TECHNOLOGY BLOG

Precision Linear Guides Improve 3D Printer Motion

Affordable 3D printers are allowing more small businesses, schools and consumers to create inexpensive custom parts quickly and easily whenever the need arises. The growing success of this technology is possible thanks to quality motion components that can accurately move the printhead and position workpieces within tight tolerances. For example, a company that makes 3D printers for schools and the automotive aftermarket parts market recently improved both machine performance and sales using IKO linear guides. Here’s how:

Four years ago, the engineers at the printer manufacturer focused their efforts on the printhead that dispenses the materials. Previously, the nozzle assembly incorporated round-shaft bushings to control linear motion. The team determined the nozzle could achieve more accurate motion by replacing the bushings with linear guides. After discussing the design with IKO technical product specialists, the printer manufacturer chose ML Series C-Lube profile linear guides. The new machine uses six ML12 linear guides — two each for the X, Y and Z axes.

Big Benefits From a Miniature Guide

The ML Series is a lightweight, miniature ball-type guide designed to provide high rigidity for complex loads and operate with little noise. It also comes with IKO’s built-in C-Lube lubrication feature for long-lasting, maintenance-free operation. The C-Lube sleeve doesn’t contact the track rail, so the guide delivers smooth motion without increasing rolling resistance. It also does not increase the length of the slide unit or the price, like other companies’ products do. Additional standard features include:

  • Corrosion-resistant stainless steel components.
  • Slide units with integrated bands that retain the balls when removed from the rails.

Because the ML Series comes in both standard and wide versions plus a broad range of slide unit lengths, the printer manufacturer designed the ML Series into three different-size models: standard, desktop and XXL. Since replacing the round bushings with IKO ML Series linear guides, the 3D printer manufacturer has:

  • Improved travel tolerances for the printhead down to the micron level, which previous versions of the printer could not attain.
  • Eliminated the need for frequent re-lubrication, which users typically performed at six-month intervals.
  • Enjoyed exceptional sales success by:
    • Doubling sales of the 3D printer in two years spanning 2016 to 2018.
    • Doubling the printer’s projected sales over two years spanning 2018 to 2020.

IKO Quality and Service Make a Difference

While the ML Series has driven the 3D printer’s success, it wouldn’t have been possible without IKO support. Unlike many motion component manufacturers, IKO has seven facilities in the United States. As the printer manufacturer built prototypes for the alpha machine, a local IKO engineer provided assistance. And the ML12 part arrived in just a few days. The quick service and lead time were just as attractive as the accuracy of the ML12.

Profile linear guides can give essential 3D printer components the accuracy and precision they need to create better parts. IKO linear guides feature exceptional rigidity, smooth and quiet motion and long-lasting maintenance-free operation. IKO quality products plus exceptional service and fast lead times help 3D printer manufacturers revolutionize how parts are made.

For more information about IKO ball-type linear motion rolling guides, visit our product page.

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