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This study analyzes the global market for plain bearings by region and type (journal, spherical, thrust and other bearings).
Demand is also discussed by market:
material handling equipment
food and beverage processing machinery
oil and gas equipment
motor vehicles (e.g., automobiles; light, medium, and heavy trucks; recreational vehicles; mini-buses and shuttles; all-terrain vehicles; motor coaches and transit buses; vans)
original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
aerospace (e.g., airplanes, drones, helicopters, rockets, satellites, space vehicles)
motorcycles, including internal combustion engine and electric moped, motorcycles, and scooters
other markets, including:
boats, ships, and other marine equipment
electronics and electrical equipment
Excluded from the scope of this study are mounted products (such as pillow block and rod end bearings); separately sold plain bearing parts; adaptor and withdrawal sleeves; flexure, fluid, and magnetic bearings; lock nuts and washers; lubricators; and retaining plates.
Historical data (2010, 2015, and 2020) and forecasts for 2025 and 2030 are presented for plain bearing demand, production, and net exports in current US dollars (including inflation). Year-by-year historical sales are provided in US dollars and local currency (when applicable) for selected countries discussed in the report.
Production by Region
Plain bearing shipment levels differ considerably from region to region. Major producers tend to concentrate their manufacturing operations in nations with large domestic markets such as those in China and Japan, which contributes to the Asia/Pacific region’s position as the leading plain bearing producer.
Manufacturers in developed nations typically focus on high-value bearings and lead the world in technical expertise. They also benefit from having large, diverse home markets. The US, Japan, and Germany are the largest developed world plain bearing manufacturers. Unsurprisingly, these nations are also home to seven of the eight leading plain bearing manufacturers.
Developing nations are expected to register the fastest gains in plain bearings production. As these countries continue to industrialize, their local markets will become more appealing to large plain bearing suppliers. In turn, it is likely that these suppliers will enter into or expand their manufacturing operations in these areas to boost sales and increase their market share.
Demand by Type
Plain bearings can be categorized as journal (sleeve), spherical, and thrust and other:
Journal bearings, which are among the least expensive of any bearing type, are the most popular plain bearing product, responsible for 60% of all demand in 2020.
Spherical plain bearings accounted for 30% of the global market total in the same year, with thrust and other plain bearings making up the remainder.
Journal bearings will post the largest gains, with demand rising 5.6% per year through 2025 to $8.4 billion. Sales will be bolstered by improved motor vehicle and aerospace equipment market conditions. Journal bearing manufacturers will also benefit from competitive inroads being made in a number of applications because of design improvements and relatively low costs.
Global demand for spherical plain bearings is forecast to climb 5.2% annually to $4.1 billion in 2025. Advances will be fueled by increased output of farm, construction, oilfield, and mining machinery, where these products are most commonly used.
Thrust and other plain bearing demand is expected to grow at a 5.0% annual rate through 2025 to $1.3 billion. Sales will be boosted by a generally healthy durable goods manufacturing outlook, particularly for machinery and motor vehicles.
Demand by Market
Plain bearings are used in the production of a variety of equipment, including industrial machinery, off-road equipment, motor vehicles and other transportation equipment, and consumer goods.
At the broadest level, demand for plain bearings can be divided into two sectors:
original equipment manufacturing (OEM), which consists of plain bearings installed as components during initial product manufacturing
aftermarket, or maintenance/repair/operations (MRO), which consists of repair/replacement spending for plain bearings
Global demand for plain bearings is projected to increase 5.4% per year between 2020 and 2025 to $13.8 billion. The fastest advances will be in the aerospace equipment and motorcycle markets, though the primary driver of gains in those markets will differ:
Demand in the motorcycle market will be driven by growth in units as motorcycle producers ramp up production to meet rapidly growing demand.
The need for high quality bearings in aerospace equipment, coupled with significant investment in this market in developing nations, will boost growth in the aerospace market in both unit and value terms, despite the maturity of the aerospace industry in many developed markets.
Factors influencing plain bearing prices in a particular area include:
level of local demand
local availability of supplies
raw material costs
In general, plain bearing prices (adjusted for relative currency fluctuations) tend to settle at or near a global standard for any given product type and level of quality. Nevertheless, there remains considerable variation in prices from country to country.
Most plain bearing markets are mature, especially in developed nations, and consolidation activity among equipment OEMs has reduced the bargaining power of component suppliers. The standardized nature of many designs has also made it difficult for plain bearing manufacturers to raise prices – particularly for lower end products – because of the widespread availability of inexpensive items made in countries with lower manufacturing costs. Suppliers of higher end products, on the other hand, have generally had more pricing flexibility.
Average plain bearing prices are projected to increase 1.6% annually between 2020 and 2025, accelerating from the 2015-2020 period.
Global plain bearing demand is projected to climb 5.4% annually to $13.8 billion in 2025, a considerable improvement from the market weakness that characterized the 2015-2020 period as a whole. During the post-pandemic period, sales gains will be fueled by a rebound in durable goods manufacturing output. The motor vehicles and machinery markets for bearings – by far the largest – are expected to account for much of the worldwide gains through 2025, with the motor vehicles segment registering particularly rapid growth. However, a semiconductor chip shortage will dampen the motor vehicle markets growth prospects in the near term.
Although plain bearings will remain a relatively niche product compared to other types, they are expected to gain share from bearings with rolling elements in the manufacture of such equipment as aerospace and wind turbines because of their performance advantages, which are continuing to improve also with product design innovation.
Asia/Pacific Region – Led by China – to Account for Nearly 60% of All New Bearing Demand
The Asia/Pacific region is expected to account for 59% of new global bearing demand through 2025, with China alone being responsible for 41% of all market gains. The Asia/Pacific region’s durable goods industries generally experienced less severe turmoil and are expected to see quicker recoveries than their counterparts in other parts of the world, boosting associated plain bearing demand. However, much smaller developing markets – the Africa/Mideast region, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe – will register faster gains in percentage terms, bolstered by a rebound in durable goods manufacturing after experiencing declines in 2020 related to the pandemic.
Journal & Spherical Bearings Will Offer the Best Opportunities
Journal bearings will record the largest market advances through 2025, fueled by improved motor vehicle and aerospace equipment market conditions, as well as by the replacement of rolling element bearings in certain applications because of design enhancements and cost considerations. The increased use of journal bearings in new applications will result in greater replacement needs for this product type beyond 2025.
Spherical plain bearings will register the next largest sales gains, spurred by increased output of farm, construction, oilfield, and mining machinery, where these products are most commonly used. Design changes in some durable goods – motivated by a desire to improve performance and control costs – will also spur the use of spherical plain bearings around the world.