Choosing the Best Acme Screw for Your Application

Christopher Nook by Christopher Nook

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Acme Screws

Acme screws are a mainstay for supplying motion and positioning control in many types of machinery, including CNC milling machines, lathes, syringe pumps, linear actuators, 3D printers, and robotic systems.

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Motion and Position Control

Acme screws are a mainstay for supplying motion and positioning control in many types of machinery, including CNC milling machines, lathes, syringe pumps, linear actuators, 3D printers, and robotic systems. Regardless of the type of application, a prerequisite for ensuring that an acme screw will perform reliably is choosing a configuration that is based on a thorough evaluation of the load characteristics associated with a specific linear motion scenario.


Assessing Load Requirements 

When choosing a screw, important factors to consider include:

  • Thrust – The greater the thrust required, the larger the screw diameter needs to be to resist the effects of compression and tension loads. Is the thrust continuous or peak in nature? Is a stronger acme nut made of bronze necessary or will an acme nut made of resin suffice.
  • Speed – Understanding the speed of the linear motion is critical to selecting a screw that will not experience "screw whip", which occurs when the rotational velocity limit of a screw is exceeded, resulting in natural harmonic frequency vibrations.
  • Accuracy – How precise does your movement of a load to a specific position or location need to be? In other words, how tight is your tolerance level and how precise does your screw need to be?
  • Repeatability – Does your application require a screw that consistently and repeatedly moves a load to the same place? How accurate do you need this repeatability to be?
  • Backlash – How critical is stiffness, accuracy, and repeatability for your application? In other words, how much backlash (the amount of linear movement between the screw and nut at rest) can you tolerate. Is a backlash-inhibiting mechanism necessary for the acme nut?
  • Resolution – Evaluating resolution goes beyond the motor or motion controller that you are using. Screw leads, preloaded acme lead screws, breakaway torque, and torsional twist of long screws also affect resolution. For example, you may be able to use a less expensive motor if you use a higher resolution lead screw.
  • Flange Mounting/Pinning – Because flanges must be secured to nuts, you need to determine whether to use a pin or set screw that is parallel to the screw and intersects the flange/nut mounting thread, depending on  how each affects your application.

Preventing Screw Failure

Understanding the load requirements for your linear-motion application is vital to selecting an acme lead screw that will perform reliably. The most common types of failure are:

  • Over Compression – When a compression load is too high, the screw becomes over-compressed, increasing the risk of buckling. This can lead to bending of the screw followed by complete tensile failure. You can avoid over compression by decreasing the load, increasing the screw diameter, increasing the number of starts and reducing the thread size, or increasing the number of lead screws being utilized.
Acme rod compression load
  • Stripped Screw Threads – The threads on the screw can become stripped when the screw is not appropriate for your application. Important considerations include axial load, speed, screw inertia, torque, inertial torque, drag torque, torque-to-move, back driving, length, and end fixity.
  • Stripped Nut Threads – The threads on the nut can become stripped when the nut is not appropriate for your application. Important considerations include axial load, speed, screw inertia, torque, inertial torque, drag torque, torque-to-move, back driving, length, and end fixity.

Helix has the perfect acme screw for your application...

Contact one of our linear motion experts to help you select the ideal acme screw assembly for your precise needs. To learn more about our acme screws and other precision linear motion products, download a copy of our latest catalog: