Thrust washers are a component that is found in various assemblies, and despite their name, they are actually a type of bearing rather than a washer. Their naming comes from the fact that their appearance is quite similar to that of washers, yet they are placed between a rotating and stationary component for the means of managing the placement of the rotating element as it brushes against the thrust washer. In this blog, we will briefly discuss the thrust washer, allowing you to better understand its design and roles.
Across all types of bearings, most will either be a flat or rollerized bearing variation. The thrust washer is considered to be a flat bearing, those of which are designed to take on assembly loads and spread them out over a large surface area. With such an ability, flat bearings are able to lower point contact force and mitigate friction at the same time. If the bearing is a rollerized bearing, then a roller bearing such as a ball or needle roller bearing would be used between bearing surfaces to prevent friction for the health of the assembly.
While similar in appearance to general washers, thrust washers set themselves apart in terms of their material lubricity. When discussing lubricity, one is referring to how easy it is for two objects to slide against one another. Brick materials, as an example, exhibit low lubricity as their rough surfaces have trouble sliding against each other. With various metals, on the other hand, high lubricity is exhibited as the surfaces slide over one another with ease. As thrust washers are often constructed with alloys that are specifically chosen for their lubricity, they are able to slide with ease. With high lubricity, thrust washer components also maintain longer service lives as less wear and tear occurs.
Despite being constructed with materials that exhibit ample lubricity, liquid lubricants are not implemented into thrust washer assemblies. Instead, they utilize a dry lubricant like graphite, molybdenum disulfide, or boron nitride. To make this dry lubricant, graphite is added to the metal during the ingot casting phase, allowing for graphite particles to be created as wear and tear ensues. These graphite particles then stay on the surface of the thrust washer, helping to resist wear with slick, resistant surfaces. Despite this ability, bearing types such as roller bearings that utilize liquid lubricants can achieve longer service lives.
If you are concerned with the loads of an assembly and how they may affect the service lives of thrust washers, it can be beneficial to implement one or more intermediate washers. With each added thrust washer, the amount of force that they are subjected to can be split between each bearing. As a result, bearing service lives and friction reduction can potentially improve with the addition of more washers, as long as space permits their installation.
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