Anyone who knows anything about fidget spinners and how they work, knows that it’s all about the ball bearings. From what makes that perfect glide so smooth to the science behind the whole thing, the ball bearing attachment of the fidget spinner is where it’s at.
But what’s really important to know about that ball bearing? And how can this knowledge help us?
What Is A Ball Bearing
A ball bearing, whether in a spinner or not, is essentially a contraption that uses rolling friction to it’s advantage.
It’s constructed by taking two circular races with the balls between rotating and spinning between them. It works by spinning ones of the races which in turn rotates the balls sandwiched between them.
The great thing about this is that rolling friction is lower than sliding friction. This is a result of less surface area. In sliding friction, there is more in contact with the surface, therefore creating more friction. With rolling friction, only a part of the surface of the object is touching whatever it’s connected to as it rolls, significantly decreasing the friction created.
When you use a fidget spinner, you spin the weighted blades to make the races spin in the middle. These races than cause the metal or ceramic balls inside to rotate. Because the friction is so low, fidget spinners tend to have an almost endless spin, making them so satisfying.
What Kinds of Bearings Are There
When it comes to fidget spinners there are a million different customizations to choose from. You can get cooler blades, you can 3D-print your own, or change the colour and design. But did you know there are different kinds of ball bearings too?
There are three kinds, each with their own pros and cons.
1. Traditional Metal Bearings
These are the ones that are most often found as they are cheaper to make and still give you a satisfying spin. In a steel bearing the balls in the center, the races, and the cage (which keep the balls seperate) are all made of steel. Since ball bearings are usually bought by fidget spinner manufacturers from wholesalers, they tend not to be built exactly for fidget spinners. That means you may have to clean them thoroughly of grease if you want more speed and length of spin.
2. Full-Ceramic Bearings
Ceramic is another material you’ll find in fidget spinner ball bearings, but not as often. It’s a bit more expensive than steel but the investment will pay off. When it’s “all” ceramic, that also means that the entire ball bearing is ceramic. That means not only the balls, but also the races and the cage. They have a great spin time and have even been tested against metal bearings to prove it. Full ceramic bearings in a fidget spinner can almost quadruple your spin time compared to the average spinner, again making it worth the price hike.
3. Hybrid Bearings
The hybrid bearing is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a combination of both metal and ceramic. Hybrid bearings are usually seen as the favourite among fidget pros, who like that you get the best of both worlds. Because hybrid bearings have steel races but ceramic balls and cages, you get all the great spin of ceramic with less friction from the steel. Hybrid spinners carry the longest spin time of any of the different ball bearing options.
How To Clean Ball Bearings
The most important thing to understand when looking to do maintenance on your fidget spinner ball bearings is that it requires a different technique than ball bearings used on things like skateboards and rollerskates.
Usually oiling a ball bearing is meant to reduce noise and create a smoother rotation, but it has the nasty effect of also slowing down the speed. Any kind of grease or oil in the ball bearing of your fidget spinner could cut down your spin time significantly, so be careful!
However, because (as mentioned earlier) steel ball bearings are usually bought wholesale they tend to come with grease or oil already inside. So how do you get rid of it?
The simplest way is to pick up a fast acting, strong “de-greaser” for stainless steel. You can pretty much find this anywhere that sells home cleaning supplies and will most likely come in a jug or a squirt bottle.
To clean the ball bearing you’ll have to first remove it, by popping off the center cap or button and getting past the steal casing. Once you’ve opened it up and have exposed the ball bearings, you’ll want to soak the whole thing in your de-greaser for around 30 minutes.
Once you’re done, you should be able to see that there is no more grease between the cages and balls.
Rinse it really quick with water and dry completely to avoid rusting. This technique is ONLY for steel ball bearings, so if you have ceramic ones you won’t need to clean it at all.
Which is your favourite type of ball bearing? Let us know in the comments!