XY tables or XY stages are mechanical structures used for the purpose of enhancing the working range of machining, tooling and milling systems in manufacturing industries, workshops and fabrication facilities. Low profile XY stages are a subclass of XY tables which are smaller in dimensions, lesser in weight and very accurate in positioning control. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the low profile XY tables.
What is a low profile XY table?
Contrary to the bigger and heavier industrial XY tables, low profile tables are meant for smaller loads which require very accurate positioning. These are used for applications where the clearance area and the working boundaries are constrained.
The mechanical construction of a low profile XY table includes linear bases with frictionless bearings. Normally ball or roller type bearings are employed. The linear sliding surface is mounted on to the linear bases. These surfaces can slide on the base linearly. An XY table has two degrees of freedom which means that it can move in the XY plane horizontally. For creating a 2 DOF system two flat surfaces are mounted on top of each other on the linear base. One surface moves along the X-axis while the other one moves along Y-axis.
The low profile XY tables are fabricated from steel alloys or cast iron. The frame is usually made from aluminum alloys or anodized aluminum.
Motives for using the low profile XY tables
There are a variety of mechanical and electromechanical systems installed in the manufacturing industries which are responsible for working on the job pieces. A job is an object which is being cut, milled, shaped or formed by a tool or a machine. The tooling or machining systems working on the jobs are very limited in their movement because of their static bases. To increase the range of motion of these machining systems, they are mounted on XY tables. It is the job of the XY table to move the mounted machinery around on the shop floor. This increase in the range of motion increases the capability and the capacity of the machines and more complex tasks can be performed on the shop floor.
Uses of low profile XY tables
The low profile XY tables are used for smaller and lightweight jobs. They are used in applications where precision and accuracy is the main concern. The work area for low profile XY tables is limited.
They are used for handling very small mechanical parts which need very precise machining. In addition to that, they are extensively used in semiconductor assembling and fabrication tasks. Another key area of application is laser based tooling and machining. They are also used to handle the optical equipment which needs great care during tooling.
Performance characteristics of low profile XY tables
Low profile XY tables are known for their precision and positioning accuracy. Their positioning sensitivity is measured in terms of micrometers or microns. In addition to accuracy, another great feature of these structures is that they require very less space and working area. They are lightweight and do not need large surface areas. This feature makes them very popular among hobbyists and small workshop owners.
They employ servo motors for position control which are known for their accuracy. In addition to that, some models also have encoders for increased accuracy and sensitivity.
The electronic control system of a low profile XY table
Early XY tables were purely mechanical devices which were moved using rotary handles provided on the sides of the machine. These days, however, electronics technology has matured and computers are used to control everything. This is also the case with the XY tables. Instead of rotary handles, these tables now employ high precision servo motors for their motion along the XY axes. The control system is built around an internal computer or a microcontroller and the control is purely electronic. This type of digital control allows for new features as well as stellar performance characteristics. The servo motors used are either brushless servos or direct control servos. Some systems also use encoders for enhanced feedback.
Installing low profile XY tables
Low profile XY tables are very easy to install because of their lightweight and small size. They can be installed on any work surface using a few nuts, bolts or screws. They typically weigh only a few kilograms and therefore are very easy to move around.