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Why Radial Air Bearings are the Future of Precision Rotation

Why Radial Air Bearings are the Future of Precision Rotation

New Way Air Bearings offers a variety of products for both linear and rotary applications, and the foundation of our rotary-focused lineup is the radial air bearing. Radial air bearings provide non-contact support for rotating artifacts with our proprietary Porous Media Technology™, and allow for speeds up to 100 meters per second. Radial air bearings offer all of the benefits you know and love from porous media-based air bearings, including speed, precision and cleanroom compatibility, and are applicable to a wide range of applications and industries.

Industries Already Benefiting From Radial Air Bearings

Radial air bearings are already loved by numerous industries for their ability to easily replace cumbersome roller bearing setups, and our clients would readily agree.

Astronomy Observatories

The Keck Observatory is often referred to as the most scientifically productive astronomical observatory in the world. When they embarked on the task of redesigning and replacing the bearing system which underlies their rotary encoder, the observatory sought out New Way. The encoder is the critical instrument which allows for incredibly accurate positioning of the telescope for observations.

Composite image of the night sky behind the W M Keck ObservatoryThe old radial ball bearing-based old ball bearing-based system required frequent maintenance, and took in excess of an hour to position the telescope. With the new air bearings, positioning time was cut down to 15 minutes, and maintenance virtually eliminated by virtue of the bearings’ self-cleaning, non-contact nature.

Industrial Component Inspection

Magtrol, an industry leader in torque measurements for small motors, also understands the benefit of radial air bearings. Without the need to contend with friction, air bearing-based measurement systems allow for error-free data acquisition. Magtrol utilizes radial air bearings as part of the calibration suite for testing their products. When “a very high degree of precision gets involved, thats where air bearings come in”, says Maxwell Keeling, an engineer on Magtrol’s production team

Industries Who Can Benefit from Radial Air Bearings

Beyond tried and true industries like positioning and metrology, radial air bearings have immense application in precision manufacturing, healthcare, and even power generation sectors.

Power Generation and Turbomachinery

Radiographer talks with a patient before a CT scan

All power generation, excluding solar cells, fundamentally rely on the tried and true method of turning a dynamo. This is true whether you use wind power, compressed steam, or other forces to turn a rotating shaft and convert radial motion to electricity.

Bugra Ertas of the Mechanical Systems department at General Electric’s Research Center has already investigated, and found that gas film bearings represent the future of turbomachinery operation. All radial bearings have the ability to operate off-process gas. This means that highly damped, incredibly stiff radial bearings may be employed to support turbomachinery shafts, reducing maintenance and increasing the system’s overall lifecycle through a reduction in resonance peaks.

CT Scanners

Imaging may not be the first place you envision deploying porous media bearings, but it may be one of the most valuable. For both industrial non destructive inspection (NDI) techniques, and for use in the healthcare sector, radial air bearings offer an immense boost to both performance and throughput.

Radial CT scanners function by spinning an x-ray emitter and receiver along the circumference of a ring about the patient. As anyone who has undergone one of these scans can tell you, they can be quite loud, often inducing claustrophobia. A substantial portion of this noise is owed to the radial ball bearings which enable radial motion. Replacing these bearings with radial air bearings not only reduces noise, but increases speed, providing higher throughput and patient comfort without compromising accuracy or reliability

Optics Manufacturing

Person polishing a lens

For a global industry expected to be valued at more than 30 billion dollars by the end of 2024, the optical manufacturing sector is unsurprisingly concerned with quality control and precision in their machining processes. Optical tolerancing is generally measured to within +/-0.010mm across the center thickness, and refracting components may be measured down to 1/3600th of an arcsecond. For grinding lenses and other optical products, radial air bearings offer incredible precision of motion thanks to their inertia free operation. Additionally, are cleanroom compatible by virtue of our self filtering porous substrate.

The Product Line

Radial air bearings are offered in all 4 combinations of convex, concave, lengthwise and widthwise radius, with sizes ranging from 12mm x 24 mm up to 75 x 150mm. Don’t see the size you’re looking for? New Way can manufacture custom bearings to meet your specifications, so please reach out to us!

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