Rollers and Strapping to Enclose Ways
Of all the designs for covering and protecting ways, this is the best one we have run across yet. It is relatively inexpensive, easy to design into the machine and absorbs the least amount precious travel. Bellow designs are typically used on industrail machines but are expensive, propietary, and require significant space to install. Brush systems are easy to install and inexpensive but do a less than stellar job of actually protecting the ways (what then is the point?).
The use of rollers and tape (a special material with low elasticity much like a safety belt in a car) seems to strike the elusive happy medium. Designing a system with this type of setup definitely takes forethought, but it is not as difficult as it might seem. Consider the following finished product:
Notice how each strap is secured at the end by simply drilling two holes through the strapping and securing to the metal frame.
The strap then runs down the length of the slot and is fed through the roller system as shown:
The carriage then slides back and forth neatly raising the tape as needed allowing the concealed bearings to travel cleanly accross the rails beneath.
This design is very clean and would work very, very well for an X axis gantry-type setup. It would also be very suitable for a Y-axis; however, a setup this elaborate may not be necessary as debris is not as likely to infect the mechanics due to the raised height of the critical components. A simple plate may be sufficient for such a setup. See the below configuration.
Overall we are very impressed with simplicity, cost, easy of construction and effectiveness of the tape and roller design. It becomes especially valuable as the length of a given axis increases. As the length increases, bellows style covering becomes more and more difficult to install, becomes more and more expensive and takes up more and more space. The tape and roller system can theoretically be extended for some distance without taking up any more space and requiring only minimal expense (the cost of more tape).