Overview of Robotics and Automation
Robotic and automation solutions combine mechanical components with control systems to complete processes and operate machines with little to no human assistance. Early forms of these technologies were used to perform relatively basic functions, such as pick-and-place operations and assembly line welding. However, over the past 40 years, rapid technological advancements have expanded the scope of what can be automated.
Robotic and automation technologies now play an integral role in a variety of industrial applications and processes, ranging from manufacturing to finishing to assembly. By integrating them into production operations, manufacturers can increase product quality, resource efficiency (e.g. raw materials, energy, and employees), and manufacturing flexibility, all of which improve overall productivity and profitability.
Key Benefits of Robotic and Automation Solutions
Robotics and automation solutions offer a number of benefits to manufacturers and other industrial companies, including:
Higher Productivity and Repeatability
By utilizing robots and other automated machines for routine and repetitive work, productivity levels can be significantly improved. The technologies can be programmed to operate 24/7 with minimal human supervision.
Better allocation of human resources
These solutions allow for more efficient allocation of human resources. With the more tedious and repetitive tasks being handled by robotic and automation technologies, human workers can focus on higher-level jobs that require decision-making and on-the-job learning.
Greater Workplace Safety
Robotic and automation technologies can improve employee safety by eliminating the need for them to work in potentially hazardous conditions (e.g. assembling line welding).
Faster Introduction Of New Products
Programmable and flexible automation technologies can be reprogrammed quickly and easily to prepare for new products without interrupting ongoing processes.
Bearing Solutions for Production and Warehouse Automation
At Emerson Bearing, we provide a variety of bearing solutions for production and warehouse automation applications, including:
Linear motion systems
These products offer high load capacity and long travel life in applications requiring single-direction motion. They are available in metric and inch series and constructed from chrome or stainless steel to fit most linear motion applications.
Super precision bearings
These chromium steel or stainless steel bearings feature controlled end play and radial runout, which allow them to provide more accurate and precise output. They are rated by the Annular Bearing Engineers Committee (ABEC) of the American Bearing Manufacturers Association (ABMA).
These pillow blocks/mounted units support bearings outside of machine enclosures. They are an essential component of automated conveyor systems.
These components are used in the articulation joints of robotic arms. They are classified as either male or female, depending on the design of the threading. Male rod ends feature external threads while their female rod ends have internal threads.
Overview of Linear Motion Bearings
Linear motion bearings are used in single-axis linear movement applications to support the load of the carriage, the component traveling in a straight line. Linear motion bearings act as low-friction surfaces for the guide rails and allow for the precise movement of objects back and forth across an XY plane.
Linear bearings are essential in linear guide assemblies for robotic systems, cutting machines, instrumentation systems, XY positioning tables, and more. Linear motion bearings utilize a motor-driven ball screw, lead screw, actuators, hydraulic cylinders, pneumatic cylinders, or manual force to create single-axis movement. In automation applications, linear motion bearings ensure precise, smooth operation to produce highly accurate and repeatable results, such as in CNC milling machines, sliding doors, 3D printers, and industrial robots.
Types of Linear Motion Bearings
The two types of linear bearings are rolling linear bearings and plain linear bearings. Both linear bearing types can provide smooth linear motion and are used in equipment requiring precision-controlled movement across a single axis.
Roller Linear Bearings
As the most common linear bearing type, rolling linear bearings provide the least friction by utilizing balls or rollers to create smooth motion. The rolling elements are located between the mating grooves in the bearing and guide rails. The roller’s or ball’s diameter is proportional to the linear speed of the linear guide, so as the diameter increases, the guide’s linear speed must also increase.
Similarly, the contact angle of the rolling element is directly proportional to the radial loading capacity, while the contact angle is inversely proportional to the lateral loading capacity. A 45° contact angle equally supports loads in lateral, radial, and reverse radial directions. There are several types of rolling linear bearings, and the three common classifications are according to:
- Track Geometry: The linear bearing’s track geometry is the number of contact points the rolling elements make with the raceway, which determines the friction produced and the load capacity.
- Geometry of Rolling Elements: The rolling elements of linear motion ball bearings can be spherical (such as steel balls), cylindrical, or cylindrical needles. The rolling element’s shape affects the load capacity and rigidity of the linear bearings.
- Linear Guide Profile Shapes: The guide rails’ cross-sectional shape is the bearing’s linear guide profile and determines the linear bearing design required for the linear guide assembly.
