Rail and linear guide maintenance

Whilst waiting for our official maintenance guide for linear rail and carriages I thought it might be prudent to post a draft here.


At present we don’t offer oil for our carriages or linear rails, however it can be bought cheaply from Amazon, ebay and in most cases local machinists stores.

We only recommend using Mobile vactra No 2 oil on linear rails, ball screw and carriages. It should not be used on any other parts of the machine. Follow the safety guides provided with the oil. Wear gloves/glasses.

Linear Guide and Carriage Maintenance

Our linear guides are rated for tens of thousands of hours of use and should not wear out. To keep them in good condition we recommend the following:

  • Keep them dust free, wipe them down with a clean dry lint free cloth after each use.
  • Never use a water based products on them
  • The rails can be wiped down with a clean rag/cloth with a small amount of Mobil Vactra No 2 oil - be sure to clean off any excess.

Some people are surprised that the carriages will occasionally leak a small amount of oil. Without going into too much detail on how the carriages work it’s notable these are full of moving bearings and not V wheels. Internally there are a series of ball bearings which rotate and move around in a channel. All our carriages are double rubber sealed to keep these lubricated and to keep dust out.

Depending on use we recommend injecting oil into the carriages, whilst not required it will prolong the life of the carriages.

To do this it’s usually easier to remove the axis from a machine. It can be done on the machine but axis to the lower carriages can be difficult.

If you carry out this procedure whilst the axis is on the machine raise the Z to the top of travel and ensure a disposable cloth is placed under the axis.

If you remove the axis place it flat on it’s back. Remove the small M4 grub screw central to each carriage.

Fill a large bore plastic needle syringe (10ml), press this firmly into the hole and gently squeeze between 1-2mm of oil into the carriage. Replace the M4 Screw after.

DO NOT REMOVE THE CARRIAGES FROM THE RAILS - This will cause the ball bearings which are under load to fall out. Note if you remove the screws holding the carriage onto the lead nut, it’s likely the carriage will slide off by accident.

Ball Screw Maintenance

Ensure carriage fitted to the machine - with the machine on, homes and brought to the front for easy access.

Clean the ball screw any dust/debris after each use.

To lubricate, set the axis at the lowest point and using the same syringe method gently squeeze a small amount of oil onto the ball screw.

Once this has been done move the axis up and down a number of times to spread the oil onto the ball screw.

Lead nut Maintenance

The Z plus uses a lead screw. Not a ball screw - do not apply oil to the lead screw.

Lead screw maintenance is very straight forward, these should be kept clean, and dry. We recommend cleaning any dust or debris off the lead screw and nut where possible. Ideally after each use of the machine.

How often should this be done?

This will vary on use but every 6 months or so will keep everything in tip top order. Everything is rubber sealed and as long as it’s kept dust free and clean could keep going for years without needing a oiling.

Hopefully this helps - and we will shortly have an official guide for print/down load. Any questions shoot them off here.

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official maintenance guide = aka…when Winston has time to create a new video…:rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:

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Thank you for this post. I have been having trouble with the bearings on my x axis carriage sticking (and I’ve only had the ShapeokoPro XL assembled and running for a week).

Can you share the main difference between this and regular motor oil? Is it just thicker or does it stick better to the machine? I have some Vactra Way #2 on the way from Amazon, but I wasn’t sure if motor oil would be a bad thing to use until my shipment arrives.

Thanks!

In the meantime before Luke has time to reply.

Mixing lubricants is generally problematic, many of them do not mix well or produce chemical interactions producing fatty solids or other nasties.

In general, if you are going to change lubricant you need to use a cleaning solvent to clean out all the old lubricant before adding the new lubricant. Different brands of motor oil etc. are sufficiently similar to not need to do this as their base chemistry is very similar but I wouldn’t want to make that assumption about the way oil.

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I have not read the specs for viscoticy of the Vactra#2 but it is thick and medium brown on color. This indicates to me the brownish color is an addative. I plan on lubing my HDZ in a couple of weeks. The requirement to lube the lower set of bearings is to remove the HDZ and turn it upside down to gain proper access to the screw where you insert the lube. With the hdz on the machine it would be very hard to remove the access screw and get the lube in the bearing.

