Air Bearings

Air bearings, also known as aerostatic or aerodynamic bearings, are fluid bearings that utilize a thin film of pressurized gas to provide a low-friction, load-bearing interface between two surfaces. The two surfaces do not touch, therefore avoiding the traditional problems bearings face such as friction, wear, particulates, and lubricant handling. These differ from ball bearings, where the balls are in constant contact with one another and form a solid bridge between the machine elements. Air bearings offer a number of distinct advantages in precision positioning and high speed applications, where they lack backlash and static friction.

The fluid within air bearings is able to transfer forces because, as the fluid is pushed through the bearing gap, it generates a pressure profile across the bearing area. The force the bearing is able to support is the average pressure multiplied by the area. The actual pressure distribution in the bearing varies based on the bearing design, as well as a number of other factors, but a general rule of thumb is to expect 30% efficiency.

Air bearings offer a wide range of advantages over mechanical bearings. First, because there is no contact, air bearings do not suffer from wear or heat generation resulting from friction. Additionally, air bearings exhibit no running friction, even under their highest design loading. Furthermore, the fluid film centers and averages out small scale errors in the components resulting in more accurate motion than with individual bearing components. Air bearings are also much stiffer than rolling element bearings because the air film fully supports the components, as opposed to balls or rollers which have point or line contact and are therefore limited due to Hertzian contact stiffness, which refers to the localized stresses that develop as two curved surfaces come in contact and deform slightly under the imposed loads.

Although air bearings have a lower laid capacity, they also have essentially zero friction at all speeds. Because the tight bearing clearances demand high accuracy components, this results in highly accurate motion. Another benefit is the cleanliness of air as a lubricating fluid. When compared to oil, water, or other fluids, air is relatively contaminant free. Because compressed air is extremely common in industrial environments, it is probably the most commonly used gas. However, other gasses, such as nitrogen, can be used when available. Air bearings are used primarily in precision machinery tools such as measuring and processing machines, and high speed machines, such as spindles, small-scale turbomachinery, and precision gyroscopes. For top quality air bearings and much more, look to RFQ Experts.

At RFQ Experts, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we offer a vast and diverse range of aircraft parts and components for many applications within the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries. In addition to this, our inventory comprises a selection of top-quality parts for the electronic and industrial markets. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, call us at 1-780-851-3631 or email us at sales@rfqexperts.com.


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