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Retrofitting With Air Bearings Brings Systems Into the Future

Retrofitting With Air Bearings Brings Systems Into the Future

Maintaining components and systems past their anticipated life cycle can be a challenge for even the most forward-thinking original equipment manufacturer (OEM.) It can be difficult to anticipate how long a system will last, and if the manufacturer goes out of business, you might be up a creek. At New Way® Air Bearings, we have a long tradition of working with manufacturers, remanufactures, and customers to retrofit obsolete systems with the latest in air bearing technology, bringing them into the future with Frictionless Motion®️, and ensuring peak performances for years to come.

A History of Rebuilding

Coordinate measuring machine inspects an engine block.One of our foundational success stories at New Way was working to help develop the original Checkmate Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM), which achieved its unparalleled accuracy thanks to flat round air bearings.

Unbeknownst to many, New Way has maintained a commitment to the coordinating measuring industry beyond simply supplying bearings to OEMs, extending to rebuilders and customers who don’t just want to keep a piece of equipment going, but who want an improvement as well.

Sheffield Automation CMMs (now under the ownership of Hexagon) are a staple of shop-floor quality control, but even the best bearings—like the ones Sheffield used to produce in-house— will fail. This is why we’ve worked with Sheffield CMM rebuilders to provide drop-in replacements from our long product catalog, keeping their CMMs running in top condition for years to come, without the worry of sudden failure and even greater positioning accuracy. Our experience of rebuilding and retrofitting CMMs is so extensive, we’ve mapped the most common Sheffield CMM machines to our product catalog, providing you with a table identifying precisely which New Way products correlate to your system, how many of each type you need for a complete rebuild, and smoothing the upgrade to Frictionless Motion®️.

Our history of working with rebuilders isn’t limited to CMMs either. Lithography steppers are incredibly precise machines required for the manufacture of circuit boards, and as cell architecture becomes increasingly smaller, steppers require the absolute best in motion technology. Canon stands as one of the best in the stepper business, and New Way is a proud partner to many of their authorized rebuilders, providing drop-in and custom Porous Media™ bearing solutions to keep these machines running smoothly.

Air-bearing based rotary encoder for the Keck Observatory.New Way is proud to have worked with and supported:

And, numerous other rebuilders.

Success Stories in Retrofitting

Retrofitting contact-bearing-based systems in favor of porous-media-based solutions has a wide range of applications, all of whose results speak for themselves.

  • Keck Observatory. When the Keck Observatory, often considered the world’s most scientifically productive observatory, needed to replace their roller-bearing-based rotary encoder, they turned to New Way. New Way helped build a one-meter rotary encoder on a system of radial and flat round air bearings, reducing acquisition time by 75%.

“It was a huge success,” said Ean James, staff mechanical engineer at the observatory. According to James, the system has been trouble-free for five continuous years of operation, and they expect it to run “for the next 20.”

  • Sytech Systems. Sytech Systems, a leading provider of hardware and software integration solutions, found themselves at an impasse when a medical manufacturing customer had already invested in a system, but found it couldn’t meet the positioning requirements needed for assembling a dental tool.

Sytech turned to New Way and decided to retrofit the system with porous media air bearings rather than starting from the ground up, retaining their customer’s initial investment in the system.

 Externally pressurized thrust bearing for a centrifugal compressor.Sytech needed something with low friction and able to move equipment “to within ten thousand of an inch,” explained Brent Balika, owner and president of Sytech Systems. After working with New Way to develop and integrate a solution, Balika was impressed. New Way’s solution “melted into the background,” he said, demonstrating the ease with which porous media air bearings can be retrofitted into existing systems.

Future Industries for Retrofit and Service Bearings

The potential for air bearings to retrofit existing systems and keep obsolete systems running is truly limitless. Here at New Way, we see an untapped well of possibility in the power generation sector. Natural gas turbines are expected to operate for long life spans, and with their proven applicability to turbine shaft applications, air bearings lead the way as the ideal solution for servicing obsolete models. Our Bently Bearings and radial air bearings are modular, able to scale up to the load capacity you require and providing damping, speed, and safety in return.

There is virtually no market or application which can’t benefit from an immediate upgrade to porous media air bearings. CT scanners run quieter and faster, automotive dynamometers produce true force measurements, and flexible web handling gain in-situ inspection capability, so why delay on retrofitting your systems?

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If you want to learn more about retrofit and service bearings, please reach out to us!

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