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In mechanics, a linear guide is a bearing device designed to provide free movement in a single direction to achieve mechanical movement, especially axial actions. There are many types of linear guides, and each design uses a unique method to smooth linear motion. Some powered linear guides, such as machine slides, X/Y tables, roller table, and some dovetail slides are bearings that move by the drive mechanism. At the same time, not all linear guides are driven by power , and those non-powered dovetail slide, ball bearing slides and roller slides provide low-friction linear motion for the device, which is driven by inertia or by human hand under certain operational circumstances. Compared with box way movements, most light but precise axes are designed based on linear guide structure. Box ways are often adopted for heavy cutting tasks. For example, the double column machining is usually based on box way, which can provide good stability, but it is not as precise as linear guides.
With the example of the double column machining centers or other heavy duty cutting machine tool models, these types of machining processes can be achieved on different directions and stages. These directions and stages are based on a box in box ways, just like an oil country turning machines. Contrary to turning-based machinery, machining centers cover a wide variety of operations, ranging from single tiny parts to heavy and large milling tasks concerning complicated profiles, so they have linear guides installed on some axes for heavy machine tools. However, the precise processing of the unit under the strict supervision of human operators and the real-time inspection of the computer enables the final output of integrated mechanical functions to be like ordinary milling, and is most suitable for hardened or thick workpieces. For example, many 5-axis machining centers are equipped with linear guides, so certain types of machining can be ensured, and the results are highly appraised.
This kind of linear guide used in the 5-axis model is usually a vertical machining center. Because in modern industry, the 5-axis vertical machining center is a highly developed machine tool that can handle multiple milling or even drilling tasks at once. The linear guide can also be installed on the horizontal machining center. However, due to structural reasons, it is rarely used in industrial applications. It's similar to the 5-axis vertical machining center, and the 5-axis horizontal machining center can handle a variety of milling and drilling. Even if drilling and boring are performed in one station, it is still based on the horizontal phase. Horizontal machining is the process of using an autonomous spinning tool hanged horizontally on an axis to remove material by advancing the tool into one or more workpieces. Since the box way design is the main basis rather than the linear design, this horizontal alignment can be achieved in different axial directions.
Although linear guides can be applied to column-based machining centers, this situation is relatively rare for most fixed column machining centers. The fixed-type machining center is a popular metalworking machine that can handle many types of super heavy tasks on one machine, so this machining process can be performed in different directions. This machining process is based on the box method. Although most manufacturers may install linear guides like lathe applications, it can support more stern and rigid supports. For most users, this situation is not the main industrial choice. Unlike lathe machinery, machining centers cover a wide variety of operations, and multi-axis must be more rigid and reliable. So, linear systems are not that popular among customers across industries.
Even though the rigidity and stability of linear guide ways are not that perfect compared to box ways during heavy cutting, the technology in this field is keep moving ahead, and it is expected that in the near future, manufacturers of linear guide ways will promote reinforced linear guide ways that can sustain strong forces and ensure better cutting proficiency.
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