Like most components today, ball screws have numerous manufacturers from around the world claiming to provide savings and/or increased performance. Merely believing unproven manufacturers and using their product comes with unacceptable risk to your brand reputation, so either the due diligence must be done in sourcing new manufacturers, or the potential benefits will go unrealized.
From my recent experience sourcing new ball screw manufacturers, here are some key points that designers should be keenly aware of:
- In creating a manufacturers list using Global Spec, selecting the product "Ball Screws" and selecting "Company Type = Manufacturer" provides a listing of 111 companies. Upon further investigation of the companies, fewer than 30 were actually manufacturers of ball screws… reason being that selecting Manufacturing and Ball Screws includes those that offer ball screws and are classified as a manufacturer (whether a manufacturer of ball screws and/or anything else).
- In order to ensure multiple sources, I was looking at DIN standard nuts. While the DIN standard controls the envelope and mounting dimensions, and I expected some variance in the load rating due to differences in ball conformity, manufacturing, and materials, load ratings varied by almost 2x for the same-size DIN standard nut.
- Upon obtaining quotes from manufacturers that meet basic qualification criteria (legal US sales representation, ISO registration, and minimum factory warrantee), price points varied by almost 5x. Some major manufacturers quoted their non-standard nut at much more competitive prices.
Much more information about ball screws is available, including a listing of manufacturers, in a detailed research report.
Greg Lyon holds a BSME from Northeastern University, is a licensed professional engineer in New York, and is the inventor on 17 US/International patents. His professional career consists of more than 30 years in engineering, including the past 11 as president of his own engineering and R&D company.