If you lube your hdz recommend you put a paper towel under the parking location and wipe off the rails before use. My hdz and others dripped oil for quite some time. Luckily for me it did not drip on a visible part of a project but my mdf spoil board has more than a few oil spots. My spoil board looks like a driveway where you park a British sports car.:joy:

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very disappointed that the X-axis movement was very stiff after only a month of use. I had to completely disassemble the bearings and clean them, then reassemble without losing the tiny ball bearings. Now I have to order this special oil that I did not know about, and seems to be unavailable in Canada, except in 5 gallon pails !!

Dont know what import is to Canada but I got a quart of Mobil Vacta #2 from ebay.

Here in the states they made a big deal about new Mexico, Canada, US trade agreement. Wonder why it costs so much to import from US?

I’m in Canada and as @bruce896 pointed out this stuff is not easy to find. This is what I found on Amazon.ca but this I think is way too much and $120… If any Canadians out there found a better option (ie. a quart as suggested) please let me know.

@Luke Is there an official maintenance guide still in the works or is this it?

One thing I’ve wondered is whether or not those of us who ordered a Shapeoko Pro and got one of the early units, without the updated linear rail machining, will be eligible to receive the new ones. It seems like only a matter of time before binding will occur and a support ticket will have to be filed (potentially resulting in the machine being down).

We’re working on a maintenance guide but it is based off the above content. We’re also trying to bottle Vactra No 2 and release a maintenance kit.

I can understand your frustration - unfortunately any machine that uses ball screws and linear rails needs oil applied. It’s one of the downsides of this type of motion and one of the benefits of V wheels. In the instance of your machine binding please contact support@carbide3d.com.

Typically if a machine was binding it would do so out of the box. It’s more of a calibration issue as opposed to a a fault. If a machine develops a fault you bet we stand by them and will get you up and running again, but if your machine is working there would be no need to replace anything.

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pretty frustrating to have zero guidance on how to maintain this expensive precision machine.

in my case the router was binding on the X axis and got stuck … ruining my project because the router bit lost its zero reference and started cutting in the wrong place

Not aware of the linear rail machining issue. Co?uld you elaborate? How would one know if they have old version?

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You’ll see machined channels that the X linear rails sit into.

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Will the maintenance guide also include things like torque measurements for screws on the rails, extrusions, etc… so if I decide to have a regular maintenance schedule (maybe quarterly) I’d use a small torque wrench to make sure everything is tight enough to stay in place but without the fear of stripping any threads. I think that would be a nice addition to a maintenance guide (edit: even the assembly document).

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Aha, are they using proper reference edges for alignment now then?

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Is there any update regarding recommended maintenance for the X/Y carriages of the Shapeoko Pro? I would prefer a prolonged lifespan and these go through far more use and abuse than the Z axis. Looking online most MGN15 Carriages seem to have an oil port, but the ones used on the Shapeoko Pro do not.

Any chance you can share the carriage manufacturer so I can look through their documentation? If not I understand.

A pdf was linked from:

and we’ve had two other discussions which are linked at:

https://wiki.shapeoko.com/index.php/Operating_Checklist

I am sorry if I seem repetitive, but I feel like you are still misinterpreting my question. The discussion you linked regarding lubricating HDZ Z carriage blocks does not apply in the context of the Shapeoko Pro X Y axis. This thread also does not explain anything. Those real Hiwin carriages all have a removable screw for lubrication. The Shapeoko X Y carriages do not.

One cannot lubricate the Shapeoko Pro X/Y carriages. These carriages have the oiling port filled with some sort of silicone, not a removable screw.

So we are limited to adding some oil to the X Y rails on the Shapeoko pro, hoping some oil from the rails getting past the carriage wipers and into the bearings? Really hope it holds up long term against fine particles such as MDF dust.

On the X/Y on the pro there are no oil holes. I investigated my pro unit and discussed with our vendor. The holes might have a small amount of grease in them, but they don’t lead into the ball bearing chambers.

We’re pretty comfortable giving the following advice:

  • Keep them dust free, wipe them down with a clean dry lint free cloth after each use.
  • Never use a water based products on them
  • The rails can be wiped down with a clean rag/cloth with a small amount of Mobil Vactra No 2 oil - be sure to clean off any excess.

Obviously if there are any issues we stand by them and they are covered by our warranty. .

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