When surfaces rotate or slide, the rotational or sliding motion results in friction and heat. Energy is used, the surfaces wear, and this reduces component life and product efficiency. Friction may be reduced by lubrication which keeps the surfaces apart. At the same time, lubricants dissipate heat and maintain clean contact surfaces. Materials are carefully selected with appropriate mechanical and physical properties for bearings and their housings, to minimize the effects of friction, and particular care is taken with the accuracy of machining, surface finish and maintenance of all component parts associated with bearings.
In a plain bearing the relative motion is by sliding in contrast with the rolling motion of ball and roller bearings.
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