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History of Air Bearings


Air Bearing History

Learn about air bearing history and the advancements that have been made over the past two centuries from early orifice bearings to the Porous Media™ technology that New Way Air Bearings manufactures today.


Wills Publishes Earliest Document On Air Bearings
Robert Wills publishes a piece for the Cambridge Philosophical Society titled “On the Pressure Produced on a Flat Surface When Opposed to a Stream of Air Issuing from an Orifice in a Plane Surface.


Kingsbury Highlights the Difficulties Faced with Air Bearing Technology

A. Kingsbury experiments with a 6” diameter journal bearing supported on externally pressurized air. The practical problems of matching bore and shaft geometry and size to achieve a consistent .0005” gap all the way around were and are a manufacturing challenge. Small gaps are required when using air because the viscosity is so low. Kingsbury finds that the higher viscosity of water or oil works better with the relatively large gaps that can be manufactured at that time.


George Westinghouse Files for Thrust Bearing Patent
George Westinghouse files a patent for air thrust bearings to be used in a vertical steam turbine that improves upon performance over roller bearings.

1950s and 1960s

US National Labs Becomes Leader in Air Bearing Applications
While air bearings are unique and somewhat obscure, they allow for advancements in technology that propel the United States’ defense department and nuclear power industry forward as leaders in the world. US National Labs becomes the leader in the use of air bearings to machine tools requiring high precision.


The Coordinate Measuring Machine is Revolutionized with Air Bearings
The CheckMate coordinate measuring machine is the first to utilize air bearing technology with a finely polished granite guide surface. Russ Shelton, the father of the coordinate measuring machine, discovered the advantages of using porous carbon air bearings on coordinate measuring machines built during this time period. Several of these coordinate measuring machines are still in operation today. This is due to the straighter, frictionless motion provided by porous carbon air bearings. The silent and smooth operation is very apparent in the resolution of measurement and scanning on the fly-type machines.


The First Ever Standardized Line of Air Bearings is Introduced
The predecessor to New Way Air Bearings, Aeolus Air Bearings, comes out with the first standardized air bearing products. Customers are for the first time able to choose from several sizes of affordable, available, simple-to-employ air bearings.


Starrett Begins Using New Way Air Bearings on its Coordinate Measuring Machines
L.S. Starrett Company opts to redesign its coordinate measuring machines to utilize the advantages of air bearing technology. They choose New Way Air Bearings® for its line of Porous Media™ air bearings instead of developing their own in-house. To this day they continue to purchase air bearings from New Way®.

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