fundamental characteristics:

• Less rolling resistance

• Weight reduction

• Increased durability

• Increased stiffness

Reduced rolling resistance is mostly due to the greater smoothness, dimensional stability, and uniformity of ceramic balls over steel ball bearings. These features guarantee that applied loads are distributed equally across all rolling components.

Furthermore, ceramic materials have a lower coefficient of friction (20–30 times less) than steel ball bearings with normal seals and lubrication. Reduced friction means less rolling resistance and quicker rotating speeds.

Ceramic bearings’ less weight adds to their overall superior performance over steel bearings.

Ceramic bearings may be up to 40% lighter than similar steel bearings. This reduced weight results in lower centrifugal stresses on the outer race when the bearing rotates.

Because of the decrease in forces, ceramic bearings may function up to 20–40% quicker than standard steel bearings while needing much less energy to maintain their speed.

Ceramic bearings are also tougher than steel bearings and so last longer. Ceramic bearings have been shown in studies to survive 5 to 20 times longer.

The smoother surface of the ceramics also minimizes the possibility of bearing seizure when little or no lubrication is present. Furthermore, because of their resistance to corrosion and deterioration, ceramic bearings can work in hostile settings.

Finally, their electrical insulating features reduce the possibility of rolling element electrical erosion and pitting.

:small_orange_diamond: Ceramic Bearings Application

Ceramic bearings are often used in space exploration applications and other aerospace sector goods.

Because they are lightweight and vacuum-compatible, they are suitable for satellites and spacecraft that need appropriate weight capacities to improve flight dynamics and acceleration.

Furthermore, these bearings do not need lubricants like heavy greases and oils, which collect impurities that interfere with delicate electrical components. There are several popular applications that affect our everyday lives.

Ceramic materials are increasing the life of most railroad traction motors. Ceramic bearings are very beneficial in chemical and mixing applications, particularly in terms of contamination prevention.

Ceramic bearings are chemically inert, which means they will not react with harsh chemicals or leak particles into delicate solutions.

Ceramic bearings’ corrosion resistance makes them perfect for washdowns with strong acidic or alkaline chemical cleaning solutions.

Furthermore, the absence of oil and grease lubrication decreases the possibility of bacterial development and contamination. Other uses for ceramic bearings include:

  • High-speed milling machines

  • Machining at high speeds

  • Instruments of precision

  • Compressors and pumps

  • Ceramic Bearings of All occasions

Emerson Bearing has been a pioneer in the supply of roller and radial ball bearings to a wide range of sectors for over 50 years. Our ceramic hybrid bearings are suited for applications that need high performance, dependability, and lifespan.

If you want to learn more about our ceramic bearings, please visit our website for additional information on our products, services, and capabilities.

:small_orange_diamond: Use of Ceramics as Bearing Materials

Ceramics have been tested and employed in ball bearings, roller bearings, and plain bearings (bushings).

Ceramics are more resistant to fatigue, high temperatures, and lubrication loss than metals, making them appealing for ball and roller bearings. There are many commercially available ceramic bearing types, which are classified as all-ceramic or hybrid.

Hybrid bearings feature ceramic rolling elements in steel races, while all-ceramic bearings have ceramic races and rolling elements.

All-ceramic bearings are often utilized in specialized high temperature, high speed applications where design criteria are stringent and hence expensive.

Hybrid bearings are finding use in an increasing number of high-speed machinery. Ceramics are used in machine-tool spindles due to their reduced centrifugal forces.

Because centrifugal forces, which may cause skidding, are related to ball mass, replacing steel balls (density 8 g/cm3) with silicon nitride (density 3.1 g/cm3) considerably decreases stress on the outer race.

Another use for hybrids is the use of single alumina crystals as ‘jewel’ bearing materials in watches, clocks, gyroscopes, and other precise equipment.

Because of its wear resistance, hardness, and mechanical strength, alumina is also utilized for circulating pump bearings in central heating systems, washing machines, and automotive cooling systems.

