Ceramic VS. Steel

steel silicon nitride ball bearing

Perhaps, it's your understanding that ceramic bearings are superior to ABEC 9 and Swiss Bearings... and what about "Swiss ceramic" bearings?

Ceramic

There are 3 common ceramics used in ball bearings:
Silicon Nitride
Zirconium Dioxide
Silicon Carbide


Silicon Nitride ceramic is the hardest of the three and most often used in ceramic hybrid bearings. It's important to keep in mind that "ceramic" only refers to the balls. The races remain stainless steel, hence hybrid. Ceramics are not stronger than all steel balls, although the marketing headlines claim them to be. Ceramic balls are made from a ceramic powder, which is hardened on the ball surface. However, the center of the balls remains an un-hardened ceramic powder. When a ceramic ball surface is compromised, the powder inside falls apart.

Ceramic is brittle and does not handle vertical loads the way steel can, which could make their use in skateboarding seem somewhat impractical, however, the real test of a bearing is in its performance.

Steel

Steel is ductile and has elasticity that enables it to retain its original shape after loads are applied. The one advantage ceramic has over steel is resistance to corrosion, meaning rust. But, remember ceramic bearings are hybrids; therefore the inner and outer rings are susceptible to corrosion. Applications exist that specifically require ceramic bearings, but skateboarding is just not one of them.

 


 

Pressure Test

In Rat Vision's testing of ball bearing strength, a PHI laboratory press, model P210H-X1824, was used. Ceramic and steel bearings were tested for compression strength. The types of bearings tested are as follows:

1. Ceramic bearings: The ceramic bearings tested were the top-of-the-line product from a very well-known bearing manufacturer located in the USA.

2. Three separate brands of steel bearings, made in China, which are sold by American companies and found in most skate shops.

3. One steel bearing product manufactured in the USA.

The results are shown in pounds of compression:

"Top of the line" ceramic bearing shattered at ..................................8800
"Swiss made" steel bearing made in China split at ............................7200
The most popular steel bearing made in China failed at ...................7800
A semi-popular steel bearing made in China failed at ......................7700
The American made steel bearing failed at ....................................22,000

Rat Vision's findings show the steel bearings manufactured in the USA are far and away the strongest of the bearings tested. We should note that perhaps not all American made bearings will fail at around 22,000lbs. Our test proves that Swiss made and ceramic balls are not superior than steel.