Elastomeric vs Sliding Bearings: Pros and Cons

When it comes to selecting bearings for engineer’s constructions, such as Structural Bridge Bearings, the decision between elastomeric and sliding bearings becomes critical, impacting the longevity and safety of structures. These two types come with their pros and cons which should be critically analyzed to achieve optimal output together with the durability of structures. In this discussion, we shall look at the merits and demerits of both elastomeric as well as sliding bearings revealing their strengths and weaknesses respectively. Engineers as well as other top managers can decide on bearing types based on these unique characteristics that are required by their project specification.

Usually, these bearings contain several layers of rubber, or other elastic materials reinforced by steel plates or any other stuff to increase its robustness. The ability of rubber material to bend and shape due to stress surpasses that of concrete meaning that it can absorb kinetic energy resulting from motion, tremors due to geological activities, or thermal dilatation.


Elastomeric Bearings:

In construction works or any other engineering processes, an elastomeric bearing is one among many structural supports used for carrying out such duties as supporting movement between such structures as beams, columns & bridges. They are widely employed in support of bridge girders in several configurations plus seating pads within precast concrete components.


Composition of Elastomeric Bearings:

Rubber or other elastomeric materials—synthetic polymers noted for their elastic and flexible qualities—are typically used to make elastomeric bearings. To increase their strength and durability, these materials are frequently reinforced with steel plates or other reinforcing elements. The rubber used in elastomeric bearings is specifically designed to withstand the various environmental conditions and mechanical stresses experienced in bridge construction and other structural applications. As such, the actual composition of elastomeric bearings can vary depending on factors such as desired load capacity, movement accommodation requirements, project’s environmental circumstances among others.


Advantages of Elastomeric Bearings:

  • Flexibility: Various movement types like translation, rotation as well as vibration can be accommodated.
  • Damping: The material made of rubber acts to dampen off vibrations and shocks hence reducing impacts on the structure.
  • Low maintenance: In general, these types of bearings require minimal maintenance compared to other types.
  • Cost-effectiveness: They may be more economical than alternative bearing systems.
  • Durability: Properly designed and installed elastomeric bearings can last for a long time before they break down.


Challenges and Limitations of Elastomeric Bearings:

Elastomeric bearings do have some disadvantages, despite their numerous benefits for structural applications.One of the main drawbacks is that they carry lower loads compared to other types of bearings.These make them unsuitable in high-load cases; thus one has to consider the expected loads in engineering designs. Elastomeric bearings also decompose with time, particularly in severe environmental conditions. It is therefore necessary to regularly examine and maintain them to observe any signs of dilapidation and ensure the smooth running of these devices.


Sliding Bearing:

Sliding bearing or plain bearing is a type of bearing that makes two surfaces in contact with each other move smoothly and with minimal friction. Sliding motion takes place between the surface supporting it and the bearing surface unlike rolling bearings employing balls or rollers for lowering friction.

They are used in various industries like machinery, hydraulic cylinders in cars, automotive systems as well as construction equipment.


What substance are sliding bearings made from?

Different materials such as metals, plastics and including co-polymers can be used to produce these types of sliding bearings. Some of the frequently used materials for sliding bearings by best quality makers of bridge bearing are bronze, brass, steel, and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or nylon. Load capacity, speed, temperature and environmental conditions determine the choice of materials.



A thin lubricating film that is established between sliding surfaces in a sliding bearing, which decreases friction and wear is one of the principles of operation. Depending on their application requirements, they can be oiled, greased, or have solid lubricants applied to them.


Advantages of Sliding Bearings:

  • Being simple in design and operation makes them easy to install and maintain.
  • Suitable for heavy-load applications such as bridge supports and machinery due to their high load-carrying capacity.
  • Versatility; able to accommodate different types of motions as well as loads.
  • Low friction; makes surfaces move smoothly with efficiency.
  • If properly lubricated and maintained over time there would be minimal wear and tear thus giving the reliability factor a priority.


Disadvantages of Sliding Bearings:

  • Frequent maintenance helps ensure proper oiling thus avoiding undue wear.
  • Some cases call for additional cooling to counteract the heat building up at high-speed combinations under a heavy load situation.
  • Their offset drives result in handling tilting moments being difficult hence jeopardizing the performance
  • There may be a need for higher drive torques in some situations leading to more energy consumed as well as increased operating costs.


Contrasting Characteristics of Elastomeric and Sliding Bearings

Structural constructions and engineering projects often use sliding bearings and elastomeric bearings. Elastomeric bearings, in most cases, are made of rubber or elastomeric material supported by steel plates allowing them to be flexible enough for any kind of movement such as vibration, translation, or rotation. They have advantages like low maintenance needs, durability, and easy replacement ability. Unlike this fact, the materials used for sliding bearings include metals, plastic, or composite materials that enable it to move smoothly on other surfaces which lubrication helps in the reduction of friction-related wear. Sliding bearings are preferred due to their simplicity; they can easily support heavy loads with minimal maintenance requirements.

However, they may need regular visits for inspection and lubrication. On the other hand,

engineers require less elastomeric bearing maintenance because they can absorb shocks and vibrations effectively due to inherent damping properties bestowed upon them by nature. The type of bearing chosen between two types depends on several things like specific application requirements, load conditions, movement characteristics as well as maintenance demands among others. In engineering, each type has its pros and cons hence making a wise decision is important.