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Ball Bearings vs Air Bearings

Ball Bearings vs Air Bearings

Explore the Advantages of New Way Air Bearings

New Way’s robust air bearing product lines offer a superior alternative to a traditional ball bearing or roller bearing solutions, no matter the application. Air bearings have found a home in

  • Precision Manufacturing Industry
  • Medical Imaging
  • Automotive Testing

Numerous industries have discovered the value of frictionless, non-contact motion, and we hope you’ll do the same!

Frictionless Motion®

By replacing traditional metal contact bearings with a thin layer of air, friction between the rail and the guide is almost entirely eliminated. The Frictionless Motion®️ inherent to air bearings is a boon for industries where accurate measurements are vital and sources of error, unacceptable.

Within the automotive industry, round air bearings are being put to use as the foundational technology for frictionless dynamometers. This provides racing teams with true data on torque and horsepower, whereas the frictional forces within ball bearings can skew measurements.In addition, air bearings have been incorporated into automotive wind tunnels, allowing Formula 1 teams to accurately set road velocity for a given test.

True Positioning

One of the foremost benefits of removing friction in your bearing system is the elimination of positioning errors induced by the internal inertia of a ball bearing system. As the bearings roll within their guide rails, they build up momentum the faster they go. This can cause a positioning system to overshoot it’s target, further inducing hysteresis errors which compound over time. In the inspection of semiconductor wafers, precise and repeatable motion is a must, which is why they turn to New Way’s linear motion products.

Flatness Control

Infographic explaining the differences between ball bearings and air bearings. Adding to the complications of a traditional system, ball bearings and their guide rails wear down over time, creating uneven surfaces. This degradation impacts the smooth and flat operation of guides rail or rotating plate systems. Contrast this with an air bearing system, wherein New Way’s Porous Media Technology ensures a flatness up to 75nm/mm.

Tunable flatness control is already being utilized through New Ways’s air turns a system for non-contact conveyance of films and other flexible substrates in roll-to-roll processes. By allowing for air pressure and fly height to be easily adjusted, web height variation in your material may be reduced down to <5µm/55mm.


Traditional ball bearing systems are limited in how fast they can operate, purely as a function of mechanical friction and the need to keep them cooled below a certain temperature. With New Ways Air Bearings, heat and friction are a non-factor, allowing for rotational and linear speeds orders of magnitude faster than those allowed by ball or roller bearings. Air Bearings exhibit a tenfold increase in speed over their traditional counterparts, with speeds reaching 50 m/s with virtually no noise generated.

The air bearings speed capability already shows promise in medical Imaging, allowing for:

  • Reduced time for CT scans
  • Increased throughput
  • Greater patient comfort


With Frictionless Motion®️ comes silent operation; no rubbing bearings equals virtually no noise! Anybody who spends their life on a factory floor can tell you just how crucial noise reduction is to create an employee-friendly environment, and New Way Air Bearings provide one more avenue to do so. Many people will tell you that undergoing a CT or MRI scan is anxiety-inducing, not only due to the claustrophobia but the constant sound of the rotating components required to produce the needed images. Medical images devices built on air bearings will eliminate rotating acoustics and create a more patient-friendly experience (already in use).


Chief among the air bearing’s strengths is it’s reliability and required maintenance when compared to a contacting roller bearing system. The movement of one surface against another inevitably causes wear and tear, and indeed ball bearings, in general, are at risk of spalling out. This perpetual contact force necessitates constant lubrication to prevent the build-up of heat and the degradation of bearings or the unit housing. Even then the lubricant must be continually cycled and replaced, requiring downtime which reduces productivity. Since air bearings utilize a frictionless air barrier for its dynamic medium, there’s no material to wear down and no required upkeep, the best of both worlds!

If New Way Air Bearings sounds like an ideal fit for your company, please reach out to us!

Contact us today for a complimentary consultation