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5 Industries Using Air Bearings

5 Industries Using Air Bearings

More Industries Using Air Bearings: To Infinity and Beyond

The application of porous media air bearings continues to accelerate. Markets, where precision is the primary requirement, have led the way, but as engineers discover more and differentiating benefits, usage continues to diversify. Here are five industries using air bearings:

Metrology

This is the industry in which air bearings first rose to prominence, starting in the mid-1960s. They have many applications in metrology equipment and test machines where zero friction performance facilitates ultra-precision motion and positioning. This is an important factor in applications such as Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs), roundness checkers, and surface flatness measuring machines. New Way flat bearings dominate linear motion metrology applications, while the company’s spindles and rotary bearings accommodate rotary motion scenarios.

Flat Panel Display (FPD)

In the Flat Panel Display fabs, you’ll find air bearings used in Automated Optical Inspection (AOI), primarily in non-contact material-handling applications. AOI input/output areas typically use New Way air rails, which simply use air pressure to float the glass. For inspection, coating, or other areas of interest, New Way combines air pressure with vacuum in its air bars for greater control, almost eliminating damage due to glass touch-down. In addition, New Way air slides or flat bearings are often used for the precision positioning and movement of the inspection cameras themselves.

Optics

Air bearings are used in many precision machine tool applications, including precision grinders and lathes, for the production of optical lenses. The unique properties of air bearings provide for ultra-precision positioning and motion, with no lubricants or wear, making them ideal for these demanding applications. New Way provides a variety of dovetail, boxway, and end-supported slides to carry the spindles or cutting tools. These slides often carry a New Way fast tool servo for highly-accurate, dynamic movement of a machine tool.

Semiconductor

Semiconductor manufacturing requires high speed, short-stroke precision with repeatable nanometer level positioning, all in a clean, controlled environment. Porous media air bearings are well-suited for clean room applications, providing frictionless motion without lubrication requirements. As a result, New Way flat bearings, bonded bearings, and slides are enabling technologies for wafer inspection, probing, repair, and ion implantation. You’ll also find that New Way vacuum chucks are frequently used to hold a wafer in place during specific operations, and the company’s air bushings are the choice for many pick-and-place applications.

Aerospace

The aerospace industry is, largely, about ‘space.’ Consequently, the simulation of weightless conditions is one of its primary interests. Air bearings are well-suited to help replicate such a frictionless environment in more-terrestrial settings. As such, New Way has worked with NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, the National Laboratories, and many others in the aerospace supply chain to design and develop testing fixtures for the deployment of satellites and other mission-critical parts and components. New Way vacuum preloaded air bearings add an element of control to a non-contact simulation.

More Industries Using Air Bearings: To Infinity and Beyond

The benefits of air bearings make them ideal for applications in a broad range of other industries as well, from automotive to oil & gas, from large-format printing to nanotechnology. Wherever there is a need for precision linear or rotary motion, non-contact handling, balancing or sealing, air bearings are the solution of choice.

If you’d like to learn about even more industries using air bearings, download our ‘Chasm Crossing with Air Bearings’ Fact Sheet. This summary report identifies the Top 10 Industries currently using air bearings, and the break-out solutions they have enabled. Or, if you have a chasm you’d like to cross right away, contact us directly today for your complimentary consultation!