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What’s Old and What’s New with Flat Round Air Bearings

What’s Old and What’s New with Flat Round Air Bearings

How We Continue to Innovate With Our Original Product

New Way Air Bearings has expanded into numerous industries in the past several years, but this doesn’t mean we’ve paid any less attention to our mainstay products and industries. Flat Round Air Bearings were our earliest products and remain one of our most popular, and not without good reason.

 Semiconductor manufacturing process as wafer chips are placed

These puck shaped bearings can be applied for linear and rotary applications across a wide array of industries, from flatness and roundness checking to spacecraft simulation and semiconductor manufacturing. Their cleanroom compliant, Frictionless Motion®️ means zero downtime and nanometer scale positioning accuracy, opening the door to tolerances which were simply unachievable via conventional bearing technology.

Semiconductor Manufacturing

Flat round air bearings shine in the high precision, low tolerance environment of semiconductor chip and wafer manufacturing. These chips are manufactured in cleanroom environments, for which all our air bearings meet ISO Class 1 criterion for producing only single digit numbers of sub micron particles per square meter of test volume. And, because our bearings have an effective friction coefficient of zero (on the order of 0.001), flat round air bearings have zero positioning error, and can form the foundation for precise gantries for wafer inspection, repair, probing and ion implantation.

In the current age of supply chain disruptions and chip shortages, the OEM’s feeding the supply chain should look to every new technology to avoid disruptions in their manufacturing flow, and porous media is the logical next step. Owing to their non-contact nature of operation, flat round air bearings have zero dynamic components, and thus no wear and tear, no need for lubrication, and thus no downtime like when a ball bearing inevitably requires replacement.

Machine Tooling

Metrology Sensor probe evaluates a gear

Precision machine tooling requires linear or rotary motion along precisely milled guideways, and over the lifespan of a system will undergo millions of motion cycles. These cycles wear out contact bearings, and those same bearings affect your tolerances.

Internal inertia within ball and roller bearing systems cause overshoot and hysteresis, requiring compensation and increasing the difficulty of dialing in on the tolerances which modern customers demand. Per the results of testing by Michael Chiu of MIT, air bearing-based machine motion undergoes 10x less variation in straightness with none of the gain peaks, each of which can induce resonance in the system.


Flat round air bearings were our first product, custom designed for Russ Shelton’s checkmate coordinate measuring machine (CMM) in order to ensure a higher degree of precision in the metrology sector. Air bearing-based CMMs have zero hysteresis error in positioning, and because they float along a micrometer thin layer of air, the fluid medium attenuates any vibrations, giving you superior precision. Flat round air bearings provide a boost to precision and throughput across the entirety of metrology, whether your application is coordinate verification, roundness checking, or something more complex along a multi axis system.

Spacecraft Simulation and Float Units

CNC machining process with G code in the background

Vacuum Preloaded flat round air bearings have demonstrated an excellent track record for flatness compensation, as it only requires 3 points to define a plane, and thus has lent itself to float units for spacecraft simulation. Guidance Dynamics Corporation reached out to New Way for assistance in simulating robot spacecraft in a zero friction environment. Working with Precision Epoxy Products who designed the test bed, we helped design and manufacture a perfectly balanced float unit. Built on flat round air bearings, this float unit gave them the ability to accurately simulate spacecraft attitude drift in a friction free environment, and better understand and develop attitude thruster control schemes.

Customer Proven Solutions

Flat round air bearings have seen uses in more industries than we can count, and we encourage you to peruse our Customer Proven Solutions page to see for yourself. From positioning the world’s most scientifically productive telescope at the Keck Observatory to the world’s most accurate 3D CMM, and even on site float tables for wind turbine blade manufacture, the use of our flat round air bearings is only limited by your imagination

The Product Line

Flat round air bearings are available in a broad array of standard sizes, from 255m up to 300mm, while the vacuum preloaded variants are available in 50mm, 755 and 90mm off the shelf variants. And of course, all of our products can be custom made to your specifications upon request. Want to learn more? Contact us to see what New Way Air Bearings can do for you!

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