XY tables are widely used in the mechanical workshops machining & tooling industries and manufacturing industries. Sometimes they are also referred to as linear XY stages by the workmen. The XY tables are basically range enhancement devices which are used in conjunction with other machines and tools. XY tables come in different sizes, shapes, and specifications. Low profile XY tables are a special sub-category of XY tables which are used for small-sized and highly accurate mechanical applications.

What is a low profile XY table?

A low profile XY table is basically a group of compact-sized flat mechanical surfaces which are mounted on linear sliders using ball bearing or roller bearing mechanisms. The flat mechanical surface has t-slots carved into it. The mechanical equipment is fixed on top of the sliding surface by means of these t-slots. The XY table surface then slides linearly over the linear base with the help of roller or ball bearings.

A single sliding table surface can only produce motion in a single axis. To create motion in two axes, that is X and Y axes, an additional linear sliding base needs to be mounted on top of the existing sliding base. The angle between the two sliding bases needs to be 90 degrees.

What is the purpose of a low profile XY table?

The primary purpose of an XY table is to increase the range of motion of a machine or a tool. A robot, machine or a tool with a fixed base, has a very limited range of motion and working area. To increase the range of motion of these mechanical systems, they are mounted on top of XY tables. These systems can be then slid over the linear bases of the XY tables and hence their range of motion is enhanced. The mounted machine can be moved to any point of the horizontal plane constituted by the X and Y axes limits of the XY table.

Applications of low profile XY tables

Low profile XY tables are employed for applications where the working area is very limited in size and a high degree of accuracy is required. These compact sized XY tables are deployed in application areas such as laser drilling, precise machining and tooling, semiconductor handling, and optical applications.

The construction material of low profile XY tables

The low profile XY tables are commonly constructed using stainless steel and cast iron. The bearings are made of bronze or any other frictionless alloy. The frame of the table is usually made of aluminum alloys.

Performance of low profile XY tables

A very high level of precision and accuracy can be expected from these devices. The accuracy of the low profile XY tables is within the range of a few microns or micrometers. Hence they are capable of providing very accurate positioning. The low profile XY tables also incorporate position locking feature.

A major concern for high precision machining tools is that of vibration. Vibration can disturb the machining process severely and the desired results cannot be achieved in its presence. Therefore, very tight coupling between the XY tables and the mounted equipment needs to be ensured. In addition to that, the coupling between the mechanical parts of the XY table needs to be very tight and accurate. In this way, a precise and accurate machining process can be guaranteed.

The loading weight of the table, meaning the allowed weight of the mounted equipment ranges between 1 to 5 kilograms normally. However, this largely depends on the size and construction parameters of the low profile XY table.

Control of low profile XY tables

The older versions of the low profile XY tables were purely mechanical devices. Rotary handles were attached to the sides of each table surface to advance its position along the linear base. However, with the rise of modern electronics and control technology, the positioning of the table is now controlled by means of highly accurate servo motors. There are two main types of DC servo motors which are used for XY table position control which are brushless DC servo motor and direct driven DC servo motor. So models of XY tables also employ encoders to achieve a very precise position control.

Installation of low profile XY tables

As opposed to the heavier industrial versions of the XY tables, the low profile XY tables are lightweight devices which can be moved around even manually. The typical weight of a low profile XY table is not more than a few kilograms. This makes the installation of these structures a breeze. They can be mounted on most of the work surfaces and tables using only a few screws or bolts. This makes them ideal for smaller workshops and hobbyists alike.