Most people use ball and socket joints every day, in the form of their hips. They allow people to move in many ways - from gentle strolls to rigorous exercise. In engineering terms, axial ball or ball and socket joints rotate smoothly in all directions, so can absorb considerable amounts of misalignment of shafts and structural elements. As such they are invaluable in a wide variety of machines and engineered systems.
Ball joints are typically made of steel, but can be produced in virtually any metal, plastic or a combination of engineering materials. They come in a huge range of sizes and in many variations, but essentially consist of a bearing stud and socket enclosed in a casting. Their spherical shape gives them free movement or rotation in all directions, up to the physical limit set by the edge of the casting.
A variation on the basic axial ball joint is the quick release option. This finds many uses, including in applications where structures and mechanisms are frequently dismantled and reassembled. An example of this is in the modern marquees used as temporary accommodation at festivals, concerts, public events and private weddings.
WDS now offers a range of zinc plated steel ball joints. The axial joints are available in sizes from 8mm ball diameter (having an extraction force of 3.1kg and weighing 15g) to 16mm ball diameter joints (with an 8.2kg extraction force and weight of 104g). Similarly, the WDS quick release ball joints are offered in a range of sizes, from ball diameters of 6.4mm to 10.7mm, weighing from 17g to 78g, with spring release mechanism.
Phil Holyome, Business Development & Special Projects Engineer with WDS, offers an overview of these useful components and explains that his company’s range of ball joints is suitable for use in a very wide range of applications: “Typically they are used in automation projects, where you need to generate linear movement though an angle. It is fairly common in engineering that you want to design a say handle or lever into a machine or system for moving a slide or activating a locking pin. In some cases you will want the handle in a convenient and ergonomic position but there is no straight line access from there to the moving part. In such a case you can use a ball joint to provide a cranked push rod, the joint providing the variable angle required to create the necessary movement.”
WDS can also supply rubber boot type covers for its ball joints, which as Phil explains act to keep dirt out and lubrication in. “A lot of ball joints are used in installations where they could be susceptible to occasional ingress of dust, dirt, grit or similar particles, which could work their way well into the joint and damage the bearings surface. Similarly, ball joints often need to be greased to facilitate easy movement between the ball and socket, but of course there is a tendency for this to work its way out over time. In both cases a cover will help ensure a long and reliable working life.”
WDS ball joints, like all WDS products are available via the company’s 24 hour ordering service or can be ordered on line via its web site, where 2D and 3D models are available as free downloads. Go to www.wdsltd.co.uk for further information.