Linear Guides or linear rail slides are support devices that are used to help carry loads and ensure straight and level linear motion. Linear guides will usually consist of two components; the sliding carriage and the rail. The sliding carriage is the element that moves along the rail and supports the attached load. The design of the sliding carriage and the rail will depend on the style of linear guide. The two most common styles of linear guides are the sliding contact guides and roller bearing guides. The sliding contact guides, shown below on the left, are the simplest style of linear guides where the sliding carriage simply slides over the rail, usually with the aid of a lubricant like with our FA-MGR-15 Series Mini Linear Slide Rails. Generally, sliding contact guides will have a higher coefficient of friction and require more force to move compared to the other style of linear guides, due to the two elements simply sliding over each other. Roller bearing guides, shown below on the right, make use of roller bearings that are located inside of the sliding carriage. The addition of the roller bearing helps to reduce the coefficient of friction between the sliding carriage and the rail, which in turns reduces the force required to move the carriage, without requiring lubrication. The design of the rails for these guides will include grooves for the roller bearings to move along which will be either on the outside of the rail or on the inside of the rail, like with our FA-SGR-15N Series Mini Linear Slide Rails and our FA-SGR-35 Series Heavy Duty Linear Bearing Slide Rails. If you want to learn more of the basics of linear guides, check out our Linear Bearings 101 blog.
Where are Linear Guides Used?
Linear guides are used in a wide range of industrial and manufacturing applications. You will commonly see linear guides of all sizes and styles used in CNC machines and 3D printers, including in smaller home printers and larger industrial printers. In these applications, linear slides are often used to position a tool or base plate inside of the machine. While actuating is done by another component, the linear guide carries the weight of the tool or base plate and protects the actuating component from improper loading. Linear guides are also used in robotic applications and designs like with the Gantry (also called Cartesian) robots and with overhead transport systems. There are tons of applications where linear guides are used to support heavy loads and ensure smooth linear motion.
When to Use Linear Guides?
Linear Guides can be used to support heavy loads and make it easier to move objects in one linear direction and are ideal when you do not require telescopic motion. They can be used to either support the entire weight of an object, making it easier to move by an actuating component, or be used to support one end of an object, while the other is supported by the actuating component. The latter case makes linear guides an ideal paring with our track actuators, while the former case can be useful with any of our linear actuators. Like with in CNC machines and 3D printers, linear guides can also be used to protect actuating components from improper loading. If you have concerns of side loading in your design, you can used linear guides to strengthen your design and protect your actuating device. While this can be useful with our linear actuators, you often see linear guides used in this to protect more load sensitive devices, like lead screws.
No matter what case you need linear guides for, you should also check their specifications to make sure they meet your design requirements and to learn more about those specifications, check out our Linear Bearings 101 blog.