The inner and outer ring raceways are segments of cones and the rollers are also made with a taper so that the conical surfaces of the raceways and the roller axes if projected, would all meet at a common point on the main axis of the bearing.
This conical geometry is used as it gives a larger contact patch, which permits greater loads to be carried than with spherical (ball) bearings, while the geometry means that the tangential speeds of the surfaces of each of the rollers are the same as their raceways along the whole length of the contact patch and no differential scrubbing occurs. When a roller slides rather than rolls, it can generate wear at the roller-to-race interface, i.e. the differences in surface speeds creates a scrubbing action. Wear will degenerate the close tolerances normally held in the bearing and can lead to other problems. Much closer to pure rolling can be achieved in a tapered roller bearing and this avoids rapid wear.
The rollers are guided by a flange on the inner ring. This stops the rollers from sliding out at high speed due to their momentum.
The larger the half angles of these cones the larger the axial force that the bearing can sustain.
Tapered roller bearings are separable and have the following components: outer ring, inner ring, and roller assembly (containing the rollers and a cage). The non-separable inner ring and roller assembly is called the cone, and the outer ring is called the cup. Internal clearance is established during mounting by the axial position of the cone relative to the cup.