Probably, you are wondering what magnetic balls are, and why they are important. Well, this guide explores everything you need to know about balls made from magnetic materials.
What are Magnetic Balls?
Magnetic balls refer to small, spherical balls with magnetic properties. Magnetic balls are fashioned from permanent magnets including ceramic magnets, NIB magnets and SmCo magnets. Magnetic balls mostly find use as artistic material and in making toys and other trinkets.
Types of Magnetic Balls
You can classify magnet balls according to the type of magnet used in making them as follows:
Neodymium Magnet Balls
These magnet balls provide the strongest magnetic force given the superior qualities of neodymium magnets. In making neodymium magnets, iron and boron are combined to this rare earth metal.
Neodymium magnet balls display strong magnetic force thanks to the high magnetic flux density. Their strong attractive force allows the magnetic balls to hold their shape and connect firmly.
Samarium Cobalt Magnet Balls
While displaying lower magnetic capability than NIB magnetic balls, SmCo magnet balls have superior resistance to oxidization. This means you can use this magnetic balls in humid environments or where there is a lot of moisture presence.
Additionally, these balls have a higher temperature affinity allowing application in harsh temperature environments. However, the magnetic force exhibited by samarium cobalt magnetic balls is lower compared to neodymium magnets.
Ferrite Magnet Balls
Ferrite/ceramic magnets combine iron oxide and either oxides of strontium or barium in their alloying material. Magnetic balls made from ferrite magnets are more affordable given their lower cost compared to neo and SmCo magnets.
Even though ferrite magnetic balls exhibit comparatively lower magnetic force than the other two permanent magnets they offer good temperature stability. Additionally, they display a high resistance to demagnetization.
Classification of magnetic balls by size can vary with the manufacturer and is typically based on the diameter of the ball. Nonetheless, the following size categories are common for magnetic balls:
i. Small Magnetic Balls: These essentially have a diameter ranging from 3mm to 5mm. They are the most common size finding multiple usage from toys to office trinkets. They are highly portable and versatile in their creative application.
ii. Medium Magnetic Balls: The diameter for these balls ranges between 6mm and 8mm. Magnetic balls of this size offer you a balance between portability and the ability to create slightly bigger designs.
iii. Large Magnetic Balls: These magnetic balls have diameters over 10mm. While less common they are utilized in making larger designs and/or where substantial magnetic force is required.
Magnetic balls can also be classified on how they appear. These balls can be presented in a variety of ways as follows:
i. Coated Magnetic Balls: These magnetic balls, especially when neodymium, feature a protective coating on the surface to improve durability and prevent corrosion. The coating can be gold, nickel, silver or epoxy.
ii. Colored Magnetic Balls: Some magnetic balls come in various colors to make them more visually appealing. Non-toxic paints or dyes are used as coloring applied over the surface of the magnets.
iii. Glowing Magnetic Balls: Luminescent coating can also be used on magnetic balls such that they glow in the dark by reflecting light. Such magnetic balls are popularly used for unique outdoor designs to glow at night.
iv. Metallic Finish Magnetic Balls: You can have your magnetic balls with metallic appearance by using metallic finishes like matte, polished or brushed. Metallic finish offers a sleek and stylish look to the magnetic balls.
v. Mirror-Coated Magnetic Balls: These have a reflective surface that imitates a mirror. The mirror-like appearance adds a distinctive visual effect when used in decorative or artistic applications.
vi. Multi-colored Magnetic Balls: These magnetic balls come in a wide range of vibrant colors. They are especially popular for their pleasant aesthetics finding use in creative works.
Magnetic Beads vs Balls
Magnetic beads and magnetic balls differ more in size and applications with the following primary differences:
Magnetic beads are small, spherical magnet balls usually uniform in size and smaller than magnetic balls. While magnetic balls are larger, they come in various sizes and can be classified as small, medium, or large.
