Linear motion slides are typically composed of two main components: the plane and the rolling element. A fixed plane and a sliding plane slide against each other with the rolling element in between, allowing smooth motion along the linear motion slide. While this is the basis for all linear motion slides, there are a variety of different slide options which utilize different rolling elements or plane configurations.
Linear slides are a common component of many types of machinery and are used in all kinds of industrial applications.
Ball bearings are the most commonly used rolling element in linear motion slides. The ball bearings are held within a sleeve or a track between the two different planes, and these small bearings allow the sliding plane to move relative to the fixed plane with very little friction while still providing guided motion.
While ball bearings are the most popular type of rolling element, roller bearings and magnetic bearings are also options for linear motion slides. Roller bearings are shaped like flat cylinders, which operate in much the same way as a ball bearing, but instead only roll along the rounded edge of the cylinder. A magnetic bearing consists of two encased magnets with opposing polarization.
This opposition causes a repulsive force between the opposing magnets which keeps the sliding plane and the fixed plane from rubbing against each other. Thus the slide is able to move along with very little friction.
Many different industrial applications utilize linear motion slides. Manufacturing equipment and machinery often use linear motion slides for components that must move in a smooth and controlled pattern. For example, linear motion slides are used as part of positioning stages in mills, presses, and other manufacturing equipment.
In order to move in a two dimensional space, these positioning stages actually use two different linear slides, one controlling each of the horizontal axes. The printing industry also makes extensive use of linear motion slides.
3D printers use linear motion slides to precisely maneuver the arms of the printer as material is added to the printed product. The printer operates based on a computer generated design, and the slides move the arms based on the instructions in the design.
The linear motion slides allow for smooth, uninterrupted movement which is absolutely essential for a successful print job. These devices are also used in many other printing applications, both large scale and consumer printing.
Linear motion slides are found in household paper printers and even large industrial newspaper printers. The ink cartridges are attached to the slides and move along the length of the slide adding ink to the pages as they pass through the printer.