2020 was a tumultuous year for all, but New Way Air Bearings® forged ahead, and we’re incredibly proud of the products we brought to market, industries we entered, and partnerships we’ve made in the past 12 months. Never ones to sit idle, we’re keeping the momentum going and starting 2021 off strong. This includes planning a whole new slew of products for industries we see as ideal candidates for the revolutionary properties of our Porous Media™ air bearings.
2020 Accomplishments (and, Looking Forward to 2021)
The past 12 months have been incredibly fruitful in the catalog of products we offer to our wide array of customers.
Air Turns™ represent our foray into flexible-web manufacturing, providing an alternative to traditional contact rollers and allowing for a 180-degree travel angle—all while keeping your material under tension and removing defects—in roll-to-roll processes. The Air Turn’s noncontact motion allows for adjustable fly height, variable web tension, and even in-situ flatness measurement of process materials through real-time interferometry.
We’ve also spent the past year accounting ourselves not just with enabling precision rotary applications but also designing all-in-one solutions like the Servo-Driven Rotary Stage. The Servo-Driven Rotary Stages represent the best in New Way technology. Built on our Air Spindles, powered by a spotless, brushless motor and controlled by a 1.1-arcsecond precise rotary encoder, the servo-driven rotary stage offers sub-micron synchronous error motion and the almost complete elimination of asynchronous error motion.
For applications involving process gases and fine particulate, we’ve been incredibly proud to show off the New-Seal™. The new seal acts as a bearing and seal all-in-one, providing hydrostatic pressure that resists fluid or particle infiltration up to 30 psi. We provide new seals in face- and circumferential- seal configurations, making them ideal for retrofitting pumps, compressors, and fuel injectors, as well as sealing rotating shafts in the bulk powder handling industry.
2020 didn’t simply provide us with the opportunity to bring new products to market, but it also offered us the privilege of serving and empowering our unique customers.
By far, one of our most prolific customers has been the W.M. Keck Observatory in the Hawaiian islands. In our Customer Proven Solution, we detailed how the Keck Observatory needed to replace their aging azimuthal encoder and roller-bearing track system, and opted for a custom design system built from New Way’s Porous Media Air Bearings. We worked hand in hand with Ean James, the observatory’s chief mechanical engineer to design a system that cut their acquisition time from an hour to 15 minutes. And, in doing so, all but eliminated maintenance requirements for the encoder. Now, porous media is helping the observatory study black holes. According to James, “It’s so straightforward and robust, it just works; and who doesn’t want that from their system?”
New Way has a long history of working and collaborating with IBS Precision Engineering, a world-class measurement, positioning, and motioning systems company. This year they pushed the boundaries of coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) further than ever before with the ISARA400, which they built using porous media air bearings.
The ISARA400 is the result of 20 years of fruitful partnership and completely removes parallax errors along all three axes of translation, allowing for 3D resolution down to 1.6 nanometers. New Way and IBS are already at work on the ISARA400’s larger siblings, with Flat Round Air Bearings providing the Frictionless Motion® they need to provide unparalleled measurement capability.
Markets and Applications for 2020
While 2020 brought us an incredible number of achievements, we’re already looking forward to the future, and envisioning the markets and applications our Porous Media Air Bearings are poised to revolutionize.
Given the propensity of air bearings for incredibly precise, repeatable motion, New Way sees an immense opportunity for porous media air bearings to be adopted in the additive manufacturing (or 3D printing) sector. The additive manufacturing service industry is growing by upwards of 25% year over year and has rapidly become a mainstay of aerospace and even biomedical manufacturing.
Since air bearings eliminate stick shift and possess no internal momentum like roller bearings (and thus move without hysteresis error), their accuracy is only limited by the linear motors that control them. New Way sees a future generation of ultrafast, ultra-accurate 3D printers built on porous media air bearings, bringing your conceptual drawings to life with previously unheard of resolution.
As we move further into the 21st century, the demands for power generation have only grown, and we view air bearings as having a bright future for power generation—in both wind as gas turbine applications. Wind and gas turbines alike rely on contact bearings for their rotating shafts and gearboxes, and it’s these very bearings that often cause mechanical failures.
Bearing failure has been identified as the leading cause of plant unavailability for gas turbine facilities, and nearly 75% of wind turbine gearbox failures are inevitably traced to their bearings. Our radial air bearings can support a wide range of shafts and with their modular nature, are almost limitless in their ability to provide support to the power generation sector. Looking even further to highly experimental, but potentially lucrative forms of power generation technology— like tidal power— we see a unique opening for our New-Seal product.
Our New-Seal is designed to help accelerate the maturation of a technology long plagued by rust and water infiltration issues. No matter the mode of power generation, porous media air bearings will offer a reliable, frictionless platform for efficient operation.
If you want to learn more about one of our products, applications, or to find out what New Way Air Bearings can do for you, please contact us!