Screw jacks are a common tool found wherever there is a need to lift, position, align, or hold a load. Their reliability and synchronization makes them applicable to a broad range of uses that alternative methods of handling are unable to accomplish. Their applications span across markets such as steel works equipment, water processing, pharmaceutical, medical and laboratory equipment, packaging equipment, nuclear, aerospace, and general mechanical handling. Screw jacks are also finding new uses as alternatives to traditional pneumatic and hydraulic systems. In this blog, we will cover screw jacks, their working principles, and types.
Screw jacks are devices used to convert rotational motion into linear motion. To do this, they use the properties of a screw thread that provide a mechanical advantage, such as their ability to amplify a force. A screw jack may incorporate a machine cut lead screw or ground ball screw to assist in transferring rotational energy into linear energy. In either case, the worm screw acting on the lead screw converts rotation into linear motion via the worm wheel. In the machine screw type, the worm wheel acts directly on the lead screw. In the ball screw jack type, the worm wheel acts on the ball screw via the ball nut which actuates the lead screw.
Of the two, the ball screw type provides greater efficiency between the input and output. It also allows for greater actuation speeds and is generally more durable due to its low friction. However, ball screw jacks are not self-locking and their initial outlay is larger. Nevertheless, their improved efficiency offsets this against smaller drive train components and results in a significant reduction in the necessary power.
Many applications do not necessitate the added expanse of a ball screw jack as they do not require continual drive. During configuration of a screw jack, the frequency of actuation is predicted and the appropriate screw jack is selected based on this. Aside from the worm drive systems, bevel gear systems can also be used to convert rotation into linear motion. This would provide greater efficiency to the screw jack, making it a rolling contact rather than a sliding contact. However, this will likely come at a greater initial cost and will not work in as many scenarios as worm drives.
There are many variations of screw jacks available depending on a specific need. These can be both machine screw jack or ball screw jacks and are generally chosen based on the architecture of the system they are being fitted with. The most common types of screw jacks are:
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