Ball Screw

A ball screw is a mechanical linear actuator that translates rotational motion to linear motion with little friction. A threaded shaft provides a helical raceway for ball bearings which act as a precision screw. As well as being able to apply or withstand high thrust loads, they can do so with minimum internal friction.

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Detailed Description for Ball Screw

They are made to close tolerances and are therefore suitable for use in situations in which high precision is necessary. The ball assembly acts as the nut while the threaded shaft is the screw. In contrast to conventional leadscrews, ballscrews tend to be rather bulky, due to the need to have a mechanism to re-circulate the balls.

Another form of linear actuator based on a rotating rod is the threadless ballscrew, a.k.a. "rolling ring drive". In this design, three (or more) rolling-ring bearings are arranged symmetrically in a housing surrounding a smooth (thread-less) actuator rod or shaft. The bearings are set at an angle to the rod, and this angle determines the direction and rate of linear motion per revolution of the rod. An advantage of this design over the conventional ballscrew or leadscrew is the practical elimination of backlash and loading caused by preload nuts.

To maintain their inherent accuracy and ensure long life, great care is needed to avoid contamination with dirt and abrasive particles. This may be achieved by using rubber or leather bellows to completely or partially enclose the working surfaces. Another solution is to use a positive pressure of filtered air when they are used in a semi-sealed or open enclosure.

While reducing friction, ball screws can operate with some preload, effectively eliminating backlash (slop) between input (rotation) and output (Linear motion). This feature is essential when they are used in computer-controlled motion-control systems, e.g., CNC machine tools and high precision motion applications (e.g., wire bonding).

 

Advantages:

Low friction in ball screws yields high mechanical efficiency compared to alternatives. A typical ball screw may be 90 percent efficient, versus 20 to 25 percent efficiency of an Acme lead screw of equal size. Lack of sliding friction between the nut and screw lends itself to extended lifespan of the screw assembly (especially in no-backlash systems), reducing downtime for maintenance and parts replacement, while also decreasing demand for lubrication. This, combined with their overall performance benefits and reduced power requirements, may offset the initial costs of using ball screws.

 

Applications:

Ball screws are used in aircraft and missiles to move control surfaces, especially for electric fly by wire, and in automobile power steering to translate rotary motion from an electric motor to axial motion of the steering rack. They are also used in machine tools, robots and precision assembly equipment. High precision ball screws are used in steppers for semiconductor manufacturing.


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