Comparing Ball Screws and Lead Screws

Comparing Ball Screws and Lead Screws

Many machine industries use screws to enable motion. The steering on your car needs a ball screw to move; the machinery that produces products in a factory requires motion. The type of screw chosen depends on the application. In this article, we’ll be comparing ball screws and lead screws in order to help with those decisions.

Ball Screws

A ball screw is a component of a machine necessary for the movement and control of a mechanism. The ball screw uses little friction and works with a screw and a nut, which both have matching helical grooves. Balls roll between those grooves. The nut or screw rotates while a deflector deflects the balls into the return system of the nut, and the balls follow a continuous path. As the balls exit the return system, they go into the ball and nut raceways and continue to recirculate.

Lead Screws

Lead screws are sometimes called translation or power screws, and machines use them as linkage. The purpose of the lead screw is to convert a rotating motion into a linear one. They operate using a lot of friction because of the large sliding area. To convert motion, the lead screw uses the helix angle of the thread and a combined screw and nut, always keeping the screw head in contact with the nut thread.

Which One Is Best?

Determining the best screw for the job all depends on the application. Let’s look at the pros and cons when comparing ball screws with lead screws:

Pros of the Ball Screw

  • Smooth motion
  • Requires less torque
  • Can handle prolonged periods of operation
  • Low friction
  • Runs at cool temperatures
  • Long-lasting
  • Efficient

Cons of the Ball Screw

  • Braking system is necessary
  • Not suitable for vertical applications
  • Requires lubrication
  • Noisy
  • Expensive

Pros of the Lead Screw

  • Inexpensive
  • No need for a brake system/self-locking
  • Suitable in vertical applications

Cons of the Lead Screw

  • Less efficient
  • Requires high torque
  • High friction
  • Runs at a hot temperature
  • Not suited for prolonged periods of operation
  • Needs replacing often

In conclusion, the ball screw and lead screw both have their place in the right application. Consider ball screws when you need efficiency, smooth motion, high speeds, accuracy, and prolonged periods of use. Choose lead screws when a transfer application is uncomplicated and speed and precision aren’t as critical.

Wedin International is the leader in machine tool drive components. We specialize in ball, screw, and nut assemblies and carry acme screw products. Our staff is here to answer all your questions and create the tool drive components you need.