Machine slides are a type of linear slide mechanism. Also known as machine tool slides, their primary goal is to position, push or pull equipment. In essence, they are made up of groups of linear bearings. Machine slides are motorized and offer their precision motion along not only single vertical rails, but single, double or multi-axis vertical and horizontal rails. Moved by drive mechanisms that may be electronics, mechanical or hydraulic in nature, machine slides are heavy duty, highly rigid and have close tolerances. These characteristics allow them to be successfully paired with heavy industrial applications and the massive loads they carry. Such applications include tooling and cutting, automated assembly machinery and CNC machining equipment.
Machines slides are made up a stationary base that houses both the linear rails and the carriage, which is the moving component. The carriage is in turn attached to a series of bearing channels; within the rails, it moves along the slides, whether they be ball bearing slides, roller (cylindrical) bearing slides or dovetail slides, which are another type of commonly used bearing slide. The latter, dovetail slides, are particularly popular for use with machine slides for a few different reasons. First, they provide close tolerance performances and enhanced precision. Second, they use a gib, which provides the assurance that the machine slide components will stay securely in place along the linear rails, even in the face of any accidentally slip-sticks. The components of which machine slides are made are usually composed of materials such as aluminum, stainless steel and/or cast iron. All of these materials, which are the three most common machine slide construction materials, are fairly durable. Each, however, has different qualities. Stainless steel, for example, is incredibly corrosion resistant. Cast iron, on the other hand, stands out for its general durability and its ability to maintain its structure even under great pressure and weight. The choice of what material(s) with which to construct machine slide parts comes down to the factors including: the intended system load capacity, the intended work environment and other specifications of the application. Regardless, most machine slides are not manufactured in a standard configuration. Rather, they typically must be custom designed, as they are so often used for processes very specific to a piece of equipment or a product. (These always require adjustment from standard configurations.) However, there are certainly groups of mechanisms from which manufacturers may choose to customize the slides they are creating. For example, for motion control, machine slides most often use one of the following items with blocks and keepers at the end of the intended motion range area: hydraulic cylinders, air cylinders, lead screws or ball screws. In addition, the protect equipment from dust and debris along the linear rails and/or wear and tear, manufacturers may select items accessories including: bellows, covers linear rail shields and/or wipers. Bellows, covers and linear rail shields alike are placed on machine slides in order to shield them from contamination to the linear system caused by the bearing system. In turn, wipers work in the front of the sliding mechanism or carriage, where they move, or wipe, the mechanism in order to secure the smooth and unhindered movement of the rails and bearings.
There are a few different types of popular machine slide types. However, the most popular for use with those applications seeking to manufacture metal parts is likely the four-slide machine, also known as a multislide, multi-slide, or four-way. Four-slide machines are a type of machine slide that assist in metal manufacturing processes by employing moving shaft mechanisms on not one or two separate axes, but four separate axes. These axes move the metal all through the various stages of processing, such as stamping, in order to help create the finished product. Using this type of machine slide, manufacturers are able to create complete metal parts very rapidly.
Regardless of the application for which a machine slide is used, in order to keep it running well and in order to increase its longevity, it is important that machine operators make sure that it does not become clogged or contaminated with debris or dust. To that end, in addition to equipping the machine with wipers and/or covers, operators must occasionally take the system apart and clean it. Dirt and dust left unattended can lead to the early deterioration of machine slide components, especially bearings. For more information on this and to learn more about how machine slides might serve your application, contact one of the many excellent slide manufacturers listed on this page.
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Machine Slides – Del-Tron Precision, Inc.
Machine Slides – Del-Tron Precision, Inc.