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Walking the Talk: How New Way Uses Air Bearings During Manufacturing

Walking the Talk: How New Way Uses Air Bearings During Manufacturing

Here at New Way®, we spend a lot of time describing the benefits and applications of air bearings, specifically our Porous Media Technology™. We know that to create products with today’s demanding precision requirements, you need manufacturing equipment and processes to remove error sources, especially those caused by friction.

We believe in the benefits of Frictionless Motion™, so it should come as no surprise when we tell you we use our own air bearings in the manufacturing and inspection of our products.

Let’s take a closer look at three instances of how we use air bearings within our manufacturing process.

Three Applications of Air Bearings in New Way Manufacturing

1. Diamond Turning Machine

A machining tool equipped with a linear slide from New Way Air Bearings. The slide allows the machining tool to translate friction-free. New Way created its own precision diamond turning operation by coupling a milling tool with an air bearing rotary table. The rotary table was constructed using a combination of large radial air bearings and flat round air bearings. This machine is primarily used to manufacture our large radial air bearings and can handle workpieces up to 3 meters in diameter. In this video example, a 1.5-meter diameter aluminum rotor is machined to finish.

The radial air bearings are used to turn the table and support the radial loads exerted on the assembly from the milling tool, while the flat round air bearings, positioned along the table periphery, support axial loads from the weight of the workpiece itself. Frictionless motion from the air bearings allows the aluminum rotor to be spun smoothly and reliably, and the result is an incredible, perfectly machined finish.
Not only do our air bearings provide non-contact support and frictionless motion to the components of this rotary table, but because our air bearings don’t require lubricants, costs related to maintaining the bearings virtually disappear.

2. Floating Micrometer

End-product inspection and validation are just as critical to operations as precision manufacturing. Removing friction eliminates error sources allowing for proper measurement. With this in mind, we pair our own air bearings with a micrometer to improve the resolution of inspection of our machined products.
In this example, we see the 1.5m rotor (machined by New Way above) undergoing measurement inspection using a micrometer. Three flat rectangular air bearings float a Starret micrometer over a granite workbench, holding the micrometer in a perfect plane while simultaneously allowing for frictionless no-contact motion. Because the air bearings never physically touch the granite, surface deviations are averaged out and linear motion remains perfectly smooth.

As seen in the video, a technician is able to maneuver the large micrometer effortlessly around the 1.5-meter rotor, taking several measurements at different sections. In order to ensure that the micrometer’s measurements are accurate, the technician must be able to feel the anvil drag against the object’s surface. New Way Air Bearings are essential here, too—the bearings glide friction-free on a film of pressurized air, so the only vibration that the technician feels will be from the contact of micrometer against the component, dramatically increasing the measurement resolution.
Air bearings provide crucial advantages in other measurement applications, such as coordinate measuring machines, roundness checkers, and surface flatness measuring machines. The frictionless motion enabled by air bearings facilitates ultra-precision motion and positioning that allows these devices to function.

3. Machining an Air Turn

In this video, we see several different types of air bearings used in the manufacturing process of a New Way Air Turn.
New Way Radial Air Bearings are used around the shaft and drive motor to provide axial and radial constraint while the shaft rotates smoothly on a frictionless film of pressurized air. The grinding wheel operates using an Air Spindle assembly. The entire grinding wheel assembly is mounted to a flat rectangular air bearing over a massive granite workbench, allowing the assembly to be translated with nearly infinite resolution.

The fine resolution enabled by the Frictionless Motion of our air bearings is one of the reasons for their increased demand in precision machine tool applications. Our Porous Media Technology creates a reliable, frictionless stiff air gap between components enabling for improved precision of moving parts.

Leading By Example

We know firsthand the impact Frictionless Motion™ has on a product, whether it’s the precision to which it was machined, how well it was inspected, or the efficiency of operations. All of it ultimately affects your business and reputation. If you’d like to begin experiencing the benefits of Frictionless Motion for yourself, contact us today to learn how our air bearings can improve your application!

Contact us today for a complimentary consultation