Open Source Linear Bearing System


While we normally don’t make it a habit to feature Kickstarter projects, we couldn’t pass this one up. [Barton Dring] from is putting together a project called MakerSlide that we’re sure will interest many of you out there.

Through his various CNC builds, he has found that one of the more expensive and frustrating components to obtain is a linear bearing system. He notes that commercial systems are expensive, and while an occasional eBay bargain can be found, it’s not the ideal way of going about things. He also points out that homebrew systems usually work after some tuning and adjustments, but can be time consuming to build.

He is proposing a v-groove bearing system, complete with wheels made from Delrin, as a standardized replacement for all of the aforementioned solutions. He anticipates selling the rails for about 10 cents per centimeter, putting the average cost of a 4 foot system around $20.

As a bonus, he is offering up free MakerSlide materials to anyone that sends him a “new, innovative  or interesting open source design or basic idea that uses the material.” You would only have to pay shipping in order to get your new project off the ground.

Standardization is always good, and seeing this rail system go into production would definitely benefit the hacker community. Take a minute to check it out if you are so inclined.

53 thoughts on “Open Source Linear Bearing System

    1. No, you are not the only one to do that. Cheap square steel tube, and drawer slides are common for hot wire cutters. Plenty of other cheap XY machines have been built that way also. The problem with them is swarf. They don’t clear crap well. On my home made mill table enclosure I built a box to that allowed me to put the drawer slides on the outside of the front doors to reduce the likelihood of chips getting into them. Atleast when the doors ae closed anyway.

  1. @Hackerspacer:

    They would be in competition with themselves. 8020 already produces teflon t-nuts which are intended to accomplish the same goal, however I have heard nothing good about them.

  2. This system is compatible with all 20mm based extrusions (80/20, misumi etc). This project was undertaken because the large manufacturers of extrusion were not interested (the idea has been proposed before).

    It is far more rigid and accurate than drawer slides while being easier to mount and in a similar price range.

    Seriously, this product is going to be awesome and make cheap laser cutters, routers and 3d printers all the more accessible.

  3. The PCB linear (and similar suppliers) method is very expensive and difficult to work with. I have built several systems with and it works great, but not for the average user.

    It also does not integrate well with standard extrusions. The large radius on the extrusions rules out most of them.

    This method allows you to buy already cut to size and ready to bolt together. The Misumi extrusions are amazingly cheap. The whole frame system on the 3D printer in the video cost less than $100.

  4. @Ryan,

    Sure, plenty of shops could make those. I’ve made them from steel (albeit short) on my mill. It’s not rocket science to mill or grind a bevel onto an edge.

    For long lengths, check how they do it on glass.

    Certain cheaper than a short-run custom extrusion…

  5. Well, there is pretty easy way to make similar system: Take one standard aluminium extursion (40x40mm, with 8mm slot), and two 10mm diameter hardened shafts (avalible on ebay). Screw or glue shafts in slots of extrusion. For bearing use : use one smaller and one bigger bearing. Bigger one should have 10mm balls, smaller one should fit in bigger one. Remove outer ring and balls from bigger bearing. Glue inner ring with smaller bearing.

    This solution is similar but uses of-the-shelf components. Besides : hardened steel shafts are way more precise and harder to destroy during usage ( you cant even drill them with regular drill)

  6. @Tony
    No doubt plenty of shops could make these, but for 10cents/cm? Even I only wanted 4 feet?

    And for making them yourself, you dismiss this as re-inventing the wheel, and then advocate people do just that? I’d much rather purchase a well designed piece of kit that’s reasonably priced that does the job than spend time re-inventing the wheel.

    The problem being solved here? It’s spelled out quite clearly on the description page: existing OTS components are too expensive, and DIY solutions are too time consuming.

  7. The 2.x laser builders go through a couple hundred feet of the steel vrail a month. We know it works, but it is definitely the most expensive and stressful part of the build. And if you screw up by a millimeter, you have to start over. Several people have had to do that.

