What Are Ball Bearings?
Ball bearings are the most common type of bearing and are usually associated with wheels. They can be found in most rollerblades, skateboards and even in cars. Most recently, they have been implemented in fidget spinners, giving ball bearings a whole new purpose in 2017.
How Do They Work?
Think about it this way, if you had to push a 50-pound boulder across the ground, it would be pretty darn heavy. Now imagine that boulder was perfectly round. You would be able to just roll it anywhere with ease, due to a scientific concept known as rolling friction. A ball makes less contact with the ground thus reducing the amount of friction. Ball bearings utilize this concept.
Ball bearings contain tiny metal balls inside of them that create a barrier between a wheel and axle. This reduces friction, thus creating a wheel that can spin freely instead of rubbing against the axle. In the case of the spinner, the finger caps on each side function as its central axis.
Hence the balls inside the bearing of your spinner, skateboard, and even your car. Bearings reduce the point of contact between the spinner's bars and its axis, thus allowing it to spin freely.
What Da Heck is an ABEC?
All bearings are rated according to the Annular Bearing Engineers' Committee, better known as ABEC. It actually gets very complicated, but all you really need to know is the higher the ABEC rating, the better the bearing. Typically the better the bearing, the more expensive they will be.
ABEC uses a scale of consecutive odd numbers from 1-9 to determine the bearing's precision.
A cheap spinner might use ABEC 1 or 3 bearings whereas a more expensive one might have ABEC 7's. Generally speaking, higher-rated bearings spin longer than lower-rated ones.
So if you put ABEC-9's in your spinner, it will spin much longer than ABEC-3's, for example.
The Usual Suspects
608 - The 608 is the most common of the ball bearings, typically found in skateboards, rollerblades and rollerskates. These bearings are 22mm in diameter and are most commonly found on the more inexpensive, plastic hand spinners but also in many mid-range ones too.
The advantages of using these bearings is that they're widely available, relatively cheap and very easy to clean. 608s are also very stable for spinners, due to their larger inner diameter
Inner diameter - 7mm
Outer diameter - 22mm
606 - These bearings are almost identical to 608s except that they are a little bit smaller. This smaller inner diameter allows it to spin faster, however they're not as stable as 608 bearings and harder to clean. Since they are fairly uncommon, 606 bearings are expensive and harder to find.
Inner diameter - 6mm
Outer diameter - 17mm
R188 - The R188 has become a standard on most high-end spinners these days. They have a slightly smaller inner diameter than 606s in addition to being 5mm wider in size. Much like 606 bearings, R188 are known to spin faster than your typical 608s, but are much less stable. They are also harder to clean and more expensive, since they are less common. At least for now…
Inner diameter - 6.35mm
Outer diameter - 12.7mm
Steel, Ceramic and Ceramic Hybrid Bearings
There are three main types of materials used for bearings: steel, ceramic and a combination of the two. Here we will examine the advantages and disadvantages of each of them:
Steel - Smooth, Cheap and Durable
Most bearings, whether it's used in a spinner or any other application, are going to be made of steel. That's because steel is durable, especially for the price. Steel bearings can last a long time if properly cleaned and maintained, and are typically less noisy than the ceramic variety.
The major disadvantage to steel bearings is that they don't reduce heat and friction as effectively as ceramic, therefore are not capable of spinning for as long. Steel bearings are also more prone to corroding faster and can become magnetized, thus degrading its performance.
Ceramic - Fast, Noisy and Fragile
Ceramic bearings provide the most tactile feedback when used in a spinner, they're not quiet. Since ceramic is capable of absorbing more heat than steel, these bearings can spin faster and for longer periods of time. In addition to that, they aren't prone to magnetization or corrosion.
The downside to using ceramic bearings is that they are more expensive and less resilient than steel ones, so they won't last as longer either. If you are looking for a quiet spinner, than ceramic bearings are not the right choice for you as they vibrate more than your typical steel bearings. You might also notice more of a break-in time with these type of bearings, in the beginning.
Hybrid ceramic - Fast, Smooth and Resilient
Hybrid ceramic bearings combines the best features of ceramic bearings with that of steel. They are usually made of steel, but have tiny ceramic balls on the inside. The ceramic balls are ideal for low-friction spinning, which translates into faster spins and ultimately longer spin times.
These type of bearings have become the most desired by spinner enthusiasts since they are faster, smoother and last longer than fully ceramic bearings. They cost more, but are worth it. Of course they are still subject to corrosion and magnetization but are still clearly the best option.
Note: The most common type of ceramic balls used in these sort of bearings are Silicon Nitride (Si3N4), which are usually grey or black, and Zirconia Oxide (ZrO2) which are typically white.
What type of bearings are you using in your spinner right now?
What's Inside: Parts of a Spinner Bearing
Outer race - The big, outer portion of the bearing that contains grooves in which the balls rest.
Inner race - The small, inner part of the bearing that also contains grooves in which the balls rest.
Balls - The balls are the most essential part of the bearing. They roll in between the outer and inner race of the bearing, allowing it to spin freely, using the rolling friction principle.
Retainer/Cage - The retainer is also referred to as the cage and is primarily responsible for holding the parts of the bearing together.
Shield - The shield is the outmost portion of the bearing, which covers the retainer. Some are easier to remove than others without damaging the outer race. Bearings can have a shield on either side, both sides or come without them. They are not necessary, but help to protect your bearing from the elements, which can greatly harm the performance of it over time.
Note: Some bearings might have the letter "Z" or "ZZ" attached to their number. A bearing with the letter ZZ means it has two shields, Z means one shield, and no Z means it's unshielded. In addition, bearing shields may come in a variety of colors to customize the look of your bearings.
Best Fidget Spinner Bearings
Amazon seems to be the best place for fidget spinner bearings in terms of selection and pricing. Here are some of the best and fastest spinning bearings available right now for your spinners:
Steel and Hybrid
Bones is already a well-established name in the skateboard industry, which has embraced the 608 bearing long before hand spinners were even a thing. They make some of the best ceramic, steel and hybrid ceramic bearings around, just ask any skater what kind of bearings they use…
The Toyosky 606 Hybrid Ceramic Bearings is made of high quality 420 stainless steel, resistant to oxidation. For the price, it is the best you can get for a spinner that uses 606 bearings. Hybrid gives you the best features of both steel and ceramic, with a variety of options to choose from.
If you are looking for the best R188 hybrid ceramic bearing for your high end spinner, this is it. This Hybrid bearing contains ten silicon nitrate balls, instead of eight, like on most ball bearings. They spin forever and make very little noise, it just really doesn't get much better than that.
Fully Ceramic Bearings
VXB Bearing makes some of the most high quality ceramic bearings around. This is a fully ceramic bearing for your R188 fidget spinners. Full ceramic design provides excellent tactile feedback and long spin times. Made completely of zirconia oxide, this is not the cheap stuff.
VXB Bearing is the place to go on Amazon for your 606 bearing replacement spinner bearings. Made completely of zirconia oxide, this white spinner bearing has excellent tactile feedback and can spin for really long times. Get the best, get VXB Ceramic.
VXB also makes a fully ceramic 608 bearing made of zirconia oxide with silicon nitride balls. It will fit in any old cheap spinner, or your high end one, as long as it accepts 608 bearings. Fully ceramic design delivers the most tactile feedback while spinning for record breaking times.