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Overcome Computed Tomography (CT) Machine Barriers with Air Bearings

Overcome Computed Tomography (CT) Machine Barriers with Air Bearings

Discover Five Benefits of CT Imagers Using Porous Media Air Bearings

From its first clinical use in North America in 1973, the Computed Tomography (CT) machine changed the landscape of medicine. The first generation CT machine was limited to brain scans and with only one detector, resulted in hours of image reconstruction. Fast forward to today, where the entire body is scanned via multiple—hundreds or thousands of—detectors, enabling images to be obtained in seconds.

While traditionally thought of medically, CT technology has even expanded into industrial use. The advancements in CT technology provide better scanning of packages at airports as well as the 3D precision needed to inspect microscopic medical devices or parts for the next-generation aerospace project.

Yet with a demand of more than 80 million (medical) CT scans performed in the US each year alone, the drive for improving CT machines continues. CT operations are limited not only by the number and quality of detectors but also by the operation of the gantry.

Moving heavy parts at high speeds and accelerations are critical to CT machine operations. Friction is the enemy of this goal. Therefore, identifying and removing friction sources becomes the major barrier to improving operations.

New Way Air Bearings® has proven experience with providing air bearings for use in CT machines and other precision rotary applications. Let’s look at how our unique Porous Media TechnologyTM design overcomes the challenges facing CT manufacturers.

A large gantry shown with four New Way radial air bearings mounted around the ring.

Eliminate Friction in CT Scanners with Porous MediaTM Air Bearings

New Way offers a standard line of air bearings utilizing the natural permeability of porous carbon. Our Porous Media Technology forces pressurized air through millions of sub-micron sized holes inherent to porous carbon, creating a stiff and even cushion of air. The result is quiet, non-contact motion capable of delivering higher rotation speeds than traditional bearings.

This method of creating non-contact motion also removes pressure gradients which create inconsistent performance and bearing failure. Additionally, maintenance downtime and its associated costs are minimized, improving overall operational efficiencies.

New Way products have been demonstrated to easily meet ISO 14644-1 Class 3 cleanliness. Additionally, the porous carbon acts as a sub-micron filter providing firm reasoning for their use in cleanrooms as stringent as Class 1.

For CT operations, New Way Radial Bearings are a popular choice for providing Frictionless MotionTM rotary motion around the gantry. Available in both concave and convex profiles, they offer the flexibility for mounting inside or outside the rotating gantry.

Another option is New Way’s Servo Driven Rotary Stages (SDRS) which provide a fully integrated, frictionless precision rotary table. Customers can also construct a precision rotary table by pairing New Way Air Bushings and Flat Round Bearings together.

The message here—New Way has a suite of standard products available to help customers create the right solution for their CT scanning.

Next, let’s look at five direct benefits to CT scanning operations when Porous Media™ air bearings are used.

Five Benefits of a CT Gantry Equipped with Air Bearings

Eliminating friction in a CT machine through the use of Porous Media air bearings elicits several benefits, including:

  • Increased Throughput

Faster scan times improve the overall numbers of patients receiving tests, as well as decreasing the wait time for receiving a test. Overall patient care is improved simply through a change in bearings. In manufacturing settings, more products are inspected, improving overall operational efficiency.

  • Minimize Radiation Exposure

With the rise in the number of medical image scans, there is a concern in the medical community about the potential harm done from repeated exposure to radiation. Reduced scan times lower the patient’s exposure to radiation.

  • Improved Precision

Overall image quality is improved as the scan is not impacted by heat-buildup or vibration which affect focal-spot-to-detector element integrity. Additionally, reduced scan times minimize the effects of patient motion and their subsequent impact on image quality. As packaging and components become smaller, this precision becomes critical to ensuring products are free of defects.

  • Quiet Operations

CT machines outfitted with conventional bearings are known for their loud operation. This is unsettling for patients and impacts operators both in and outside the medical field. With air bearings, this noise is eliminated, improving everyone’s experience.

  • Crash-Resistant Design

Air supply interruption can cause bearings to crash, not only potentially damaging the bearing, but the surrounding components as well. Studies conducted with Porous Media air bearings show they are the most reliable over the life of the system. Orifice-based air bearings exhibit surface defects, often causing failure of the system before the lifetime of the bearing. The porous nature of the carbon creates a ‘soft touchdown’ with the loss of air supply and still allows for even distribution flow despite a sudden air supply.

Collection of four New Way radial air bearings shown in both concave and convex profiles.

CT Machines: Consider the Long-Term Return on Investment

When purchasing or upgrading a CT machine, a wise investor considers not only the initial cost but also the long term operations cost. This long term mindset considers speed/throughput, maintenance costs and downtime, and energy costs.

With no burdensome lubrication requirements, air bearings remove the costs of frequent planned maintenance. The robust design offered by Porous Media air bearings also minimizes the cost of the unexpected maintenance needed to replace bearings or other damaged parts. Energy costs are also drastically cut when friction is removed.

Considering all these benefits together, it’s clear that implementing Porous Media air bearings enhances the overall operation of CT machines for medical care and for use in identifying defects in industrial applications.

Join Us for Enhancing the Future of CT Imaging!

As our understanding of the human body evolves, CT scanning will continue to increase. The advancements made will benefit industrial applications as well. A CT machine equipped with Porous Media air bearings offers tangible impacts to people—both from a medical perspective and for higher integrity of products used across industries. Future technologies requiring faster scan times for meeting precision requirements also become more feasible with air bearings.

If we can help you upgrade an existing CT machine or provide support for a new CT machine design, please contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Contact us today for a complimentary consultation