Ball bearing slides use spheres composed from a durable material such as aluminum, steel or galvanized steel located within a rail or railing system set up in the desired direction of flow. The linear system is also comprised of a moving component which is attached to the railing and spherical components.
There are a number of various applications for ball bearing slides, including robotics and instrumentation construction, clean room operating systems, high-end appliances and cabinetry, as well as electronics and construction industries.
A common every day use of ball bearings is in drawer slides as the weight of the drawer and its contents are easily managed by the ball bearings. However, they are typically not used for heavy weight applications as ball bearings have a lower load capacity relative to their size as they are less resistant to deterioration from the sliding process.
Ball bearing systems can be powered by drive mechanisms, gravity or by hand if an operator is present. Depending on the size and weight of the load, the most appropriate system can be installed.
A limitation of ball bearing slides is their need for a specific housing or driving system which allows the bearings enough freedom of motion in order to rotate efficiently, but not so much that they movement produces is ineffective and imprecise.
The systems themselves are commonly constructed from aluminum or rolled steel and typically are two linear rails of bearings within the containment guides. The carriage is supported by these rails and should move smoothly across the bearings.
These systems typically do not require the frequent addition of a lubricant as the movement is not the sliding of surfaces across each other, however the railing systems themselves may have to be disassembled and cleaned periodically, especially when the linear slides are used in environments with levels of dust and debris which could contaminate the interior workings of the railings.
Ball bearings create a much lower level of friction and therefore heat and are an ideal choice for many applications, providing a relatively cost-effective method of improving motion and reducing slip-stick tendencies within an operation. The balls used are easy to manufacture and are typically cheaper than components of other linear slide systems.