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Ball bearings are a type of rolling-element bearing that uses ball bearings to maintain the separation between the moving parts of the bearing.
The purpose of ball bearings is to drastically reduce rotational friction and support radial and axial loads. Ball bearings achieve this by using at least two races to contain the ball bearings and transmit the loads through the ball bearings. Frequently one of the races is held fixed. As one of the bearing races rotates it causes the ball bearings to rotate as well. Because the ball bearings are rolling they have a much lower coefficient of friction than if two flat surfaces were to be rotated on each other.
Ball bearings tend to have a much lower load capacity for their size than other kinds of rolling-element ball bearings due to the smaller contact area between the ball bearings and races. However, they are able to tolerate some misalignment of the inner and outer races.
Compared to other rolling-element bearings, ball bearings are without doubt the least expensive, primarily because of the low cost of producing the ball bearings used in the bearing itself.