Machine slides are moved by drive mechanisms; these mechanisms can be mechanical, hydraulic or electronic. Machine slides are designed to have close tolerances and high rigidity to ensure that motion, even in high-paced applications, is controlled. The slides consist of a stationary base which holds the linear rails and a moving component, or carriage, that is attached to the bearings channels and moves along the cylindrical or ball bearing slides within the railings. Dovetail slides are often used in machine slide processes because of their increased precision and close tolerance performances. The slides also have a gib which ensures the components stay in place along the linear rails and make up for any slip-stick which may inadvertently occur. Four-slide machines are a popular type of machine slide which are used to manufacture metal parts by using moving mechanisms on four separate axes that act upon the metal to create a finished component. They are able to produce completed components in fast turnaround times.
Stainless steel, cast iron and aluminum are the most common materials used in the construction of machine slides. Material choice is dependent upon the specifics of the application and the intended work environment and load capacity. Cast iron is durable and can maintain its structure under the pressure of weight, whereas stainless steel is important for corrosion resistance purposes. Most machine slides have to be custom designed because they are used for product specific or equipment specific processes and therefore need to be adjusted accordingly. Options include: ball screw, lead screw, air or hydraulic cylinders for motion control, including blocks and keepers at the end of the desired motion range. Also, machine way wipers are used with machine slides to protect the equipment against wear and tear from dust and debris along the linear rails. The wipers move in front of the carriage or sliding mechanism to ensure smooth movement of the bearings and rail. Covers, bellows or other linear rail shields can also be used to further protect against the contamination of the bearing system within the linear system.