    The MakerSlide system is far more than just the extrusion though. It will be a full set of carriages and wheel options. Those carriages are designed to seamless integrate with the 20×20 extrusions. The bolt patterns are there for all orientations needed.

    The intent is to be able to build a small scale router or 3D printer of your own design without drilling a hole at less cost than if you did.

  8. Tony, I am very familiar with options for cheap linear motion, I used v-rail attached to extrusion for my laser cutter build here:

    I assure you that attaching v-rail to extrusions is both expensive and time consuming. This is a problem many of us have been working on for quite some time.

    You will be hard pressed to find a solution that can compare to the MakerSlide, even if you are willing to meticulously align and attach a hacked-together solution. This system promises to be 2-3 times cheaper, more accurate and easier to use than any alternative I’m aware of.

  9. Lots of ideas and no action !
    The truth is that Bart´s Open Source Linear Bearing System is an atempt to bring something better, cheaper and easy to use to us Makers.
    Drawer slides are a joke ….
    Better do it instead o criticize it !
    Why not just support it ?

  10. @Gene,

    It’s 10c/cm when I have it and the invoice in my hand, at the moment it doesn’t exist. Wishful thinking and reality rarely align.

    And where does 10c/cm come from anyway? More like $1/10cm, and that’s for the thin stuff. See for pricing of stuff that currently exists.

    On top of that the Delrin v-groove bearings don’t exist either. That’s the real drawback of v-rail, even if you use a cheap piece of alloy angle as your v-rail, the bearing are expensive.

    See the link I posted earlier, same idea but DIY.

    Nice idea, but anyway.

  11. @Ryan,

    So what do you think of the link I posted?

    How does this non-existent extrusion compare to bolting a piece of alloy angle (not even bothering to add the v) to a real-world comparable extrusion?

    Buy, drill, bolt, done.

  12. @Jon,

    Lol, yeah, well spotted. Sheesh, I though it said 10c/10cm for some reason.

    Anyway, there’s no way you can get that extrusion at that price (unless subsidised or set low to drum up interest).

    I wonder if they’ve asked how much the die is yet…

  13. YES, a million times yes!

    I don’t understand the point of naysayers on here. It’s HaD, I think we are all perfectly aware that people can make things on their own instead of buying them.

    However, not everyone has the tools OR THE TIME to build a system from the ground up with the necessary tolerances.

    Have you ever eaten at a restaurant Tony? I really don’t see the point of why you would. Cooking food is easy.

    Grocery shop, prepare, cook, enjoy.

  14. So, he’s already stated that he has the quote for tooling and procuring a couple thousand feet of the extrusion for the listed price. A little bit of reading dug that up. He currently uses a version of the delrin v-wheels, and sells them on his site.

    Are you just crapping on this idea because you can? I’m just curious why you think the pricing is so outlandish? bdring has an impeccable reputation in the DIY CNC community, and has put together several items in kit form for complete products, why would this be any different? If you go and read the thread on his site, there’s several months worth of development here, and loads of research regarding pricing and availability.

  15. This solution does not look nearly rigid enough for a CNC router application. Rigidity costs money when building a cutting CNC machine, thats why I never built my second machine, it just wasnt worth my time and money. For applications that require no cutting forces like lasers, this is a great and relatively cheap way to do it.

  16. I don’t believe the price since it’d be about the cheapest 80/20 extrusion out there.

    Amazon shows 2′ (~50cm) of 1″x1″ at $5.50. This extrusion will be $5 (10c x 50cm) for the same length…

    Sure it’d be a nice thing to have (even better if hardened) but seriously, is making your own that hard? What is this,

    For anyone who has a great idea like this, remember that for every 100 people who think it’s fantastic, only 1 will buy it, and that’s being generous.