Ceramic rolling elements outperform conventional bearing elements in many ways. Improved corrosion resistance, reduced density, greater hardness, higher compressive strength, and longer fatigue life are among them.

The table below shows some of the common ceramics used for bearing materials, as well as some of their mechanical qualities:

Material density Tensile Modulus Vickers hardness Toughness
Alumina 3.96 300-400 1500-1650 4-6
Silicon Carbide 3.15 200-450 2400-2800 4-5
Silicon Nitride 3.11 280-310 1700-2200 5-8.5
SiAION* 3.24 280-300 1650-1800 6-8
Zirconia 6.05 200-210 1200-1300 8-12

Other ceramics are utilized in specialized applications, but the ultimate ceramic (and grade) selection will be determined by a variety of considerations, including the environment in which the bearings will be used, operating temperature, and cost.

To be Precise

Ceramic bearings are used in hubs, bottom brackets, pulley wheels, and headsets, among other places, to minimize friction and enhance longevity. Many ceramic bearings are hybrid bearings, with ceramic balls housed within steel bearing races.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here are some questions about why are ceramic bearings so expensive:

1. What is the difference between ceramic and steel bearings?

Ceramic bearings are also up to 30% tougher than steel bearings, which increases longevity. They also do not corrode, thus less maintenance is necessary. The majority of sealed ceramic bearings are hybrid ceramic bearings that combine a steel race with ceramic ball bearings.

2. What are the drawbacks of ceramic bearings?

Ceramic bearings have lower load capabilities than metal bearings and are more susceptible to heat shock. Thermal shock occurs when a temperature difference inside a material produces differential expansion, resulting in internal tension. This stress may surpass the material’s strength, resulting in the formation of a fracture.

3. What exactly is a ceramic ball?

Ceramic balls are spherical rolling components that outperform steel balls in terms of stiffness, thermal expansion, weight, corrosion resistance, and electrical resistance. They are made of various ceramic materials.

4. For high temperature load bearing, what sort of ceramic is used?

Mullite is an excellent option due to its low cost, wide range of diameters, high temperature strength, and thermal shock resistance. In the die-cast sector, these ceramic electrical heating-element supports are utilized in heating equipment and furnace systems for melting, holding, and transporting aluminum.

5. Ceramic bearings are they magnetic?

Full ceramic bearings are also non-magnetic, allowing them to be utilized in medical equipment such as MRI scanners or any application where a strong magnetic field exists. However, since ceramic bearings have a higher hardness, they are more brittle and do not withstand shock loads well.

6. What exactly is a ceramic sealed bearing?

Bearings may be sealed or unsealed. Unsealed ceramic bearings are single ceramic balls, but sealed ceramic bearings are classified into two types: hybrid and totally ceramic bearings. Steel rings, or races, are retained in hybrid ceramic bearings, but ceramic balls are used.

7. Is ceramic BB a good choice?

In a bicycle bottom bracket application, quality hybrid ceramic bearings outperform steel bearings because they feature rounder balls for less resistance, better races for less resistance, and are grease-efficient in low RPM, low heat settings for less resistance.

8. What exactly are ABEC 7 bearings?

These bearings are in less supply and are priced 4-5 times more than ABEC 1-3 bearings. An ABEC 7 bearing, in particular, will operate better and endure longer in high speed applications than an ABEC 3 bearing because to its reduced runout and axial play.

9. How are ball bearing balls manufactured?

The ball spins and tumbles as it goes through the groove, the rough edges are broken off, and the ball is squished into a spherical form, similar to rolling a piece of dough between your hands. The squeezing of the balls compresses the metal, resulting in a highly hard surface on the balls.

10. What effect do ceramic balls have on water?

Bio ceramic balls for water treatment are mostly utilized as filter fillers. They have been shown to be useful in reducing pollutants in water sources, including carcinogens such as chloroform and heavy metals.


To sum it up about why are ceramic bearings so expensive, we can say that In comparison to metal, ceramic fiber can store a large amount of energy, which inhibits heat dispersion because heat is the transit of energy. That is the reason they are too expensive.

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