Home » New Way Air Bearings Brings Porous Media to Team Pipeline

Pipeline Finds Success With their First Foray Into Frictionless Motion


New Way provided flat round and VPL air bushings for Team Pipeline to get hands on and learn how to integrate porous media bearings for their own clients

At New Way Air Bearings ®, there’s nothing we enjoy more than helping fellow design and engineering firms get hands on with our products; giving them the opportunity to understand the value in switching to porous media, and seeing just how painless a process it really is. We recently provided our expertise to Pipeline Engineering and Design so that they could develop a test bed for porous media technology, evaluate the process of integrating porous media bearings, and develop a workflow for using our proprietary non contact motion technology.

Pipeline Design & Engineering recently reviewed New Way’s air bearings as a complement to their test fixture design services.

Who is Team Pipeline?

Pipeline Design and Engineering is a custom engineering firm with a focus on developing automation solutions, test fixtures and reverse engineering for high precision industries like medical device testing. When developing motion solutions, the range of processes can span from in line quality inspection and cycle testing to device assembly and thermal folding. For such a wide array of applications, having a complete understanding for the differences between contact solutions and our own Porous Media Technology™ is of the utmost importance.

The Porous Media Process

We set Team Pipeline up with 25mm flat round air bearings as well as VPL bearings, with flexural mounts for both styles. Our flexural VPL mounts allow for the bearing to compensate for small differences in planarity between the bearing surface and the guideway, by way of elastically deforming the thin walled surface of the joint itself.

Pipeline VPL test rigPipeline’s experience with New Way bearings can be read in full here, but they began with a rigidly mounted tripod configuration of VPL bearings against an aluminum plate, using a venturi unit to draw vacuum pressure on each of the VPL bearings. We recommend a tripod design, as three points will define a plane, and thus ensure stability for a simple load on a flat surface.

Their first test against a granite guideway did not go smoothly, and the Pipeline team could feel the bearings dragging against the surface despite having a capacity well in excess of the 25 pound load placed on them. After checking the aluminum plate the bearings were mounted to and the tubing configuration, they identified the issue.

Our bearings require an incredibly high degree of planarity between the bearing and the guideway surface; even a deviance of a few microns can substantially degrade performance. This is why we recommend ball studs and flexural mounts for flat bearings, and so Pipeline refitted their test rig with VPL flexural mounts. After a small mishap where they learned that our flexural mounts are in fact not ball joints (Pipeline referred to themselves as “Neanderthals”, though we prefer “porous media beginner”), Pipeline got the rig pressurized again and found immediate success. “This time it worked beautifully…it was a feeling of awe as we barely nudged the system and watched it glide as if rolling downhill”, they remarked. After this, they moved onto the flat round air bearings, which held a 50 pound load and required only a pound of force to effect lateral motion

Using the Design Guide, and Lessons Learned

Getting hands on with our product was very educational for Pipeline Design and Engineering, and the lessons learned from their experience getting familiarized with porous media bearings may be beneficial to your team as well. As Pipeline stated, “read the documentation”. We pride ourselves on empowering you to make the most of our technology, and to this end we’ve made available our Design and Application Guide, which provides a comprehensive overview for proper bearing selection, mounting, configuration and airflow. This 72 page document can take you from setup to calibration to operation, and Pipeline themselves found it instrumental to the success of their test bed.

Design and Application Guide New Way Air Bearings 2021Beyond the design guide, Pipeline also identified several other considerations for integrators new to porous media. First and foremost was ensuring planarity, ideally 16RMS or better. Secondly, air tube fittings can be fragile, and so one should take care not to apply excess force when installing tubing over them.

Despite these hiccups, Pipeline walked away impressed. “The air bearings worked like magic… and support from New Way was excellent. Our experience working with New Way was very positive, and they have a really strong grasp on the technology”.

Contact Us

If you want to learn more about how to use our porous media air bearings or you already have an application in mind, please contact us, and our dedicated engineering team will get back to you!

Rich Hesse

New Way Technical Sales Manager

Contact us today for a complimentary consultation