What are the Benefits of Linear Motion Bearings in Industrial Settings?

February 13, 2019

Linear bearings, the term sounds somehow counterintuitive, are designed differently. The bearings don’t use the standard rings and races that most rolling elements inhabit. That’s because there’s no rotating shaft to support and isolate here, not in the following applications. No, rings are out, rods and sliding bars are in, and everything is new again. For one thing, we’re dropping words like rings and shafts in favour of terms like linear rails and guideways.

What Are Linear Bearings?

Let’s begin by forgetting everything we know about bearing science. There are friction isolating ball bearings here, but there are no circular forged rings or roller cages. Instead of those comfortingly familiar parts, we’re switching to smooth rolling rails and guides. Although, there is a linear motion bearing family that operates like a ball bearing. For those mechanisms, the rods and rails are shaped like cylinders, and round bushings slide frictionlessly up and down those steely tubes. However, and this is the biggest difference, regular ring bearings repeat their motions again and again, for circles are closed. Linear sliders have dimensional limits. They start, run a certain length, then they terminate. In industrial applications, they often start and terminate as base positioning contrivances, as illustrated in the next passage of text.

Industrial Applications: Linear Motion Bearings

While a lightweight set of guides and rails soundlessly rolls out a workbench drawer, down on a factory floor, the heavier linear motion bearings are mounted on steel-reinforced tubes. They position a table and its load on a manufacturing line. Programmable logic arrays move robotic limbs while a second program thread moves the table on its guides until it’s positioned below an end-arm tool or gripper. They move on air or, more commonly, on ball bearings, which effortlessly drop the table at one point so that the second set of rails can redirect the load down a new processing branch. Indeed, linear motion bearings can precisely roll into position, then they can change direction and move to a second position, thus adding enormous motional versatility to automated production lines.

Remarkably, linear systems are also scalable. For example, laboratories use tiny ball bearings and millimetre-thin rails to rotate and move slides on industrial-scale microscopes. Biological samples move fractionally and smoothly on such pieces of apparatus. On taking one of the system bushings apart, a final benefit comes to light. Inside the bearing, exotically shaped splines contain tiny steel or ceramic ball bearings. Unlike a traditional ball bearing, these splines can be designed to take on different shapes and configurations. Those outlines form within the bushing’s internal surfaces and facilitate different load and positional-oriented operations.

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