Life Estimation of Rolling Bearings Based on the Colors on Sliding Surfaces
It is experimentally known that the surface color of bearing balls gradually becomes brown during long term operation of the bearings under appropriate lubrication conditions. That exhibits the possibility of an estimation method for residual life of ball bearings without any abnormal wear on the surfaces by precise color measurements. Therefore, we examined what set colors on bearing balls by surface observation using scanning electron microscopy and subsurface analysis using transmission electron microscopy. Results showed that an amorphous carbon layer had gradually covered ball surfaces during operation of the bearings. The layer not only changed ball color but also made overall ball shapes closer to a complete sphere. The report also introduces a uniquely developed color analyzer which enabled color measurements on metallic surfaces, such as the above-mentioned balls.