Plain Linear Bearings
Plain linear bearings consist of simple construction, often resulting in lower production costs than roller bearings. Instead of relying on rolling elements, plain linear bearings utilize the sliding contact of two surfaces. With the larger contact area, plain linear bearings reduce surface pressure, can handle larger loads, and are better at absorbing shocks and vibrations than other linear motion ball bearings. Lubrication or self-lubricating materials are essential for applications using plain linear bearings. Common types of plain linear bearings include:
- Dovetail Slides: Dovetail slides consist of a base with a protruding V-shaped tongue and mating saddle that create full contact with one another.
- Box-Way Slides: Box-way slides have a T-shaped profile when the mating base and saddle are together. The base is stationary, acting as the guide rail, while the saddle moves along the base.
- Fluid Linear Bearings: Fluid linear bearings use a thin layer of pressurized, fast-moving fluids such as hydrostatic or hydrodynamic fluid. Pumps or high-speed carriage motion is essential to pressurize the fluid.
- Linear Sleeve Bearings: Also known as plain linear bushings, linear sleeve bearings are hollow cylinders where the shaft guide rail slides along the inner surface, which is typically self-lubricating.
- Magnetic Linear Bearings: As the name implies, magnetic linear bearings use magnetic force to lift the carriage from the guide rail.
Our Linear Motion Bearings
Emerson Bearing provides four different types of linear motion bearings.
SW Type Linear Motion Bearings
Our SW type linear motion bearings come in various styles for single-direction motion applications, all with internal seals (UU). These bearings are available in numerous materials, including chrome and stainless steel, with a resin or steel retainer. The side block housings also come in several styles.
TW Type Linear Motion Bearings
Also known as the “Super Series,” our lightweight TW type linear motion bearings are low-noise bearings available in both standard and open styles. They have floating integral wiper seals for self-alignment and an advanced polymer resin cage. TW type linear motion bearings come in various materials and shaft shapes, making them ideal for single-direction motion applications. They have a higher load capacity and travel life than the SW series.
SM Metric Type Linear Motion Bearings
Our SM metric type linear motion bearings measure in millimeters and are most commonly used in Asia. SM metric type linear motion bearings are available in chrome or stainless steel with a resin or steel retainer. They feature internal seals (UU) and can be either adjustable or open. The slide block housings for these bearings are available in various styles.
KB Metric Type Linear Motion Bearings
Our KB metric type linear motion bearings are widely used in Europe for single-direction motion applications. KB metric type linear motion bearings come in a variety of shaft shapes with stainless steel or chrome material options and a steel or resin retainer. These bearings have internal seals (UU) and several slide block housing options.
Linear Motion Bearings in Robotics
Many industries use automation to reduce variability, ensure process repeatability, meet quality standards, and reduce manufacturing costs. Robotic systems allow companies to meet demanding lead times, remain competitive, and make production adjustments by reprogramming the device.
As automation increases, so does the demand for linear motion bearings. Linear motion bearings used in linear robotics provide a versatile solution for many of the challenges manufacturers face. Robots utilizing linear bearings move along single axes at right angles—instead of rotating—for more precise movements. Linear motion bearings make equipment move back and forth, up and down, or in and out. Linear robots often have higher accuracy than those with rotating axes, making them ideal for mundane, repetitive tasks.
Here are the most common uses for linear robotics.
Placing the wrong item in the wrong place is highly likely without automation. High-speed pick-and-place robots can accurately move products from one location to another. Utilizing pick-and-place systems in specific assembly line areas can help improve efficiency and accuracy while preventing workplace injuries.
Linear robots can make the tedious sorting process safer and more efficient. Pairing vision systems with sorting robots can improve consistency and accuracy.
When linear robots are in place, packaging processes can essentially run non-stop, which would be impossible without automation. Automated packaging solutions can improve turnaround times without needing a third-shift crew.
Manually placing items onto a pallet for shipping can be a dangerous, heavy-lifting job for human workers. With robotic automation, a palletizer can put products into a predetermined pattern to create layers of products before placing them on a pallet. Linear palletizing robots can increase safety, productivity, and reliability.
A linear robotic system can perform many manufacturing processes more accurately, including dispensing, welding, cutting, and assembly. For example, it can be difficult for laborers to make precise cuts or welds on larger items requiring extended reach.