Air Bearings: A New Epoch for Agricultural Technology
New Way Air Bearings ® proudly supports a variety of industries, from metrology and semiconductor manufacturing to turbomachinery and rapid machine tooling. Now, we want to focus on a new market with vast potential for improvements in speed, reliability and longevity of operation: Agriculture. Here’s how flat round air bearings have the potential to significantly impact this vital industry.
Arguably the backbone to our modern way of life, agricultural methods have needed to continuously advance to keep pace with modern technological innovations. We’ve moved from horse-drawn plows to modern tractors that integrate GPS and satellite interfaced systems. It’s time to integrate the next new technology into agricultural production.
Bearings in agricultural machinery have remained static, still fundamentally relying on lubricated contact bearings to support the operation of tractors, forage harvesters, harrows, silo unloaders and grain elevators. At New Way, we see the potential for an agricultural revolution built on Porous Media Technology™.
The Benefits of Air Bearings
Grandview Research has estimated the size of the US agriculture bearings market will grow to 1.76 billion by 2027. This is a substantial figure, largely born from the need to constantly replace bearings as they wear, spall and degrade under the harsh environs. Heavy farm machinery needs to function through heat, cold, rain, and mud, making durability a primary concern.
Self Cleaning Operation
Our porous media air bearings function on a stiff, micrometer-thin layer of positive air pressure created by our porous carbon substrate. This allows the air bearing surfaces to be effectively self cleaning, removing contaminants and small particulates which can impact bearing operations. These particulates might otherwise lodge themselves inside the race of a contact bearing, and quickly wear down internal, machined contact surfaces
Longevity and Durability
For industries which operate on long hours, and require maximum durability from their components, porous media air bearings are the ultimate time-saving upgrade. Our air bearings use air as the fluid medium of motion, and feature zero dynamic, contacting components. As a result they do not wear down due to friction, and maintenance is reduced to near zero.
Our air bearings are already loved by the precision flat panel display (FPD) market for their crash resilience and performance under adverse conditions. Air bearings do not crash in the same manner as a contact bearing, but slowly depressurize, transferring any remaining kinetic energy into the relatively soft carbon substrate. This preserves the expensive equipment, like the sub assembly of a grain elevator or the rotary head on a forage harvester.
We see numerous applications in the agriculture industry. This ranges from vehicle-mounted applications for increased assembly longevity in the field, to greater throughput in storage and sorting facilities.
Tractors, Tillers, and Harvesters
Mobile equipment is the foundation of modern agricultural production. Like most modern equipment, these run off contact-based bearings to support their mechanics. Combine harvesters, tillers, disc harrows and more all use rolling bearings to support rotary motion, and over time these bearings wear, requiring replacement.
This has been enough of an issue as to merit academic study, as evidenced by the article Proper technical Maintenance of Combine Harvester Rolling Bearings for Smooth and Continuous Performance for Grain Crop Agrotechnical Requirements, as published in the Journal of Applied Sciences. The paper lays out exhaustive criteria for identifying failure modes in bearings, as well as their modal frequencies which can be excited under the right conditions.
A next-generation harvester built off air bearings would sidestep the lengthy maintenance required to replace bearings. It would also avoid the performance degradation which occurs as bearings approach the threshold of required component replacement. Additionally, air bearings in turbomachinery and tooling applications have already shown a remarkable resilience towards harmonic excitation, providing another defense against damaging vibratory conditions.
Silo Unloaders, Grain Elevators, and Produce Movement
In the same vein as mobile machinery —but often operating for longer periods of time— silo unloaders and grain elevators are expected to be resilient machines capable of transporting tons of produce or other foodstuffs. The loss of a single bearing in these complex assemblies can cause costly production shutdowns for days or even weeks.
For supporting rotating shafts and other rotary applications, the air bushing is one of our longest standing product lines. The design utilizes our proprietary porous media, forming it along the inner diameter of an anodized aluminum housing. The air bushing is available in numerous sizes, in both metric and english sizings.
Harsh environments can require sealing against the elements as well as rotary motion. To address this need, we are proud to offer our revolutionary New-Seal™. The New-Seal uses our porous media to create a barrier against particle and fluid infiltration up to 35 PSI, all while enabling rotating motion in the same manner as a ball or roller bearing. The New-Seal is available as either a double faced, single faced, or conventional seal. And like all our products, it can be manufactured in custom configurations if required.
Looking to expand the future of agriculture with our non contact, Frictionless Motion®️? Contact us today to see what New Way Air Bearings can do for you!