Don't get too excited. While this article might not be talking about the slides we all enjoyed as children. It does shed some light onto one of the small components we probably encounter every day that have made a long lasting impact on products all around the world.
Linear slide bearings are all around you and you may not even know it. Linear slides are often screw driven and ball guided devices designed for an extremely wide range of applications that call for high thrust capacity, stiffness, and precision. While they might not be the exhilarating pieces of plastic you came to know and love, you use them every day and it's very possible that your life would be much different without them.
Available in a wide variety of types and configurations, linear slides are typically ball slide bearings, roller slide bearings, or plain bearings. For the purposes of this article, we will discuss the most popular variety of linear slide bearing: the ball slide bearing.
Ball slides are one of the most widely adopted varieties of linear slides. Referred to this way because the rolling element of the assembly is contingent on the ball bearing, ball bearing slides provide smooth, reliably, and price motion on a single axis with a linear design. Adding to this, the self-lubricating properties of the linear slide bearing work to add to the design's inherent reliability.
Applications for linear ball slides are extremely varied, ranging from cabinetry and furniture to high-end instrumentation and aerospace equipment. That's right. From your kitchen to the mars rover – slide bearings make motion possible just about everywhere. Other applications often include factory automation, medical devices, packaging applications, semiconductor manufacturing, machine tools, printing equipment, automotive assembly, food processing, and many others. For a simple and extremely common example of a slide bearing in your every-day life, you only need to look as far as your desk drawers. Chances are they are attached to simple linear slide bearings.
Linear slide bearings are typically constructed from materials like aluminum, galvanized steel, and cold rolled steel. Most often, ball bearing slides are comprised of two linear rows of ball bearings that are retained by rods and aligned on opposite sides of the base, acting as a support the carriage – this helps promote smooth movement through the bearings.
With all of the possible configurations available, ball slide bearings are extremely versatile, making them suitable for a number of applications in various operating conditions. Additionally, their applications range from very simple hand powered movement to being powered by a drive mechanism in robotic and assembly applications.
While linear ball slide bearings are used widely around the world, their load strength does tend to be lower than some other bearings. This is due to the fact that the ball bearings are less resistant to wear and tear. They also require a housing or a drive system, though this hasn't prevented their widespread usage in certain applications and industries.