Have you ever wondered why manufacturers have been able to extend the warranties or service intervals for their products? Or how an automaker can offer an unlimited powertrain warranty? Often this is because of recent advances in material science that have allowed that very essential component - the bearing - to last longer and perform better than ever before, even in environments that were, until recently, quite inhospitable to bearings. With the availability of higher quality bearing steel, new alloys and platings, heat treatments and microstructure control for improved service life, bearings are going into more places than ever before, while providing superior solutions and improved performance under the most demanding conditions. Figure 1 shows the wide variety of characteristics needed by bearings in various applications. They can operate in high-tech environments or very demanding applications found in steel and paper mills. Whatever the application, there will likely be a material or plating designed specifically to allow the bearing to provide the equipment life required. Obviously, due to the many operating conditions listed, the list of available materials is quite extensive. Therefore, for the purpose of this paper, the following chart provides detail on only three key operating requirements: protection from corrosion, protection from wear and electrical conductivity protection. Protection from corrosion and fretting corrosion Protection from wear, friction and skidding Conductivity prevention Again, the above list is not meant to be comprehensive, but a sampling of what is being used to make bearings last longer. Many materials are proprietary to specific manufacturers and their production processes. The bottom line in the evaluation of any application is the cost benefit – the improved life, and the increased production time, worth the added cost of the special material.