A drawer slide is a mechanism that allows for telescopic motion in one axis and are commonly found in a wide range of household and industrial applications. There are two main types of drawer slides, roller slides and ball-bearing slides. This blog will aim to help you distinguish between these types of drawer slides. To learn more about the basics of drawer slides, check out our Drawer Slides 101 blog.
1) Roller Slides
Roller slides consists of two components, the cabinet member and the drawer member, each having their own roller, usually made of plastic. As their names suggest, cabinet member mounts to a stable or grounded component, i.e. the cabinet, and the drawer member attaches to the moving component, i.e. the drawer. Each roller will fit into the groove found on the other member and will be at opposite ends of the mechanism when fully retracted with the cabinet member’s roller being at the front. As the mechanism is extended, the cabinet member’s roller allows the drawer member to move outwards and the roller of the drawer member follows in the grove of the cabinet member. When fully extended, the two rollers will meet. This two-roller design gives the mechanism horizontal stability and allows for level extension.
You’ll typically see roller style drawer slides used in household applications like desk drawers where you expect fairly lightweight loads and a horizontal configuration. Due to their design, it is not recommended to use roller slides in any other configuration than horizontal. They also can only be mounted to the side of a drawer due to their design.
1) Ball-Bearing Slides
Ball-bearing slides make use of ball bearings instead of rollers to allow for the telescopic motion. They consists of three components; the cabinet member, intermediate member, and the drawer member. Like with the roller slides, cabinet member mounts to a stable or grounded component, i.e. the cabinet, and the drawer member attaches to the moving component, i.e. the drawer. The intermediate member interfaces with two sets of ball bearings; the first set interfaces with the grooves of the cabinet member and the second set interfaces with the grooves of the drawer member. As the mechanism extends, the first component to move is the drawer member, which slides over the ball bearings between itself and the intermediate member. Once the drawer member reaches the end of the ball bearings, the intermediate member will begin to slide along the ball bearings between itself and the cabinet member until fully extended. Like the two-roller design, the ball bearings within each groove of the mechanism gives it horizontal stability and allows for level extension.
You will see ball-bearing slides used in a wide range of applications from household applications, like dresser drawers, to industrial machinery. The use of ball-bearings in the design of these drawer slides provide greater durability and can carry larger loads compared to the plastic rollers of roller slides. As the ball-bearings of these drawer slides are fitted within the grooves of each member, they are capable of being used in horizontal configurations, vertical configurations, and at various angles. Some ball-bearing slides can be mounted to either the sides or bottom of the drawer, but you’ll need to check the manufacture’s specifications to ensure you can do so and how bottom mounting effect other specifications like load rating. You can also find heavy duty versions of ball-bearing slides that are design for harsher and heavier applications. If you are unsure whether you need heavy duty drawer slides, you can check out this blog on the key difference between heavy duty and regular drawer slides.