For this week’s post, we’ve partnered with leading linear brand, IKO. They’ve gathered the best tips for your consideration of miniature linear guides. Read on!
In certain industries, components and machinery must be sized to the smallest dimensions possible to meet extremely demanding performance criteria. Many of these applications involving space constraints and limited movement are found in the semiconductor, medical, surgical, robotics, and precision machinery arenas. For example, specialized equipment designed to handle delicate wafer fabrication, medical diagnostic procedures, and surgical robotic needs often require the tiniest parts. This includes motion control components such as linear guides, which must be small enough yet strong enough to perform as needed with very little maintenance. When bearing sizes range from 1 to 25 mm, load capacity and maintenance issues are often more pronounced than in larger units.
Here we take a look at some of the most important considerations to keep in mind when specifying miniature bearings.
1 – Zero Maintenance Lubrication
In any moving system—especially those involving bearings—proper lubrication is a key concern. With smaller components and machinery, this is even more important due to the difficulty of relubricating areas that are hard to reach.
Lubrication that does not touch the track rail enables smooth motion without increasing rolling resistance. Keeping this friction to a minimum is especially important in applications involving high speeds and fast accelerations such as those found in semiconductor and electronics manufacturing.
2 – Multiple Sizes and Load Capacities
When it comes to miniature linear bearings, sizes and load ratings are often limited to a handful of options.
For applications requiring higher load capacities, consider specifying a longer carriage that can house additional balls for extra stability. By mixing and matching different track widths and slider lengths, it is possible to build a miniature bearing system to meet the exact requirements of practically any application that calls for a tiny linear guide. Further, just because sizes are small does not mean that load capacities are diminished.
Specifying a properly sized bearing system will help guarantee highly accurate machine motion with very little friction, which is critically important in applications such as medical and surgical tools that rely on extremely precise movements.
3 – High-Performance Materials and Coatings
Miniature bearings are often supplied “as is” with very few options available when it comes to material choices. When these options are limited, design engineers and machine builders are frequently left with two alternatives—over-specifying or under-specifying the components that comprise the larger system. When it comes to miniature linear guides, it is important to work with a supplier that can offer a variety of materials and finishes to meet the exact requirements of the application at hand.
Stainless steel enables use in cleanrooms and other demanding environments, while high carbon steel models are designed for all-purpose use. Stainless steel endplates are also available for applications experiencing thermal extremes.
4 – Interchangeable Components Add Flexibility
When it comes to engineered systems comprised of several components, there is nothing worse than having to purchase a completely new setup after just one part fails. With this in mind, look for linear guide systems featuring interchangeable parts that can be mixed, matched, and swapped out as needed.
If a bearing goes bad, simply swap out the failed slide unit with a new one. In addition to simplified maintenance, another aspect of interchangeability is the option to modify the guide system as necessary. Rail lengths can be cut to order and carriages may be added or removed from the track to build a flexible system that can evolve as manufacturing needs change.
IKO addresses all of these issues with the below features on the Miniature series:
- C-Lube built-in lubricating element
- Range of track widths from 1 mm to 25 mm
- Wide carriages up to 42mm
- Dynamic load ratings up to 16,700 N
- Moment load ratings up to 321 Nm
- Stainless steel, carbon steel, or ceramic balls
- Stainless steel or carbon steel rails
- Stainless steel endplates for high-temperature or -acceleration uses
- Nonmagnetic steel-grades
- Track and slide units sold separately
- Cut-to-length rail lengths in mm