Magnetic beads are primarily used scientific and medical applications, like cell isolation, biomolecule separation, DNA/RNA purification, and as MRI contrast agents. Their small size and uniformity help to achieve precise and controlled interactions with other substances.
Magnetic balls are usually used for creative purposes, as play things, for stress relief, and artistic expression. They can be used to designing unique patterns, immaculate structures and sculptures providing satisfying tactile experience.
How to Make a Magnetic Ball
The manufacturing process of magnetic balls involves the following steps:
- Powder Production: Depending on the magnet type, neodymium or SmCo or ferrite, the raw materials are prepared by mixing in the desired ratios. The raw materials are thereafter mixed and processed to form a fine powder.
- Pressing and Sintering: The magnetic powder is then pressed into balls using a die system or mold. The pressed balls are then subjected to a high-temperature sintering process to fuse the powder particles together.
- Machining: Machining helps achieve precise dimensions and shapes for your magnets, for sensitive applications. It smoothens out the surface while also preparing it for surface treatment and coating.
- Coating and Surface Treatment: Coating magnetic balls, especially when using neodymium magnets, is essential for corrosion protection. Use of surface treatments rids the surface of magnetic balls from scratches and markings.
- Magnetization: This is typically done simultaneously on multiple balls to align their magnetic domains. Aligning these domains results in the development of a magnetic field and hence acquisition of magnetic properties.
How to Magnetize Metal Balls
The magnetization process involves aligning the magnetic domains within the material to create a net magnetic field. While the magnetization process can vary, here is a general overview of the process:
The manufacturing process of magnet balls can result in them having residual magnetic field. Demagnetization helps to eliminate this magnetic field restoring the magnetic balls to a neutral magnetic state.
Magnetic Field Alignment
Here, a strong magnetic field is applied such that it aligns the magnetic domains in a specific direction. This results is a net magnetic field. The magnetic field application method depends on the production scale and size of the magnetic balls.
There are two common approaches:
- Pulse Magnetization: Commonly applied for neodymium magnetic balls where a high-intensity magnetic field is applied in pulses. This rapidly aligns the magnetic domains, creating strong and uniform magnetization.
- Bulk Magnetization: Especially for small magnetic balls, this process applies a magnetic field to the entire batch. This ensures all the balls acquire magnetic properties.
Where to Use Magnet Balls
Magnet balls have a wide range of uses and applications due to their unique magnetic properties and versatility. Here are some of them:
i. Artistic Expression: Artists and designers can utilize these balls to make magnetic sculptures and art installations. Utilizing magnetic attraction rather than elaborate sculpting tools makes this kind of art captivating.
ii. Making Displays: Unique displays featuring 3D designs can be built from magnetic balls. The magnetic force can be used to easily represent design intricacies.
iii. Demonstration Tool: Sometimes in advanced classes, demonstration sets are used to represent things like chemical bonds and DNA chains. Magnetic balls can be used to bring these concepts to life for learners and researchers.
iv. Jewelry: Some jewelers utilize magnetic balls to make new age jewelry and nouveau fashion accessories. Necklaces and earrings can be fashioned from small magnetic balls eliminating the need for hooking fixtures.
v. Stress Relief and Relaxation: Psychological experts have pointed out the soothing and calming effect you can derive from fiddling with magnetic balls. As such, they are popular as stress-relief toys promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.
vi. Toys and Gadgets: Magnetic balls can be used to accessorize desk tops as toys and/or fidget gadgets. In addition to aesthetic appeal, they provide entertainment and stimulation during work or study breaks.
Are Magnetic Balls Safe?
The safety of magnetic balls is dependent on their use and handling. While they can be fun to toy with, they pose potential safety risks, especially danger of ingestion to kids.
Swallowing multiple magnetic balls can cause serious health complications when they attract each other within the body. Such attraction can lead to blockages in the digestive system and even damage which can be life-threatening.
Magnetic balls are unique given their size and capabilities allowing use in various exciting applications. However, care should always be taken when handling them to avoid the danger if ingestion especially by kids.