- Ball Bearings
- Spinner Body
- Bearing Caps
Ball bearings are made from a bunch of balls held in between 2 rings, one “outer” ring and one “inner” ring, that allow rotation of the bearing. While there are many different types of bearings, the ones relevant to the Spinner community often look like this:
The above might be familiar to you as a bearing often used in the standard plastic Tri-Spinners most common in the market today. A bearing consists of the following parts:
- 608 – 8mm x 22mm x 7mm
- 606 – 6mm x 17mm x 6mm
- 688 – 8mm x 16mm x 4mm
- R188 – 6.35mm x 12.7mm x 3.175mm
- R188ZZ – 6.35mm x 12.7mm x 4.762mm (Thicker width) (R series is usually shown in inches)
Other than size, bearings also feature cageless or caged models.
Cageless bearings simply means that the bearing is missing the separator, allowing the balls to freely rotate within the two rings. While this may or may not affect performance, cageless bearings WILL be noisier. However, they are also easier to maintain and clean.
We recommend that you get caged bearings as they tend to have more consistent performance, unless you know what you are doing. Don’t remove bearing cages to try and make them cageless as it will not work!
Bearings come in different materials as well. In the world of spinners, while they are a relevant point of discussion, please do not be mistaken that the materials matter the most – size always determines quality more than the material.
With that said, let us get down to the specifics:
Chrome Steel / Stainless Steel is the most common bearing type. These are cheap and manufactured in bulk, however it does not mean that they are of low quality. One should be careful to at least ensure the bearings are stainless steel for long-lasting spinners that won’t corrode or rust over time. One point to note is that a Stainless Steel R188 bearing is usually far better than a larger Full Ceramic Bearing like 608.
Pros: Common, cheap, and comes in a wide variety
Cons: Noisy, Heavy, May be prone to chemical damage
Next is Hybrid Ceramic Bearings, which are essentially bearings that have the balls made out of ceramic (Either Silicon Nitride or Zirconium Oxide – See pictures for details), but the outer cage made from steel. These are smoother in most cases as the source of most of the noise has been reduced, and maintenance is also easier. While there is debate as to which type of ceramic is better, the general consensus by spinner hobbyists is that it doesn’t really matter – engineering wise, Silicon Nitride is better in other applications that don’t really apply to fidget toys (heat resistance, etc)
Pros: Lighter, more resistant to damage, less noise and vibration within the bearing
Last is Full Ceramic Bearings, which are bearings that typically are made wholly out of Zirconium Oxide and look completely white. These are very very expensive and most spinners will not use them – they may go up to 10USD at cost price from a supplier.
Pros: High maximum acceleration/speed capabilities, quietest, little necessity for lubrication
Cons: Incredibly expensive
Open, Shielded, and Sealed
Lastly for explanations on bearings, you may sometimes notice that the bearings come with a “lid” around the balls that prevents you from accessing the inner part of the bearings. These are known as shields or seals, and depending on the manufacturer tend to be different across any bearings you find. Taken directly from
- Open-style bearing – These are the kinds of bearings where you can see the balls. These are the easiest to clean because you don’t have to remove anything to access the balls (heh heh), but they also can get dirty really fast since there isn’t protection from the elements.
- Shielded bearing – These have a shield on both sides of the bearing that protect the balls. They provide a good amount of protection to the balls inside your bearing, but they’re not totally sealed, so dirt contamination is still possible. However, the shield is removable (and there are plenty of YouTube videos showing how to do this). I’d probably recommend getting a shielded bearing if you’re waffling between this and an open-style, since you can just remove the shield and get rid of it if you end up not wanting it.
- Sealed bearing – These are also have a shield to protect the balls, but in this case, the shields are not removable. The bearing is completely sealed from the elements. This sounds great at first, but I wouldn’t recommend using them in a spinner because sealed bearings usually come packed with lubricant and that’s generally a bad thing for spinners, especially if you’re trying to get long spin times. Since they’re sealed, you can’t clean out the lubricant from inside the bearing.
NOTICE: If you are unsure of anything past this point or have no access to the things required, do not attempt to do this yourself. Get a parent or adult to help you especially when dealing with unknown substances.
For use in fidget spinners, bearings SHOULD NOT be lubricated. This is because lubrication is for reducing noise and prevent “rough” friction in heavy-use applications that may damage the bearings, and not necessarily to increase spin times or spin capabilities of bearings.
Simply put, to maintain spinners you have to remove ALL the gunk that comes with your bearings, cleaning it all out.
THE FOLLOWING IS QUOTED FROM /U/CHEMISTRYSQUIRREL ON REDDIT
How to Increase Spin Time (by cleaning your bearing)
TL;DR Version – Get your bearing as clean as possible and don’t lubricate it.
Step 1: If your bearing has a cap, remove it.