  17. have to agree with tony guys, this is pretty dumb
    if you cant make your own guide rails then in my opinion you shouldnt be allowed near a cnc
    if you cant find stock angle for cheaper than whatever this costs then your doing it wrong, and probably lazy
    also i find the rail offensive to the eye, machines are supposed to look ruggedly functional, not pansily ugly

  18. @Renee – The Delrin bearing don’t exist, the guy will sell you ‘sleeves’ you put over standard metal ones.

    In other words, they’re not a standard part, they’re another custom (expensive and/or unavailable) part.

    You can get all-plastic bearings, they’re used in food equipment.

    Metal v-groove bearings, while expensive, can be purchased easily enough.

    If he managed to convince the 80/20 crowd to add this to their range then that would be a better idea. You are still screwed on bearings though (one reason for their reluctance), and you can’t use steel bearing on soft alloy (well, not for long).

    And this stuff is really expensive. Buy a cheap welder and scrounge scrap – that’s worthy of DIY & ‘Hack-A-day’, not ‘Assemble-A-Kit’.

  19. @Jeditalian

    Actually, I’m going a step further, I’m working on a printer that uses Quarks to build Atoms.

    You should see the printer nozzle!

    So far my main problem is sourcing raw materials of sufficiently pure quality.

  20. Wow, Tony, you really couldn’t be more wrong. Your misinformed barfing here in the comments is making you look like a fool.

    The delrin v-wheels do exist. They mount over standard bearings. Yes, someone in the comments slipped and said delrin bearings, but looking at the drawings, it’s an obvious slip-up.

    If you think buying extrusion off of Amazon is the best deal you can find, maybe YOU should be the one going to assemble-a-kit. There’s several manufacturers of the extrusion, and it’s all relatively inexpensive. Please take at least a few seconds to educate yourself before you spew off with more random nonsense and hand-waving trying to distract people from the obvious fact that you know little about what you are actually talking about.

  21. @naPS, so, how much did you chip in?

    Now, how much should I be paying for 80/20? (and no eBay please)

    And while you’re at it, where exactly do I get those Delrin wheels from?

  22. I like the idea, it’s cheap, quick, simple,
    easy, and accurate.

    Right now I am using EMT conduit, skate
    bearings, and aluminum angle in my small
    CNC Router, it works and is fairly cheap,
    but not all that accurate.

    I am planning to replace my DIY CNC with
    something like the “Fine Line Automation”
    FLA300, they seam to use flat iron stock
    and make an an aluminum block with what
    looks like skate bearings, that aluminum
    block has skate bearings for the top,
    bottom and edge.

  23. @naPS
    Where do you get those delrin wheels? I’ve only seen them from Barton, as he had them custom fabbed a couple years ago. Have they become an off the shelf part since then?

  24. Yeah, an easy to mount, cheap and precise rail system would really be nice. I’m willing to believe the first, I’m just not all that convinced at all that this will satisfy the other two, specifically the last. Any (well, most) home-made rail systems can be fiddled into something resembling stiff precision (at least for a while), and I’m unconvinced this is so much different – so much more precise – or that it resists perpendicular loads all that well (sure it does, to some degree…). Staying within a 0.1mm of play is not _that_ hard, but it’s hardly usable. I’d like to see this stay within a 0.01mm play consistently along the rail though…

  25. Interesting reading. Everyone is talking about the precision and stiffness. If you use a Dremel as your mill head, your precision is gone anyway.
    I think anything that will make my life easier is a step in the right direction.
    My son bought a mill/lathe combo for under $600 last year. Granted it wasn’t a CNC, but he can turn out parts fairly fast without having to cozy up to a computer for a few hours to program it.

  26. I am skeptical these would work for a CNC router but I think they will perfectly fine for a Laser. If anyone has details on the alignment process of V track I would like a link. I don’t understand why it would be difficult to align.

  27. To everyone who says this is a waste of time: By purchasing these, you’d be able to devote more time to building interesting stuff instead of spending it on “scaffolding” that’s not interesting. I’m sure the average HaD visitor could build their own LEGO blocks, but it’s a lot more fun to build the robot/castle/plane/car.

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