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What is an Air Bearing?

What is an Air Bearing?

Discover Air Bearings and the Performance Advantages of New Way Porous Media Technology

According to the American Bearing Manufacturing Association, bearings are critical components that enable machines with moving parts to operate at high speeds with greater stability. Sustaining linear or rotational motion, bearings reduce the mechanical contact between machine parts to reduce friction, wear, and drag. While engineers have a choice between mechanical and non-contacting technology, air bearings are gaining popularity as their use of a thin film of pressurized air instead of a rolling element, such as a stainless steel ball, eliminates contact and friction between surfaces for greater performance.

According to Machine Design, recent air bearing developments are making them a viable alternative for applications requiring higher precision and accuracy. Porous Media Air Bearings from New Way are an innovative technology that offers significant advantages over traditional orifice air bearings in both performance and design.

Not All Air Bearing Technology is Alike

With a face consisting of millions of sub-micron holes, New Way porous graphite air bearings produce a more uniform distribution of air pressure across the bearing surface that restricts and dampens the air flow at the same time. These traits result in a naturally stable bearing that performs with greater repeatability. Possessing excellent resistance to damage, bearing surface scratches nominally affect performance. They can even fly at small air gaps, making them crash tolerant. And as the carbon material softens the face of the porous media air bearings, accidental touchdowns during operation typically do not damage the mating surface.

With a defined number of precisely-sized orifices and grooves matched to load, orifice bearing technology can become unstable if not correctly engineered. In addition, surface scratches can change the balance of the bearing and air flow volume, resulting in poor performance or crash. And as orifice bearings consist of hard-coated aluminum or stainless steel, they can easily scratch opposing surfaces.

In addition to performance advantages, the design of New Way porous air bearings enables their mounting on spherical ball gimbal seats, making them self-aligning to the rotor. They can be preloaded against each other and have the advantage of being kinematically correct so two bearings can establish a line and three create a plane. The very first coordinate measuring machine (CMM) used porous air bearings!

New Way provides both standard and customized air bearing solutions that address today’s high-speed and high-acceleration applications. Off-the-shelf stock includes:

  • Flat round air bearings
  • Flat rectangular air bearings
  • Air bushings
  • Radial air bearings
  • Vacuum preloaded air bearings
  • Spherical air bearings

Want to get an air bearing overview? Find out more about what is an air bearing by watching the New Way Video on Air Bearings or visit the New Way website that outlines a variety of porous media air bearing solutions. Or contact New Way today to talk to a consultant that can direct you in choosing the right air bearing for your application.

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