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Automation Testing


Air Bearings for Automated Testing

At New Way Air Bearings®, metrology and coordinate verification systems have been our bread and butter since our founding. The same incredible benefits our Porous Media™ bearings bring to measurement systems are equally powerful for automated inspection systems.

Thanks to advances in machine learning and automation capabilities, ‘lights-out’ manufacturing is coming into focus as a new paradigm for OEM’s everywhere. These highly automated systems are dependent on reliable motion technology for in-line measurement and inspection systems. From dimensional verification and roundness checking to niche applications like torque measurement and in situ interferometry, Porous Media air bearings offer the reliable, precision and repeatability required for automated testing in an Industry 4.0 environment.


A missile in flight in the upper atmosphere.Dimensional Measurement

In-line dimensional verification is increasingly seen as essential to automated production. These systems allow autonomous tool cells to inspect components without removing them from the manufacturing process. Such autonomous cells require accurate, maintenance free motion solutions to ensure they can run 24/7 and keep up with the rest of your production line.

Torque Measurement

Producing components which require not simply dimensional verification but also detailed processes like torque measurement can be a greater challenge. Air bearings simplify this automation process as well. Air Bushings and Air Spindles enable fast, self-centering radial motion.

This capability is proven in our work with real-world partners. We teamed up with Magtrol to create a system to measure the static torque in small motors. Their goal was to calibrate their own “golden system” for internal reference. Magtrol used radial bearings and air bushings to develop their torque Calibration Beam as a standard for their dynamometers.

In-Situ Interferometry

The development of films for applications like wearable electronics is a growing business. Roll-to-roll processes can switch from contact rollers to non-contact solutions to New Way’s Air turns. By making this easy change, your automated production process gains the ability to inspect these films while they’re in production.

Owing to the air gap on either side of a material being transported, flatness and web stability can be measured in real time through such techniques as IBS Precision Engineering’s Areal Interferometry for Nanoscale Surfaces (ARINNA). This in-process inspection gives an operator the ability to actively adjust fly height in response to measured data, a brand new capability for roll-to-roll processes.


Rotary Motion

For roundness checking, radial air bearings and flat round air bearings can be used in concert to create rotary tables. For other precision rotational measurements, thrust bushings axially constrain a shaft while providing linear motion. For an all-in-one solution, our Servo-Driven Rotary Stages combine our Air Spindles with a high-precision encoder.

Linear Motion

New Way offers numerous products for enabling precision along 1, 2 or 3 axes in automated processes. This allows for unprecedented control for processes requiring linear or even planar motion. The capabilities and possibilities of Porous Media are outlined in detail in our Designer’s E-Book.

Flat round and rectangular air bearings may also easily be retrofitted to existing guide surfaces, making upgrades a breeze. Additionally, our linear slides offer purpose-built systems for continuously-supported, end-supported applications. These bearings already form the foundation for numerous coordinate measuring systems, and easily slot into an automated inspection cell.


Durability and Longevity

For manufacturers looking to transition to a fully-automated manufacturing and inspection process, reliability of components is a top consideration. Contact bearings spall and fail, requiring regular maintenance for lubrication, then further downtime for their eventual replacement.

Porous Media air bearings are fully non-contact, so they do not wear down. As such, they have a theoretically unlimited lifespan. Even in the event of total power loss to the facility, the bearings will slowly depressurize and are crash-resistant.

Thanks to the compressibility of the porous carbon, your system will absorb any excess energy which could potentially damage the guide stage or more delicate components of your system. In fact, our bearings have proven their ability to operate without diminished performance even after 50 crashes in a testing environment.

Linear and Rotary Precision

Air bearings have become a darling of the metrology and inspection industry for their incredible precision. Because air bearings are a non-contact technology, they don’t need to contend with the internal energy of ball bearings. They’re neither susceptible to overshoot nor hysteresis error, and can be positioned to nanometer levels of accuracy.

This means the precision of systems supported by New Way components are only limited by the motors that drive them. Our servo-driven rotary stages are capable of 1.1-arcsecond precision, providing performance impossible with other systems. This doesn’t mean they’re delicate though, Frictionless Motion™ means these components can safely operate at speeds an order of magnitude above contact bearings.

Cleanroom Compatibility

Semiconductors and other highly sensitive materials that must be manufactured in a cleanroom setting. For this kind of production, air bearings provide a twofold benefit over their contact-based counterparts. Not only does the air bearing not require routine maintenance, it also contributes to the safety of the manufacturing environment.

Since the air-bearing surface acts as a sub-micron filter, the very nature of our air bearings filter air into the environment, and internal New Way testing has demonstrated our products as ISO class 3—and arguably—ISO Class 1 cleanroom compatible. This means that components manufacturers don’t need to contend with potential outgassing of lubricant and particles.

Contact Us

If you’d like to learn more about air bearings in the automation industry or already have an application in mind, please contact us!

Rotary Motion
Spindle on an industrial lathe.
Rotary Motion

For constraining and supporting the outer or inner diameter of a rotating assembly.

Fast Tool Servo
Fast Tool Servo End Supported Slides
Fast Tool Servo

For single axis, nanometer precise tooling application.

Air Bars
air bars
Air Bars

Air Turns™
Air turns
Air Turns™

Flat Rectangular Air Bearings
rectangle bearings
Flat Rectangular Air Bearings

Flat Round Air Bearings
round bearings
Flat Round Air Bearings

Learn More About the Porous Media Difference