Step 2: Clean the bearing using some sort of solvent. Common solvents include isopropyl alcohol (any strength), acetone, brake cleaner, or paint thinner. I’ve seen people use WD-40, but if you choose to use it, make sure you clean all of it out using another solvent. WD-40 is not a cleaner nor a lubricant, and if you don’t get it all out of the bearing, the residual WD-40 will attract dust and gunk up your bearing. Trust me, I’m a chemist. 😉
If your bearing came lubricated, you want to get rid of all that lube. Get a little glass dish/cup, pour some solvent in it, and soak your bearing. Swoosh it around, spin the bearing, and just work it so the solvent can get inside the bearing and get all the crap out. You may need to repeat this several times.
If you have a plastic spinner body, only use isopropyl alcohol to clean your bearing because almost all of the other solvents will melt the plastic! You can get around this by removing the bearing from the plastic body before you start cleaning it, but some people may not feel comfortable removing the bearing.
Although pure ABS plastic is not affected by isopropyl alcohol, ABS filaments that are used in 3D printing have a small amount of sytrene in them, and styrene is affected by isopropyl alcohol. Most ABS filaments have less than 1% sytrene content, so while your spinner isn’t going to fall apart, some of you may feel more comfortable applying isopropyl alcohol to the bearing only, especially if you plan to clean it regularly. Spinners made with a lower purity ABS filament could possibly experience more weakening after repeated exposure to isopropyl alcohol, but this also could possibly be related to the structural integrity of lower purity ABS plastic.
You can also clean the bearing by using hot soapy water, but make sure you get all the water out of the bearing.
Step 3: After your bearing is all clean, take a can of compressed air and blow out your bearing. This is crucial if you used water to clean your bearing, especially if you have non-ceramic bearings. Water will obviously rust things, so you want to get rid of that. The compressed air isn’t that big of a deal if you used a strong solvent, because it’ll evaporate pretty quickly. You can help it along by spinning the bearing and blowing on it or using a hair dryer. (Note: Solvents are flammable and although there is little risk, be careful when using a hair dryer/heat gun when solvents and their fumes are present. I am not responsible if you set yourself on fire.)
Don’t use a paper towel or a rag to dry your bearing, because you don’t want lint getting in your newly cleaned bearing!
Step 4: Put your spinner back together and you’re done!
- This tutorial assumes that you are trying to get the longest spin time possible. Removing lubricant from inside bearings will increase spin time, HOWEVER it can make the bearing noisier. This may be an issue for those of you who need a quiet spinner. If you find that your spinner is too noisy after you clean it, you may have to lubricate it a little. Try to use the least amount of lubricant as possible in order to make it as quiet as you need. Use bearing oil or valve oil, not speed cream or lithium grease or anything like that, and just use 1 drop at a time. One brand that has been suggested several times is Blue Juice Valve Oil (Amazon link).
- If you cleaned out your bearing and it still doesn’t spin as long as you want, you may just need to get a better bearing. Some spinners come with more inexpensive bearings, which don’t spin as long as the higher-end ones. There are different types of bearings (ceramic, hybrid, etc) but that’s another tutorial for another day.
- Physics is important! Metal-bodied spinners will generally have longer spin times than plastic-bodied ones, as they have greater momentum and inertia. If you have a plastic spinner and you’re really wanting some long spin times, consider investing in a metal spinner.
- Your spinner will have better spin times if you keep the bearing clean. Bearing caps help a lot with keeping dirt and stuff out of your bearing. If you don’t have a cap, you’ll have to be more careful with trying to keep dirt out. Even just putting/pulling your spinner from your pocket on a regular basis will attract lint into your bearing. A short burst of compressed air every once in a while can help blow out dirt and lint. Please note that compressed air cans do have a small amount of water vapor in them, so maybe don’t go bananas with blowing out your bearings all the time if they’re made with a rust-able material? I don’t know if this would actually be an issue, since the amount of actual water vapor is so small, but just thought I’d throw that out there as an FYI.
- Keep in mind that you are assuming and accepting a certain amount of risk when fiddling with your bearings. Some spinners are not designed with removable bearings and some makers discourage cleaning attempts altogether. From what I’ve seen, spinners with removable bearings tend to be housed in a plastic body, on the inexpensive side. The way I decide whether to fiddle with something (against the manufacturer’s recommendations) is, “Am I going to regret it if I screw it up?” I might be a little annoyed that I messed up the bearing for a $5 plastic spinner, but it wouldn’t be a big deal. I’d be devastated if I messed up the bearing for my all-brass Isotope spinner, which I love, so I’m not going to screw around with that unless I really really need to and even then, I’d be extremely careful about it. Use your head, don’t be stupid, educate yourself, and be prepared to take responsibility for anything you might screw up.
Hopefully, this was helpful. If any of you have any suggestions to improve this tutorial, please leave a comment and I’ll edit the post to include it.
Thanks for reading, and do let us know whether you would like to see more of this!