Ball Screw Nuts
A ball screw nut is an important component of ball screws, which are devices used to convert 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.
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Applications of Ball Screw Nuts
Ball screws and nuts are used by many industries, including:
Precision ball screws are often used for medical instruments. Other applications for ball screws are material handling equipment, conveyors and machine tools, robotic lines, precision assembly equipment, semiconductor manufacturing, and fly by wire aircraft and missile control.
Ball Screw Nut Design and Function
Ball screw nuts change torque into thrust without rotating themselves. The ball bearings rotate instead, and the nut housing remains radially static as it slides on the shaft. Ball screw nuts can be made from plastic or metal. The shaft of the ball screw is machined from steel. Frequently used with linear slides and linear actuators, ball screws provide smooth linear motion that can be precisely controlled. They use low amounts of energy when motorized and can be up to 90% efficient in their use of power. Important ball screw considerations include desired lifespan, operating environments temperature and humidity, required torque, output force, backlash, and contamination.
Manufacturing Process of Ball Screw Assemblies
Ball screw assemblies are constructed from milled, rolled, or ground parts. Milling requires machines and tools that cut and remove material. Rolling applies a series of dies to a metal blank to punch out the right shape. Ground ball screws are machined, hardened, then ground for accurate dimensions. Custom ball screws that require high levels of precision are ground. After the nut is fabricated, ball bearings are placed in the grooves between the nut and screw shaft. External ball return parts are added on the outside of the nut to circulate the balls through the nut. These are short, curved tubes that provide a path for the balls that have reached the top of the nut to travel to the bottom and start the process again. Internal ball return systems or deflectors are also used.
Ball screw nuts found in lead screws or acme screws are different because the nuts found in those screws do not actually house ball bearings. Instead, the threading of the nut and of the shaft directly interact and the two parts rotate together. Lubrication allows for smooth turning despite the high friction that occurs. Lead screws are simple to design and manufacture while offering high precision.