Typically these bearings support a rotating shaft in the bore of the inner ring that must move not only rotationally, but also at an angle. Spherical bearings can be of a hydrostatic or mechanical construction. A spherical bearing by itself consists of an outer ring and an inner ring and a locking feature that makes the inner ring captive within the outer ring in the axial direction only.
The outer surface of the inner ring and the inner surface of the outer ring are spherical (or more correctly, toroidal) and are collectively considered the raceway and they slide against each other, either with a lubricant, a maintenance-free (typically polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE) based liner, or they incorporate a rolling element such as a race of ball-bearings, allowing lower friction.
Spherical bearings are used in countless applications, wherever rotational motion must be allowed to change the alignment of its rotation axis. A good example is the drive axle bearings of a vehicle control arm (or A-arm) suspension.
The mechanics of the suspension allow the axle to move up and down (and the wheel to turn in order to steer the vehicle), and the axle bearings must allow the rotational axis of the axle to change without binding. While in practice, spherical bearings are not used here, it is a simple concept that illustrates a possible application of a spherical bearing. In fact, spherical bearings are used in smaller sub-components of this type of suspension, for example certain types of constant-velocity joints.
Spherical bearings are used in car suspensions, engines, driveshafts, heavy machinery, sewing machines, and many other applications.