New air bearings from IBS Precision Engineering bring wide ranging benefits to UK machine builders

Microelectronics International

ISSN: 1356-5362

Article publication date: 18 April 2008



(2008), "New air bearings from IBS Precision Engineering bring wide ranging benefits to UK machine builders", Microelectronics International, Vol. 25 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

New air bearings from IBS Precision Engineering bring wide ranging benefits to UK machine builders

Article Type: New products From: Microelectronics International, Volume 25, Issue 2.

A new range of porous air bearings that combines virtually frictionless motion with high-load carrying capabilities and locational accuracy is now available in the UK from positioning and measurement solutions specialist IBS Precision Engineering.

Available in flat, cylindrical, radial, vacuum preloaded and custom engineered variants, New Way air bearings offer numerous benefits over traditional ball or roller bearings making them an ideal choice for demanding high-precision applications in industries as diverse as optical lens or mirror polishing, lithography, precision gauging, metrology, silicon wafer manufacture and high-speed machinery.

The units' porous media provides uniform air distribution under the bearing, virtually eliminating static friction and enabling accurate positional accuracy to be achieved with very high repeatability (Figure 1). Likewise, the bearings' non-contact operating properties effectively eliminate wear, to deliver consistent machine performance and low-particle generation over an almost limitless service life.

Figure 1 Uniform air distribution under the bearing ensures extreme positional accuracy and virtually no static friction

In addition, air bearings maintain more consistent directional motion and operate more smoothly and silently than traditional roller or ball designs, which generate noise and vibration through the repeated loading and unloading of their rotating elements. When combined with their inherent squeeze film damping effect, the new range provides high-dynamic stiffness and controllability ensuring their suitability for high-speed and/or high- acceleration applications. Furthermore, the bearings' operating characteristics eliminate the need for oil lubrication and generate positive air pressure to produce a self-cleaning action in use.

Supplied in graphite or silicon carbide, New Way air bearings feature low-air consumption and are available from stock as single units or as fully integrated elements within linear air slides or rotary tables.

The company's flat air bearings feature gimballed mounts and threaded ball studs for simple alignment and are typically used in conjunction with hard guide surfaces such as granite, hard- coated aluminium, ceramics, glass, stainless or chromed steel. However, the non-galling properties of the units' carbon bearing face ensure that they are equally suitable for use with plastics or other epoxy-based materials.

New Way cylindrical air bearings provide interchangeability with traditional roller element-based designs on rotating shaft applications, while vacuum preloaded variants have been designed to simultaneously create a lifting and preload force. Clearance height and bearing stiffness can be optimised by simple adjustment of the vacuum and air pressure, enabling high- precision component squaring and vertical positioning to be achieved. Further special purpose porous air bearing variants can also be developed and engineered to specific requirements.

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