A ball screw is a device that converts rotational motion into linear motion by using a ball screw nut that runs up and down a screw on ball bearings that travel in helical grooves. Also sometimes called linear ball screws, these devices are used to create the movement necessary to move parts and devices along a single axis. Ball screws translate torque into thrust through ball screw assemblies that consist of a screw and a nut. The threading of the screw and the threading of the nut match one another. Ball bearings roll in the grooves of the threads to provide a rolling friction and smooth motion. A deflector inside the nut's ball return system redirects the balls to the opposite end of the ball screw nut so that the balls are continuously recirculating. Ball screws are beneficial for a variety of reasons. Ball screws offer high levels of efficiency that measure approximately 90% while maintaining low energy consumption levels. Ball screws are available in a number of variations. Ground ball screws, rolled ball screws and precision ball screws are common varieties. Miniature ball screws are used in specialized medical instruments, lasers, gauge measurement, semiconductors and other small devices for smooth, precise linear movement. Ball screws are also available in custom screw configurations. For example, some manufacturers require metric ball screws, usually for application outside of the United States. Lead screws, many of which make use of acme thread screws, are not technically ball screws, but they are sometimes categorized with them because they also are used to convert rotational motion into linear motion.
The combination of the threaded screw and nut is a ball screw assembly. Ball screws are commonly used along with other linear motion parts such as drive units, carriages and other similar devices. Ball screw nuts are the parts on the shaft that move side to side. They can be made from plastic or metal while the shaft of the ball screw is machined from steel. Another consideration is the shape of the ends of the nut with possibilities such as rounded or flanged. Because they create movement in a straight line, these devices are sometimes called linear ball screws. They are often combined with linear slides and linear actuators to provide smooth motion in one direction when moving devices, parts or equipment. Ball screws can be differentiated from lead screws, which are similar but still different. Lead screws consist of a threaded shaft and nut that creates friction through sliding rather than through the rolling friction characteristic of ball screws. Since lead screws rely on a sliding action, their efficiency is rather low, typically between 25% and 75%. A very common subcategory of lead screw is the acme screw, which has a distinctive threading pattern and shape.
The electronics, computer, automotive and aerospace industries also use these ball screws in places where space is tight or where the load is light. The diameters of ball screw devices are typically identified in both metric and American standard measurements for ease of use worldwide. Metric ball screws are exactly the same as regular ball screws except for the units of measurement that they use. When ball screws reach very high accuracies they are called precision ball screws. Custom ball screws are made to the customer's specifications so that there are no issues regarding compatibility or productivity. There are also different production methods used that affect the performance and precision of the ball screw. Ground ball screws are the result of a three step process. First, the steel is machined to its gross shape. It is then case hardened and ground on machines with abrasive materials that spin at rapid speeds. This process allows the resulting ball screws to withstand high temperatures that would otherwise distort the shape and efficiency of the screw. Rolled ball screws are made from blank metal workpieces that are cold rolled by movable and fixed forming dies into the screw shaft.
Technology has allowed engineers and manufacturers to make great progress in the production and use of ball screws. Precision screw forming (PSF) processes have minimized the fabrication of off-center or lopsided ball screws that can result from rolling or machining. Finding the center of a steel rod has traditionally been a difficult process; now, with the use of special sensors, automated machines and computer programs, the task has become easier. More precise grinding or cuts result in a more consistent threading on the ball screw. When the helical groove is finely machined, the ball bearings can travel faster and smoother. The nut and carriage can be controlled tightly because the computer or operator will be able to accurately determine how much power is required to start, move and stop the device, resulting in quick, deliberate movements with no unexpected glitches. If the threading is uneven or has defects, the ball bearings will chatter and cause loud noises. In extreme cases, the nut may display a wobble. The balls themselves must be perfectly round for similar reasons. When the balls are misshapen, they do not fit well in the grooves and so are unable to operate at their peak performance. Another factor is proper lubrication and dust. Many ball screws have small brushes at both ends of the nut to keep dust and debris from interfering with the balls inside. When applied correctly and properly maintained, ball screw systems can be an invaluable asset to many operations.
Ball Screws Suppliers - Thread-Craft, Inc.
Ball Screws Suppliers - Thread-Craft, Inc.
