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Editor's Pick


Off-the-shelf solution

01 April 2014

HepcoMotion’s new off-the-shelf stainless steel linear and rotary guide solutions are, claims the company, set to revolutionise the lives of those design engineers looking to design systems for vacuum and extreme temperature environments.

Until now engineers wishing to move products within a vacuum or extreme temperature environment were faced with two choices: Firstly, they could design their own bespoke linear motion concept and therefore be using a system which was unproven and could create problems in terms of timescales and budgets; Secondly, they could choose to adapt from the narrow choice of systems available with no guarantee that the materials used would meet their demands.

A key feature of the new Hepco system is the use of stainless steel. As Chris Rees, sales director at the company says: "Material selection is a key factor in this ready-made system. The reason our system works in a vacuum or high temperature environment is down to two things, material selection and some bespoke design.

"Vacuum environments will cause any porous materials to outgas and therefore fail. This effectively rules out the use of any polymers, plastics and some sintered materials. Stainless steel is the default choice for a vacuum because it doesn’t outgas, is inherently clean and non-corrosive and therefore suitable for vacuum applications which require a high level of cleanliness. Stainless steel also doesn't melt in high temperature environments.”

All of the bearings’ moving contact surfaces are made from hardened stainless steel, which is beneficial in a high vacuum environment. The quality of this carefully-selected steel ensures that performance is optimised, and wear-generated debris is eliminated so avoiding the possibility of contamination. Outgassing, is eliminated as all free spaces within the VACSS bearings are connected to a vent hole in the bottom of the retaining screw.

Another advantage of the Hepco system is that a six bearing carriage system, unlike a re-circulating ball rail system, has the ability to traverse a large gap in the rail. This design allows the carriage plate (and component placed upon it) to move from the outside into the vacuum chamber and act effectively as an automated feed-in system. The gap in the rail is essential in order to allow the door of the vacuum chamber airlock to be opened and closed but the Hepco system facilitates this movement with ease.

Grease selection is another key area of the Hepco system and it can, if the application demands it, work ‘dry’. All other bearings can be lubricated internally with grease suitable for their temperature application. The VACSS vacuum and high temperature types use Krytox LVP grease, which is rated from -15 to +210˚C, while the LTSS low temperature bearings are lubricated with AeroShell Grease 22, rated from -50 to +150˚C. The VACSS bearings can also be supplied with alternative grease or without grease if required.