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 single vertical rails and 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.
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Design of Machine Slides
Machines slides are made up of a stationary base that houses both the linear rails and the carriage, 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.
- Dovetail Slide Advantages
- 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 accidental slip-sticks.
- Machine Slide Materials
- The components of machine slides are usually composed of aluminum, stainless steel, 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. On the other hand, cast iron 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) to construct machine slide parts comes down to the factors: the intended system load capacity, the intended work environment, and other specifications of the application.
- Customizing Machine Slides
- Most machine slides are not manufactured in a standard configuration. Rather, they typically must be custom designed, as they are often used for processes specific to a piece of equipment or a product. (These always require adjustment from standard configurations.) However, there are certain 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, they protect equipment from dust and debris along the linear rails and wear and tear. Manufacturers may select items accessories, including bellows, covers, linear rail shields, and 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.
Types of Machine Slides
There are a few different types of popular machine slides. 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 processing stages, such as stamping, 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, to keep it running well and increase its longevity, machine operators must make sure that it does not become clogged or contaminated with debris or dust. 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.