A cam follower, also known as a track follower, is a specialized type of roller or needle bearing designed to follow cam lobe profiles. Cam followers come in a vast array of different configurations, however the most defining characteristic is how the cam follower mounts to its mating part; stud style cam followers use a stud while the yoke style has a hole through the middle.
The modern stud type follower was invented and patented in 1937 by Thomas L. Robinson of the McGill Manufacturing Company. It replaced using a standard bearing and bolt. The new cam followers were easier to use because the stud was already included and they could also handle higher loads.
While roller cam followers are similar to roller bearings, there are quite a few differences. Standard ball and roller bearings are designed to be pressed into a rigid housing, which provides circumferential support. This keeps the outer race from deforming, so the race cross-section is relatively thin. In the case of cam followers the outer race is loaded at a single point, so the outer race needs a thicker cross-section to reduce deformation. However, in order to facilitate this the roller diameter must be decreased, which also decreases the dynamic bearing capacity.
End plates are used to contain the needles or bearing axially. On stud style followers one of the end plates is integrated into the inner race/stud; the other is pressed onto the stud up to a shoulder on the inner race. The inner race is induction hardened so that the stud remains soft if modifications need to be made. On yoke style followers the end plates are peened or pressed onto the inner race or liquid metal injected onto the inner race. The inner race is either induction hardened or through hardened.
Another difference is that a lubrication hole is provided to relubricate the follower periodically. A hole is provided at both ends of the stud for lubrication. They also usually have a black oxide finish to help reduce corrosion.