Rick, good article. While bearings may not be glamorous, they are often an essential component of complex machinery. Another aspect of bearing longevity is hardness. When an inappropriate material is used, say to lower cost, the bearings will wear out quickly. This necessitates an expensive replacement operation.
Yes, you are correct that material hardness plays a very key part of linear bearing life and it is easy to forget that some manufacturers do not harden their raceways or bearing blocks. They try to offer a very low cost solution, but will neglect to inform the customer of this very important oversight in their product design and manufacture.
Hopefully it is clear in my article that we are hoping our customers take the proper planning and care in their choice of linear guide and understand before they start some of the pitfalls and errors which can be made. We much prefer to assist in the front end of the design cycle to prevent errors, rather than come in after the design is assembled and built to correct a problem whcih could have been avoided during the design phase. We feel that this approach offers everyone a better result. A bad design makes my company look bad, even through the product may have performed correctly, it was just asked to do something it wasn't designed to do.
I always think about the test plan and design FMEA and wonder was it succesfully executed. There is more to a design than just the design. Someone in quality shoudl have to validate the design. And if the design passes the the quality tests it was not only design that failed but quality.
Thanks for a great basic article on an important if often overlooked subject. I've been curious about the details of how linear bearings work, and why they sometimes stop working. Lubrication was obvious, but I didn't realize how important contamination is, although that seems obvious in 20-20 hindsight. This article has given me a much better understanding of bearing functioning and needed maintenance.
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