Six Things To Know About Air Bearing Systems For Your Manufacturing Facility

If you're looking for ways to minimize your maintenance costs and reduce downtime on your manufacturing equipment, one of the things you might want to consider is investing in equipment that uses air bearings instead of traditional bearings. If you're not familiar with air bearings, they rely on a stream of pressurized air to create separation between the bearing and the channel instead of using bearing grease or a similar lubricant. It reduces friction, which minimizes wear. In addition, it eliminates the need for maintenance to pack the bearings with fresh grease as is necessary with traditional bearings. Here are some things you should know about air bearings before you decide.

Air bearings aren't just for high-speed applications. Many people dismiss the use of air bearings in their equipment because the environment isn't a rapid production one. The truth is that you can benefit from air bearings in most any applications. The frictionless and consistent motion is beneficial at any production speed, even if you're working with slow scanning or velocity-controlled applications.

Air bearing systems don't have to be offensively loud. While they do require a consistent supply of compressed air to function, that doesn't mean that they have to be as noisy as the air compressors you might hear running in other shops. In fact, air bearing systems will function even with a compact compressor unit, which you'll typically find to be quieter than the larger systems.

You'll want to be selective about the air source. You might think that you can use any compressed air source for your air bearings. That isn't necessarily the case. Air bearings require an air source that's dry, clean and free of any oil. Oil particles and humidity in the air will gradually damage air bearings, so look for oil-free units with air driers incorporated. In addition, you may want a rotary screw compressor for your system because they offer a constant duty cycle. The duty cycle refers to how long the compressor can run before needing to recharge, and a constant duty cycle means that the system can run non-stop, providing the bearings with a consistent, even air source.

Air bearings are stable and reliable. Many people hesitate to invest in air bearings because they aren't typically as stiff as mechanical bearings, but that doesn't mean that they aren't as stable. In fact, since there's no friction on the bearings, there's less concern about drag or other similar issues.

You can use air bearings in both horizontal and vertical applications. It's reasonable to have concerns about using air bearings in a vertical system because you might wonder how the bearing will stay in place when it's positioned vertically. If you counterbalance the unit with an air cylinder on that bearing, it will keep it stable and secure.

Air bearing systems don't have to be cost-prohibitive. There are many different options for air bearing system integration, each priced differently. There are options for clean room atmospheres, heavy loads and even high-heat environments.

As you can see, there are many different reasons to consider using air bearings in your manufacturing facility. With the information here, you'll be able to better understand how these bearings might improve your operation or reduce your general overhead costs. If you're ready to make the transition to air bearings and eliminate the grease maintenance and friction worries of traditional bearings, you'll need to decide which style is the best fit for your design. An air bearing system manufacturer can evaluate your machines to help you find the one that will fit your application and get the transition started for you.