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Ceramic Bearing Technology

Waukesha Bearings applies ceramic and cermet (ceramic-metallic composite) materials to thrust and journal bearing designs to extend bearing capabilities in applications where traditional materials and polymers fall short. The extremely hard surfaces of ceramic/cermet bearings can handle corrosive materials, contaminated lubricant and temperatures beyond the limits of polymers and traditional materials.

Ceramic/cermet bearings:

  • Retain their mechanical properties and load carrying capacity over a wide range of temperatures, including extremely cold and hot environments 
  • Are compatible with very thin hydrodynamic films and low-viscosity lubricants
  • Are resistant to most chemicals, including hydrogen sulphide and ammonia

In addition, ceramic/cermet surfaces are harder than common abrasives, such as sand, and will crush abrasive debris in the lubricant, preventing bearing damage.

Of note, the use of ceramic/cermet requires deliberate material selection for both the rotating and stationary surfaces, especially when abrasives are present or films are extremely thin.

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Ceramic/cermet bearings are used successfully in many oil-, water- and process-lubricated pump applications, including:

  • Water injection pumps
  • Crude oil booster pumps
  • Cryogenic pumps 
  • Subsea pumps
  • Electric submersible pumps (ESPs) in SAGD applications

Water and Process Lubrication

In applications lubricated by water or process fluid, bearing materials need to be both chemically resistant to the fluid and able to operate with thin films. With clean fluid, polymer bearings provide an inert solution with high load capacity. Where abrasives are present, ceramic/cermet bearings provide a durable option.

Electric Submersible Pumps 

For ESPs operating in SAGD applications, ceramic/cermet thrust bearings can provide a drop-in replacement for existing polymer-lined bearings to increase the operating envelope. The Hidrax™ HT thrust bearing from Waukesha Bearings has a rated unit load capacity of 8 MPa (1160 psi) and can operate in oil bath temperatures in excess of 300°C (572°F).