Ball Screws Suppliers - Wedin International, Inc.
Ball Screws Suppliers - Most Precision Motion
Ball Screws Suppliers - Universal Thread Grinding Company
Ball Screws Suppliers - Universal Thread Grinding Company
Ball Screws Types
- are lead screws that create a sliding
friction between screw and nut. Acme screws are often as much as 30% less efficient
than ball screws but are often cost effective.
Acme screws are utilized in applications requiring high levels
of accuracy at low speeds.
- Ball screw assemblies are the combination of a threaded screw and an internally threaded nut; they are filled with ball bearings that travel in matching helical grooves.
Ball screw nuts are important components of a device that converts rotational motion into linear motion. The nut contains ball bearings that run in the helical grooves of the screw shaft that the nut is paired with. Ball screw nuts change torque into thrust without rotating themselves.
- Ballscrews are devices that convert rotational motion into horizontal motion by using a nut that runs up and down a screw on ball bearings that travel in helical grooves.
- Custom ball screws are made to certain specifications that are non-standardized.
- Ground ball screws are produced using a grinding wheel instead of
the conventional rolling technique. Ground ball screws offer close
but may be expensive to produce.
- are frequently
used in car jacks.
consist of a threaded shaft and nut and create friction
through sliding rather than through the rolling friction characteristic
of ball screws. The efficiency of lead screws increases with increased
lead. Lead screws are advantageous in managing high shock loads.
- Linear ball screws convert rotational motion, or torque, into linear motion called thrust.
- Metric ball screws are designed according to metric system measurements
as opposed to the American system of measurements.
- Miniature ball screws, which consist of ballscrews measuring as
little as three millimeters in diameter, are used in industrial applications
in the computer, electronic, fiber optics, and semiconductor
industries. Miniature ball screws maintain high efficiency levels
of their size.
- Precision ball screws perform critical functions in the manufacturing industry because of the level of control they allow operators to exert while transporting heavy loads.
- Rolled ball screws are assemblies made up of a threaded screw, threaded nut and ball bearings that are manufactured through the process of cold rolling metal.
- are used in lifting jacks.
Ball Screws Terms
- The conversion of thrust motion
back to torque motion. Backdrive can be reduced through a self-locking
- The movement of a screw and nut from its initial position.
Unlike creep, backlash is not caused from vibration or heavy loads.
- The movement of a screw and nut from its initial position
due to vibration, shock, or intense loads.
- When a screw is loaded in compression its limit
of flexible stability can be exceeded but may end in failing due to future
buckling or bending.
- Revolving screw shafts will develop normal frequencies
of vibration depending upon their length, size and end shape. The speed
at which this vibration occurs is predictable and is called the critical
- A measurement, expressed as a percentage, representing
the comparison of power output to power input of a screw assembly.
- This refers to the method by which the ends of the
screw are supported. There are three basic types of end fixity as follows;
free, simple and fixed.
- A condition that occurs in ball screw assemblies
involving continued screw rotation, but no linear movement.
- A screw's and nut's resistance to movement.
Different types of friction exist, including sliding friction that is characteristic
of Acme screws and lead screws, and rolling friction characteristic that is of
- The measurement of a nut's movement across the screw,
measured in inches per revolution (in/rev).
- The axial measurement between threads. Pitch also refers
to the number of full rotations a screw makes in order to produce one
inch of movement of the nut along the screw.
- This is reference to the minor diameter of a screw
thread or the major diameter of a nut thread.
- The rotary speed of a ball screw, represented
by the number of full rotations of a screw occurring in one minute.
- Referring to the number of independent threads found
on a screw shaft, usually found in configurations of either 1, 2, or
- A characteristic of Acme screw and other types of
screws in which back drive is prevented by the disallowance of thrust
to torque conversion.
- The portion of the screw that contains the threads.
- The measurement of the pace of linear movement in ball
screw assemblies, expressed in inches per minute. Speed is calculated
through the multiplication of screw lead by RPM, or revolutions per minute.
- The measurement, expressed in inches, of a ball screw
system's linear motion or thrust.
- The raised helical rib going around the shaft of a common screw.
- Linear movement achieved by the torque produced from ball
- Rotational motion of a ball screw system that translates
into linear movement, known as thrust.