Letting Things Slide, the Right Way. Introducing Multi-Roller Glides from Sugatsune
Small, nondescript, often hidden away inside equipment and units, linear slides are easy to overlook. But they are also one of the most ubiquitous components in industrial equipment and fittings.
Whether it’s in machine tools, processing and packaging equipment, or drawers and other pull-push storage solutions, slides, glides and runners provide the essential motion required to move other components from A to B in a straight line.
Often the first time you appreciate the value of a linear slide is when something starts to go wrong. That moment when smooth, frictionless operation gives way to catching and grating. When you notice previously efficient processes become clunky and sluggish – that’s when you understand just how important precision and durability are in linear slide design and build.
But durability in linear slides is not an easy thing to achieve. The forces created by relatively large transport distances and the amplification of the lever effect as loads travel away from a fulcrum put components under heavy strain. Multiply that many times over by the heavy demands of repeated industrial use, especially in motorised systems, and it poses an interesting engineering challenge – exactly the sort of thing we love to take up here at Sugatsune.
What is our solution to creating linear slides which deliver reliable precision performance for longer in industrial applications? Allow us to introduce you to our brand new MLG multi-roller linear slide concept.
The MLG series has been developed to address a particular issue in slides containing ball bearings known as the ‘creep’ phenomenon. So-called creep occurs when the friction between the bearing and the rail starts to wear the contact point on the ball, changing its shape. Over time, this alters how the ball bearing moves, causing ‘creep’ in terms of changing the travel distance within the rail.
When slides are deployed anything other than horizontally, this process is accelerated by the additional loads being applied by gravity. Creep is at its most pronounced when slides are vertical. The creep phenomenon tends to narrow the travel range of the ball bearing as it becomes irregularly shaped. This is experienced as slow, inconsistent motion as the bearing starts to stick at various points. Not only does this hinder performance, it creates unwanted loads that hasten the breakdown of the entire mechanism.
Drawing on our rich precision engineering heritage, our product innovation team set about rethinking linear slide design from the ground up – mechanical science, material choice, build quality, everything. The ultimate aim was to develop a slide mechanism that was immune to creep and would run sumptuously smooth over hundreds of thousands of cycles, even if installed vertically. Exactly the kind of reliability and longevity you need in industry.
Multiply for the answer
The seeds of our solution came from asking a simple question – if ‘creep’ is a problem when you have a single ball bearing in a slide mechanism, what happens if you have more than one?
When we explored installing multiple ball bearings inside the rollers within the rail carriage, we discovered numerous benefits. The mechanism was better equipped at accommodating unbalanced loads, such as those you get when a slide operates vertically or at an angle. This more efficient load sharing across multiple bearings prevents the contact points between the balls and the rail carriage shifting, greatly reducing wear and tear, and allowing the slide to operate smoothly for much, much longer without any creep.
Overall, the MLG’s multi-roller mechanism has passed 300,000 test cycles over a travel distance of 100mm at a speed of 200mm/sec – enough to ensure long-term durability even when used with a motorised drive.
MLG series linear slides are currently available in three types:
- The slim type MLG13 which has a rail width of 13mm, perfect for use in medical equipment, food vending and amusement machines, analytical instruments or any other low load applications in small spaces.
- The MLGX25, a medium-load option suitable for a wide range of machine tools and automatic machines. A unique ‘Dual X’ structure protects smooth running whether loads are applied vertically or horizontally.
- The MLG20, a multi-purpose mini type slide which comes with a choice of rail types and guide blocks, including an eight-wheel guide block option which increases the load rating over the same travel distance.
All MLG models are sold with individual mounting plates. Multiple carriages can be used on a single rail, allowing for a high degree of flexibility in deployment.
Premium slide solutions
The MLG series further adds to our range of high-quality, precision-engineered linear slides, guides and guide rails suitable for all industrial applications. As well as the usual choice of full and ¾ extension slides in different lengths and gauges, we also offer premium solutions such as our push-to-open slides, which feature a specially designed detent mechanism that allows a drawer or panel to be opened without need for a handle.
We also manufacture slides in a range of different sizes and extensions that feature a self close glide mechanism that takes over the close motion to complete it from the lightest of touches, and a soft close catch that brings the slide to a smooth, controlled, silent stop, no matter how hard a drawer is pushed.