Motors, Drives

Maintenance, installation guidelines for linear motion applications

Consider these installation, maintenance, and operating tips and advice for a linear motion system.
By Richard R. Knotek, Niklas Sjostrom December 4, 2018
Applications ranging from CNC machines to material handling require accurate and durable linear motion systems. Courtesy: Thomson Industries, Inc.

Proper installation, operation, and maintenance of linear components are essential to maximize the service life of a linear motion system. The following are general guidelines for linear thrust and guidance mechanisms.

Applications ranging from CNC machines to material handling require accurate and durable linear motion systems. Courtesy: Thomson Industries, Inc.

Applications ranging from CNC machines to material handling require accurate and durable linear motion systems. Courtesy: Thomson Industries, Inc.

Installation tips

  • Mount the components on a clean, level, and solid foundation. Mounting accuracy of linear systems usually will mimic that of the base or bed.
  • Position the actuator or screw axis at center and parallel to the load as much as possible to prevent detrimental moments. Avoid side loading and cantilever mounting.
  • Make sure the entire linear assembly is as rigidly mounted as practical.
  • Using dial indicators, determine that all rails are level and parallel with each other.
  • Ensure that the thrust mechanism will run back and forth freely during installation.
  • Minimize spans between drive components. Short, straight connecting shafts are ideal for the system.
  • Utilize additional bearing supports for drive shafts whenever possible.
  • Use zero-backlash, flexible couplings and gearboxes.
  • Incorporate limit switches and sensors into the system to control travel distances and positioning.
  • When mounting profile rails, observe the datum line on the reference rail and place it against the datum plane.

Operating tips

  • Avoid excessive compression loads (column loading) on thrust devices. Heavily loaded vertical applications and high-speed horizontal applications are prone to column loading.
  • Do not exceed the limiting speeds of all linear components.
  • Make sure brakes and anti-rotation devices are used to prevent unintentional back driving and effective stops.
  • Use a torque-limiting device to prevent overloading the system and to protect the components.

Maintenance tips

  • Lock out, tag out, and verify that the system is neutralized prior to any service work.
  • Use protective bellows, boots, seals, and covers whenever possible to prevent foreign materials from interfering with movement and causing wear.
  • Properly torque all fasteners to the specified amount.
  • Lubricate all steel surfaces with light machine oil.

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See a related article below about eight major factors to consider when implementing a linear motion system.


Richard R. Knotek, Niklas Sjostrom
Author Bio: Richard R. Knotek is a technical training specialist with the Motion Institute, a division of Motion Industries. Niklas Sjostrom is a product line manager, Systems, EMEA & Asia at Thomson Industries, Inc.