Learn Five Ways Air Bearings Solve the Challenges of the Machining Industry
Birthed from the industrial revolution, the machining industry plays a prominent role behind the scenes of today’s manufacturing world. However, the challenges faced during the industrial revolution are vastly different than those seen today. Not only have quantity and quality expectations changed, but the precision required has as well. In fact, stringent precision requirements have enabled the production of new products and technologies across a wide array of industries:
Bearing solutions have evolved as well to support the advancement of the machining industry.
The friction induced by mechanical-based bearings is unable to meet the micro- and nano- levels of precision required for many of today’s advanced technologies. Thankfully, air bearings provide a viable solution for these challenges faced by the machining industry.
History of Air Bearings & the Precision Machining Industry
Air bearings have deep roots in the machining industry. First used in Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM), the non-contact nature of air bearings ensured no friction, making them ideal for proper measurement of machined products. Initially, the use of air bearings was limited because companies needed to invest in their own custom solution since there was no standard supplier. The predecessor to New Way® Air Bearings, Aeolus Air Bearings, became the first standard air bearing supplier, making non-contact motion readily available to manufacturers.
Meanwhile, the niche of precision engineering and machining continued to redefine ‘precision.’ This quest continues today as industry personnel gather together at yearly conferences like those sponsored by European Society for Precision Engineering (EUSPEN) and the American Society of Precision Engineering. As technology continues pushing the envelope of precision, air bearings are becoming more popular choices for use in machines such as:
- CNC machines
- 3D Printers
But, not all air bearings are created equal.
Air Bearings: You Have Choices!
Air bearings operate by distributing a stiff layer of air to provide separation between surfaces. The way in which the air is distributed is critical to understand when choosing an air bearing supplier. There are two standard methods for air distribution:
- Orifice or groove-based
This method allows air to be channeled through one or more holes/grooves along the bearing face. While this design benefits from the use of air over oil-based systems, this design is subject to pressure gradients, resulting in reliability issues. In an air supply failure scenario, this method can result in bearing crash causing damage to bearings themselves and/or possibly to surrounding surfaces.
- Porous media
This method uses naturally porous media, such as carbon graphite, to distribute air. Covered with millions of sub-micron holes, porous media is able to provide an even distribution air flow enabling repeatable performance. In the event of air supply failure, a gradual ‘touch-down’ occurs as the air slowly diffuses. Even if the porous surface becomes scratched, the sheer number of holes present typically enables it to continue operating.
New Way Air Bearings utilizes a porous media design because of its superior performance. New Way offers several different products, as well as custom solutions, with proven success in machining applications, such as:
- Flat Rectangular Air Bearings
- Flat Round Air Bearings
- Vacuum Preloaded Air Bearings
- Linear Air Slides
Inherent across our entire product line, Porous Media Technology™ ensures zero friction triggering a cascade of benefits ideal to meet the challenges of the machining industry.
Five Ways Air Bearings Improve Precision Machining Applications
- Superior Precision
Zero friction, including static friction, coupled with the innate surface averaging effects in our Porous Media Technology enables almost infinite resolution and repeatability. New Way’s air bearings are capable of delivering sub-micron levels of precision.
- No Wear
The non-contact nature of air bearings removes concerns of wear between components, as well as oil/lubrication requirements. This allows for cost savings on parts replacement and reduced maintenance downtimes.
- No Contamination
Air bearings are an ideal use for precision machining applications requiring cleanroom operations. New Way’s Porous Media Technology inherently uses less air than orifice-based air bearings, minimizing the chance of eddys/currents created during operations. Furthermore, the porous media acts as a sub-micron filter allowing New Way’s products to meet a Class 1 (ISO class 3) cleanliness.
- High-speed Operations
With friction removed and no moving parts, air bearings are able to operate at significantly higher speeds than conventional mechanical-based bearings, providing greater throughput for operations.
- Improved Reliability
New Way Porous Media Technology is inherently crash resistant. This design allows high speed, precision machining operations to continue repeatedly while delivering on demanding quantity and quality requirements.
Air Bearings Key to the Future of Machining Industry
It’s amazing to think how far the machining industry has come to date, enabling the technology we all live and depend on. With history as our guide, there is no doubt the machining industry will continue to push the bounds on precision, opening the door to further advancements in our world.
The combination of superior precision coupled with the numerous benefits created by removing friction makes New Way’s air bearings ideal to meet the challenges of the machining industry. Not only can they meet today’s challenges, but companies using our products are strategically positioning themselves for the future. Contact us today so we can help you be ready for the next chapter for the machining industry!