Babbitt is also called Babbitt metal or bearing metal. It is used for the bearing surface in a plain bearing. Its is any of several tin or lead based alloys used as bearing material for axles and crankshafts, based on the tin alloy.
Babbitt was invented by Isaac Babbitt for use in steam engines. Modern Babbitt provide a low-friction lining for bearing shells made of stronger metals such as cast iron, steel, or bronze. It can be made from high-tin alloys with small quantities of antimony and copper, high-lead alloys containing antimony, arsenic and tin and intermediate tin-lead alloys with antimony and copper.
It is most commonly used as thin surface layer in a complex, multi-metal structure but its original use was as a cast-in-place bulk bearing material. Babbitt metal is soft and easily damaged, which some people might believe this will make it hard for bearing surface. But it has hard metal in a soft matrix of tin or lead create a material strong enough to bear relatively high speeds and loads yet soft enough to embedded dirt or other intrusions and not seize up on a spinning shaft in case of lubrication failure.
Tin Babbitt can be used higher temperatures than the cheaper lead alloys, but most Babbitt cannot endure prolonged use in high performance combustion engines for which bearings are now made with linings of copper and aluminum alloys.
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