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Uncover How Flat Round Air Bearings Shaped Precision As We Know It

Uncover How Flat Round Air Bearings Shaped Precision As We Know It

Discover Five Ways Flat Round Air Bearings Transformed CMM Operations


It’s something we expect on a day to day basis without even realizing it. It is foundational in the technology we interact with daily:

  • Phones
  • Cars
  • Computers
  • TVs
  • Medical equipment

The advancement of technology is due in part to increasing levels of precision, transforming the way we live.

This precision we have come to rely on has a rich history with its beginning back in the Industrial Revolution. The history of precision is marked by the emergence of air bearings, but also with the birth of New Way® Air Bearings and Flat Round Air Bearings, its first standardized product line.

Let’s take a brief history lesson in precision to see how far we’ve come and where products like flat round air bearings are taking us in the future.

Precision and the Need for a Standard

One of the major technological innovations of the Industrial Revolution was the steam engine. The initial prototypes were inefficient because of the imperfections in the piston and its cylinder. Correcting this with precisely machined parts allowed the steam engine to operate efficiently, enabling mass production previously unattainable.

Fast forward almost two centuries later, technological advances in sectors such as military/defense and aerospace demand precision requiring manufacturers to focus on product accuracy and quality. Performing this manually was labor intensive and inefficient. It is around this time the first Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) Machines are born and eventually automated to provide a standard for inspecting critical parts for applications such as jet engines.

Air Bearings and the CMM

Obviously, the parts inspected by the CMM are only as good as the CMM itself. Recognizing the benefits of air bearings, Russ Shelton becomes the first to use them in his Checkmate CMM. Specifically, Shelton used porous media air bearings because of their straighter, Frictionless Motion®️ providing exceptional precision and reliability.

However, the use of air bearings was limited in CMM machines due to the lack of supply. There was no standard air bearing supplier so companies needed to have their own air bearing solution custom developed. The time and cost to develop a custom solution often prohibited the use of air bearings.

A New Standard is Introduced

In the early 1980s, the predecessor to New Way Air Bearings, Aeolus Air Bearings, becomes the first to offer a standard product line of porous media air bearings. The very first product available is the flat round air bearing.

Built on New Way’s Porous Media Technology™, flat round air bearings provide a cushion of air through a porous carbon media. The air is forced through millions of sub-micron sized holes allowing for an even distribution of air. The result is a bearing free of friction and wear.

The flat round air bearing essentially operates like a hockey puck. The thickness of the bearing allows it to be point loaded without deflecting the surface. This unique design built into the flat round air bearing transforms the CMM industry.

Five Ways Flat Round Air Bearings Transformed CMM Operations

1. Superior Precision

With friction removed, any vibrations adversely affecting measurements are removed, significantly improving the precision of the CMM. Vacuum preloads can also be utilized to add yet another layer of precision.

flat-round-air-bearings2. Standard Product Line

With Porous Media Technology as a foundation, New Way was able to create a standard line of air bearings. This saves both time and money for companies who previously had to develop their own custom solution.

3. Increased Operations Time

By removing friction through the use of air, component wear is no longer a concern, saving cost from eventual part replacement. Burdensome downtime to perform lubrication or part replacement is removed, allowing for an overall gain in operations time.

4. Improved Reliability

New Way’s singular focus on air bearings with the use of our standard Porous Media Technology provides greater confidence of repeatable performance from product to product.

5. Crash Resistant Design

Our porous media design also offers a built-in crash resistance unattainable by orifice-based systems. The even air pressure naturally created by porous media ensures pressure gradients do not develop which can crash, damaging equipment as well as the bearing itself.

These five areas allowed CMM operations to improve their performance, enabling a layer of precision previously unknown. This created a domino effect of an increase in not only the quality of products but also an opportunity for the advancement of technology.

Beyond the CMM

Recognizing these advantages, the versatility of flat round air bearings has made them desirable for use in other applications outside the CMM world:

As the quest for greater precision continues, we’re confident the applications of flat round air bearings will continue to evolve. From the first Industrial Revolution to our time now in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we’re confident flat round air bearings (and all our products) are uniquely positioned to help write the next chapter for precision.

A New Way to a Bright Future

New Way is proud to be a part of the rich history of precision. The success of our first product line of flat round air bearings now extends beyond to an entire line-up of custom and standardized air bearing products, designed to fit a wide range of applications and design criteria.

Built on our foundational Porous Media Technology, our entire product line offers Frictionless Motion®. It’s products like these that are enabling the development and mass production of new technologies with advancing precision. Let us help your company be a part of the exciting future of precision. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation on using air bearings in your application!

Contact us today for a complimentary consultation