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Ball migration – a common issue with ball bearing slides

Author: John Whittlesea, Technical support manager

24th Jun 2015

We recently received an interesting question from a company looking for drawer slides. Their worry concerned something they called ‘drawer creep’.

The problem mainly occurs when the drawer is repeatedly partly opened and not to the full extent of its travel.

When this happens often enough the ball cages (retainers) start to shift out of position and because the ball retainers form part of the slide’s stopping arrangement this causes the drawer to stop in the wrong place.

This generally means that the slide will stop short of its fully open position. Sometimes the slide will neither open nor close fully, but mostly it is the open position that is affected.

If the slide does stop in the wrong place then the only way to overcome this is by forcing the moving element to its fully open or closed position by pulling sharply on the slide or by slamming it. This should overcome the non rolling friction of the balls and force the slide back into the correct position.

We more commonly call this problem ‘ball migration’ and unfortunately this is a characteristic of all ball bearing slides, not just Accuride slides.

How to prevent ball migration

When drawer slides are repeatedly opened to their full extension, the balls and retainers will stay in their correct position within the tracks and the slides will continue to give perfect service.

If partial openings are common practice, then it would be good practice to occasionally cycle the moving element (normally a drawer) to its full extent. This will ensure that the balls and retainers are put back into their correct orientation as a stopping element of the slide design.

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