You may have never heard of miniature ball bearings, but you have likely used them in sports or for a home improvement project. These are most commonly found in recreational sporting equipment such as roller skates or scooters, but they also have specific application usefulness in certain tools as well.
Miniature bearings come in sizes ranging from a few millimeters in diameter up to about 15 millimeters and are found in practically every kind of device you might think of. Bearings reduce friction in moving parts and are uniquely suited to precision machinery that you might find in home improvement stores as well as professional skateboarding equipment at the X Games. But not all bearings are the same; the applications you intend to carry out with a single or set of ball bearings should always dictate the type and rating required for the job. Online comparison therefore is an essential part of the process of choosing the right tool for the job. ABEC rated bearings for instance are ball bearings built to specified standards for generally established workloads. Skateboarders in particular have fallen prey to misinformation for generations. Because we tend to think of a higher rating as a faster bearing — after all, higher precision in a moving part means that it moves better or faster, right? Skateboarders have been hunting for ABEC 7 or ABEC 9 bearings for years only to find out that the imprecise application of ball bearings in skateboard wheels makes for only slight improvements in speed overall. For this reason, skateboard bearings makers have started using their own metrics in designing precision instruments for this particular use case.
But what about tool use? Bearings are essential components in many of the consumer products you use every day, therefore, replacing a worn-out bearing may be a phenomenally cheaper alternative to replacing the product altogether. Vacuum cleaners, rotating fans, and even hinges to open refrigerators or water taps use the simple physics of a precision ball bearing to maximize the effectiveness of their movements. And because sporting goods have hyped up the higher rated counterparts to the effective, yet humble ABEC 1 ball bearings, these perfectly suited solutions to general consumer needs can be found at extremely affordable prices — both in stores and online. The primary consideration then becomes type rather than price or rating. Miniature ball bearings come in a few primary categories, as well as in slim sizes. To understand the right part for your job, it’s important to understand the differences – as well as to remove the component to be replaced before buying a new one for reference.
Miniature ball bearings are essentially two metal rings forged typically from stainless steel. Between these sheets rest a series of tiny metal balls that roll as the outer ring is spun. This physical construction allows the inner ring to remain in place while the outer layer spins around the axis, creating as frictionless a glide as possible. Ball bearings are the answer to slowed movement from overwhelming friction between layers, or overheated disks that are prone to damage and require frequent replacement. These bearings are typically available in open, shielded, or sealed configuration, and the type you chose should represent the level of inner protection your application requires. Open bearings allow for the balls to be viewed between the two rings, whereas shielded and sealed bearings have varying layers of added material to protect the balls in the bearing from outside contaminants such as dirt or sand. However, these types are harder to clean than the open configuration.
Ball bearings play an outsized role in our daily lives without our knowledge of their importance. Ball bearings are also essential for motors, automobiles and nearly all other vehicles. With a little ingenuity and a brief online search, you can tackle the next home improvement project or replace worn out roller components on your scooter or skateboard with a much higher degree of confidence that you’re choosing the right tool for the job.