Put simply, Linear Motion Components move objects along a straight path. But there is a high level of precision engineering required to ensure the movement is accurate and able to handle the task. Some of the more common components required to perform this function are: linear slides (also known as linear rails or linear guides), linear stages, ball screws, and ball splines. Ball splines and ball screws operate in a similar fashion, using a spline nut or ball nut that holds a series of ball bearings to achieve smooth movement along a shaft. The raceways along the shaft are precision ground to fit the size of the bearings, as well as to provide seamless, uniform positioning along the shaft. The straightness of the spline shaft or ball screw will define the linear motion capabilities of the device.
Linear slides are mechanisms containing a bearing-mounted platform attached on top of a straight rail. The efficiency of the bearings, straightness of the rail, and uniformity of the bearing track all factor in to the unit’s linear motion capabilities. Bearing designs include cylinders, wheels and balls, and are set accordingly in the moving carriage. Linear slides, like other linear motion components, will also be affected by the weight of the load being moved; operators should never exceed the unit’s maximum load.
Linear motion components are in a variety of industries and applications ranging from heavy industrial machinery to medical equipment. In heavy duty doors and automation systems, they provide ideal positioning tools, and in measurement systems, they offer unparalleled instrumentation tools. Other uses for these components include computer to plate systems, grinding applications and biomedical sample handling. Virtually every system requiring precise movement along a straight plane will incorporate linear motion components.