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Air Bearings Bring Durability and Crash-Resistance to Precision Manufacturing

Air Bearings Bring Durability and Crash-Resistance to Precision Manufacturing

New Way® Air Bearings has always been at the forefront of precision manufacturing. And, with precision comes the need for technology that’s both durable and crash-resistant. Whether you’re considering air bearings for conveyance, manufacturing, or inspection stages, our products provide a vast improvement over conventional roller bearings when considering their safety and reliability when things go wrong.

Noncontact Motion Means Crash Resistance and Improved Safety

Conventional bearings—roller or ball—tend to fail in a highly kinetic fashion. A spalled bearing can lock up a rotating system, bringing an inspection stage to a grinding halt or destroying whatever was being transported at the time. Even orifice-based air bearings aren’t immune from these effects.

Traditional Bearings vs. New Way Bearings

Traditional air bearings utilize a combination of orifices or grooves in order to generate the air cushion that allows for their noncontact motion. Whilst the air cushion generated is the same, it comes at a higher cost. Individual pores and grooves generate uneven pressure in the air layer and these gradients can, themselves, cause a crash if loaded in precisely the wrong place.

Additionally, these grooves and pinholes are large enough to become clogged by foreign particles and cause the system to fail in a manner just as destructive as any conventional, contact bearing.

With our Porous Media Technology™, New Way sidesteps all of these issues and produces a product that’s more reliable and massively safer. Since our air cushion is generated by supplying air pressure through micro-perforated carbon, the air cushion is almost perfectly uniform, and the carbon itself filters out any particulates which could cause a traditional air bearing system to crash.

What Happens When a Conventional Bearing Crashes?

When a contact bearing system crashes, the results are usually expensive and time-consuming to fix. A scratched groove on an orifice bearing renders it functionally inoperable and scratching a guideway by more than two micrometers can impact fly height or make your rail system untenable until the surface is replaced or repaired.

What Happens When an Air Bearing Crashes?

Whilst traditional ball or roller bearings might fail in a kinetic and violent fashion, New Way’s air bearings do exactly the opposite, preserving both the air bearing, its guide surface, and whatever material you may be transporting.

Should power be lost to an air bearing powered conveyor system, the airflow slowly bleeds out and the bearing settles down onto the guide surface in a smooth fashion.

Furthermore, the bearing’s proximity to the guide surface means there’s little room for the bearing assembly to accelerate under gravity and damage your guide surface, especially since our carbon is relatively soft (at a compression strength of 91MPa), further cushioning the system. Even in the event of failure, our Porous Media Technology means that a scratched air bearing can still operate effectively.

If you’re using one of our Air Bars for flat-panel conveyance and the system failed, for example, the material being transported would gently come to rest on the porous carbon surface, damaging neither your product nor the bearing surface.

If a driveshaft inspection stage being powered by a New Way Servo-Driven Rotary Stage came to a halt, the spindle would slowly depressurize, allowing for the rotor to settle onto the stator without damaging the rotary stage or inflicting axial shock on the product being tested.

Similarly, failure in an Air Turn powered web handling system would result in your flexible substrate going slack against the carbon surface rather than being torn by a suddenly immobile contact roller.


In the long run, virtually all traditional contact bearing systems will wear down and fail, for any number of reasons. Once the heat-treated outer layer of a bearing is worn through, the softer metal underneath will flake off in what’s known as spalling.

Close up image of a roller bearing with heavy spalling damage on the individual roller surfaces

Contact bearings can fail via numerous other avenues, which include:

  • Water intrusion, which leads to corrosion.
  • Vacuum created after a bearing is cooling off after use. If this vacuum is strong enough, it will penetrate the seals and suck contaminants into the bearing race.

The Longevity of Air Bearings

The beauty of air bearings has always been in their simplicity and long term durability. Air Bearings operate based on travel over a micro-thin layer of air, meaning the air bearing and it’s guide surface never come into contact and never wear down. Additionally, since a typical air bearing system features zero dynamic components, the lifespan of an air bearing is functionally infinite.

Even in our more complex applications, like the Servo-Driven Rotary Stage or New-Seal™, the system’s design allows for disassembly and removal of any foreign material which might affect performance.

Contact Us

If you want to take the next step in ensuring the reliability and safety of your conveying process, please contact us so we can discuss what New Way can do for you!

Contact us today for a complimentary consultation