When choosing the right bearing for an application, there are dozens of considerations. The shape, size, type of action, and resolution of movement all must be optimized to produce the best possible results. For applications that require maximum precision, speed, and durability, New Way® Air Bearings offer the best results available. But how do you know which bearing configuration to choose, and what makes New Way special?
Here, we’ll explain the benefits of Porous Media Technology™ and how to get the most out of our Flat Rectangular Air Bearings.
The Flat Bearings Hierarchy
There are dozens of different options for creating linear motion on a flat plane. However, here we will be comparing three specific categories:
- Conventional ball or roller bearings
- Orifice air bearings
- Porous Media™ air bearings
When considering a bearing for your application, not all bearings are made equal. Each has its own pros and cons. But, when it comes to unparalleled strength and precision, New Way wins the day every time. Keep reading to see how these common flat bearing configurations stack up.
Conventional Flat Bearings
These bearings work by using rolling pieces and lubricant to reduce the friction between moving parts. The primary advantages of ball or roller bearings are cost and convenience. They are cheap and require no air hookup. However, if high precision is the goal, there are many downsides. Irregular ball sizes create positioning issues, unwanted motion, vibrations, and noise during movement.
Additionally, ball and roller bearings experience friction at the contact surfaces. This means there is a relatively slow limit for speed and acceleration. Lubrication is used to reduce this friction, but that comes with its own host of problems when it comes to contamination.
Orifice Air Bearings
These bearings create a cushion of air through many tiny holes in a piece (think air hockey table, but scaled down.) Orifice bearings solve many of the problems of conventional bearings by eliminating contact between faces. This means no friction, which allows for higher speeds, near-infinite resolution, and no lubrication. But even then, there are some downsides.
These bearings require high air pressure, which makes them noisy, requires more infrastructure to support, and actually prevents them from being used in cleanrooms. And even then, orifice air bearings naturally have inconsistent pressure profiles, making them inadequate for holding heavy weights.
New Way’s Porous Media Bearings
Our air bearings utilize a carbon substrate with millions of sub-micron holes. When air is forced through these holes, a stiff layer of air forms above the substrate. Porous media bearings carry with them all the advantages of orifice air bearings, but also solve all the key issues identified above.
With such an even distribution of air, New Way bearings require very low pressure to operate. This allows for quiet operation, but more importantly, cleanroom compliance. Additionally, the responsive bearings mean a nano-scale adjustable fly-height, meaning incredibly precise leveling capabilities. Porous Media bearings are also extremely strong, able to support heavy masses, even at small sizes. With so many benefits and such durable construction, these bearings are now being considered in industries across the spectrum.
When to Use Flat Rectangular Air Bearings
The major advantage of the flat rectangular bearing is in maximizing your load capacity on limited guideway real estate. When noiseless, vibration-free operation is required, flat rectangular bearings offer the best combination of strength and precision. For a real-world example, check out this Vertical Linear Accelerator for Dynamic Structures and Materials, LLC.
Common Applications for Flat Rectangular Air Bearings
- Industrial Testing Machines
- Automotive Manufacturing
- Semiconductor Industries
- 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing
- Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM)
When to Choose Other New Way Products
These are for the conveyance of large substrates. Air Bars can be used in the production of flat-panel displays, solar modules, or similar inspection processes. This line emphasizes extreme precision on fly-height, and some models boast flattening abilities to prevent wrinkled substrate.
While capable of supporting linear motion, these bearings are superior for rotational applications such as precision roundness checking and high-speed rotary tables. Due to their shape, they lack some of the load-bearing capacity of Flat Rectangular Bearings.
These bearings offer less flexibility for custom configurations, but offer more support for high-speed, high-precision applications. Micro-machining, nano-scale metrology, and optical grinding will benefit from the greater fidelity offered by linear slides.