Baoding balls

Author: Evelyn y

Mar. 07, 2024

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Tags: Minerals & Metallurgy

Traditional product of Baoding, China

Baoding balls resting in their case

Baoding balls (Chinese: 保定健身球; pinyin: Bǎodìng Jiànshēn Qiú; Wade–Giles: Pao3-ting4 Chien4-sheng1 Ch'iu2) are metal balls small enough to hold in one hand, used for physical exercise and therapy. They are also known as Chinese "balls for ball practice" exercise balls, Chinese health balls, Chinese meditation balls, and Chinese medicine balls. Baoding balls are used by rotating two or more balls repeatedly in the hand.[1] Intended to improve finger dexterity, relax the hand, or aid in the recovery of muscle strength and motor skills after surgery, Baoding balls work similarly to Western stress balls.[2]

History

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The first Baoding balls were likely created in Hebei, China, during the Ming dynasty. Construction methods varied. Formerly, they were usually called "iron balls", as they were originally made of iron. As metalworking advanced, "iron balls" became more popular. Baoding balls continue to be produced there.[3]

Composition

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Inside Baoding balls: a wire and a marble

Most Baoding balls consist of a pair of hollow spheres, each containing a chime that rings when an inner ball strikes the outer sphere. Many modern examples are decorated with cloisonné and brass wire; these are essentially decorative since they easily chip when dropped or rubbed together. Baoding balls can also be made of solid jade, agate, marble, and other types of stone.[3]

Hollow balls are generally more suitable for therapeutic use due to their lighter weight. Heavier balls of iron, steel or tungsten carbide require more effort for rotation. These are mainly used to build strength by resistance training.[4]

Use

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Baoding balls in use

The basic exercise consists of holding a pair of Baoding balls in the palm of one hand, rotating them (switching the relative position of the two balls) while maintaining constant contact between them. Once this technique has been mastered, the rotation speed can be gradually increased until the balls separate in the hand. Eventually one hand can learn to rotate them completely without the balls making contact with each other. Exercises have been developed involving more balls, where the main technique is to avoid contact with the other balls. This requires using a finger, usually the index finger, as a divider.[5][failed verification]

An average user should be able to start with a 45 mm (1.8 in) ball and move up to 60 mm (2.4 in) as their muscles get accustomed to the exercise. Larger Baoding balls between 70 mm and 100 mm (2.8 in to 3.9 in) can be used. Keeping larger balls separate while rotating them is an advanced skill. The area of the hand exercised can be varied, altering the part of the hand they rotate over, or changing the orbit of the balls so that more force is exerted on a particular finger or finger joints.[6][3]

Well-known strongmen such as John Brookfield used shot put balls as Baoding balls, rotating them to develop forearm muscles and improve their grip.[7]

Alternative medicine

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Though unsupported by scientific evidence, baoding balls are thought to exercise hand muscles, improve brain function and reduce stress when used as alternative medicine to stimulate the acupuncture points on the hand.[4]

Baoding balls are often used in physical therapy to exercise the soft tissues of the hand, wrist, and arm, such as after surgery to the hand.[8] They are even recommended for treating traumatic stress in children and adolescents.[9]

References

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Further reading

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Steel ball grades, materials, and sizes

Steel balls come in diverse shapes and sizes including the popular 300 and 400 series of stainless steel, alongside other compositions of steel alloy balls. Steel balls within these grades include:

  1. 400-series steel balls

    – Steel balls within the 400 series are commonly known as ferritic steel balls. They come in a range of varieties and sizes, including small metal balls and ½-inch steel balls. These varieties are determined by the material composition of the steel balls and their properties. Steel balls can be found in sizes ranging from 1.5 mm to 50.8 mm. The common varieties used include:

    1. 440C –

      Used within

      the

      automotive, aerospace, and industrial engineering sector

    2. 420, 420A

      – Used within the automotive, and aerospace industry

    3. 430

      – These steel balls are used in grinding systems, automated systems, and the automotive industry

  2. 300-series steel balls

    – Steel balls within this series are composed of austenitic steel. That contains a mix of carbon, chromium, nickel, or manganese depending on the specific application. The use of nickel or manganese ensures steel balls in the 300 series maintain their austenitic features at varying temperatures. They come in sizes across the 1.5 mm to 50 mm range, and the common varieties in the series include: 

      1. 302 stainless steel

        Known for its durability and temperature resistance 

      2. 316 steel balls

        – Known and used for their high resistance to corrosion

      3. 304 stainless steel

        – Highly durable steel with extensive resistance to varying temperatures

  3. Chrome steel balls 52100 steel

    – Various grades of chrome steel balls are used across the automotive industry, industrial manufacturing, and aerosol cans for ball bearings, locking, and mixing purposes. Chrome steel is tagged as 52100 steel in the United States, 100Cr6 in Europe, and GCr15 in China. Chrome steel features include hardness and excellent deformation and wear resistance. 

Industries and their applications

Stainless steel balls are used across popular mechanical systems: from automobile parts to mundane domestic items such as a drawer slide. This results in the availability of a vast range of different grades and sizes. The major industries that rely on steel balls include: 

  • Agriculture industry –

    Livestock feeding systems (chicken, turkey, cattle, and swine). 

  • Automotive industry

    – Steel balls are used in semi-precision ball bearings and mechanical bearings in vehicles.

  • Automation systems

    – Automated mechanisms within these systems rely on the use of steel balls to support moving components while reducing wear.

  • Aerospace industry

    – Steel balls are used in developing instrumentation and locking systems with aerospace devices and airplanes. They are also used in bearings within airplane tires and landing gear systems.

  • Cosmetics

    – Steel balls are prominently used in aerosol cans and cosmetic products to aid the mixing of the diverse ingredients within them. Here, their high resistance to corrosion and wear makes them a common feature in the cosmetics industry.

  • Food processing industry

    – Stainless steel balls are a common feature in food processing systems when corrosion resistance is important to the proper functioning of these systems. Steel balls are commonly used in livestock watering and feeding systems as control valve balls to ensure proper distribution.

  • Material handling industry – Stainless steel balls are used in ball bearings for conveyor systems in the material handling industry.

Other industries that rely on a variety of steel balls listed above include the mining, transportation, oil & gas, energy, healthcare, and defense industries. 

FAQs

What are metal balls used for?

Metal balls are used in a wide variety of industrial applications for diverse reasons. These reasons include their resistance to wear for grinding applications, hardness, durability for ball bearings, etc. Your particular project determines the type of steel ball to use.

What are stainless steel balls used for?

Steel balls are used for industrial applications in which hardness, resistance to wear, aesthetics, and corrosion resistance are required. This includes food processing systems, ball bearings, and environments susceptible to the actions of corrosive agents.

What are precision balls used for?

Precision balls are used as a rolling element in ball-bearing assemblies. They are used in aeronautic bearings, automotive bearings, and guidance systems for space and defense applications where high precision is required for the proper function of these systems. 

How do you choose the best stainless steel ball supplier?

Making the right choice involves three important considerations: 

  1. Browse through the supplier’s website to understand their capabilities.

  2. Check customer recommendations and reviews of the supplier.

  3. Request a demonstration of the supplier’s capabilities to meet your customization or industry-specific requests.

  4. Speak to the manufacturer’s lead engineer to make sure they are aligned with your requirements. 

Start a stainless steel ball project today

At The Federal Group USA, we make sure that all stainless steel balls meet your needs and industry-specific requirements: from custom steel balls to small metal balls. Contact a TFG sales engineer today.

Baoding balls

Stainless Steel Balls

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