Global demand for bearings is projected to grow 7.8% annually to $96 billion in 2016, according to a new World Bearings study from The Freedonia Group, Cleveland. Unmounted ball bearings will remain the bestselling type in 2016, followed closely by unmounted roller bearings, which are forecast to experience the fastest sales gains from 2011 to 2016. The motor vehicle and machinery markets accounted for more than 70% of all bearing demand in 2011. However, sales of bearings used in aerospace and other markets will rise faster, boosted by increased output of aircraft, rail equipment, motorcycles, electronic devices, and medical equipment in developing nations, as well as by more moderate gains in these markets elsewhere.

The Asia/Pacific region will post the fastest gains of any region between 2011 and 2016, climbing an average of 10% per year to $54 billion in bearing sales and accounting for more than half of the world total. Demand in China will rise fastest among the major markets in the region, due to rapidly expanding motor vehicle and machinery production, combined with a strong aftermarket in industrial equipment and motor vehicle repair. In 2016, bearing sales to customers in China will account for one-third of the world total, and by 2021, the market will exceed those in North America and Western Europe combined, say analysts.

Demand for bearings in Japan, Western Europe, and the U.S. — the largest mature markets — will expand faster than it did during 2006 to 2011. In most of these countries, manufacturing activity plummeted between 2007 and 2009, before strengthening in 2010 and 2011. Bearing demand followed the same pattern. Growing needs for industrial products and a variety of durable goods in the developing world will aid in the rapid acceleration of bearing sales to OEMs in Japan, North America, and Western Europe. The complete study costs $6,300 from freedoniagroup.com.