Three Types of Bearing Systems and Why Air Bearings Are the Best

Industrial & Manufacturing Blog

In manufacturing, there are three types of bearing systems used. These are air bearings, metal-ball bearings, and fluid or lubed bearings. Here are some descriptions of these bearing systems and an explanation of why air bearings are best.

Air Bearings

Air bearings inject pressurized air into the spaces between spinning components, and this helps levitate the smaller component while it is spinning inside the larger one. There is no waste, such as the kind produced with fluid and lubed bearing systems. There is also no excess heat and friction like the kind caused by ball bearing systems.

Metal-Ball Bearings

Metal-ball bearings are steel balls that fill in the space between two cylindrical components in machinery. They provide the means for these components to rotate freely and at high speeds without causing friction, heat, and damage on the components themselves. Unfortunately, the constant heat and friction inflicted on the metal ball bearings means that the metal balls will wear down, become uneven, and eventually have to be replaced so that the machine can continue to function as it should. This may happen with greater frequency if the spinning components are constantly spun at a really high speed.

Fluid or Lubed Bearings

These bearing systems rely on a constant injection of water to cool the spinning components and float the smaller internal component, thereby keeping it from rubbing on the larger external component. Some systems may use a special lubricating oil instead of water, but the purpose and effect are essentially the same. The trouble with the water or oil systems is that the water evaporates or turns into dirty water that needs to be collected and processed, and the oil is burned and needs to be flushed out and recycled properly on a regular basis. Neither of these fluid or lubed bearing options are very eco-friendly, and this makes them less popular than ball bearings and air bearings.

Why Air Bearings Are the Best Choice

As long as the pressurized air remains constant, you get a clean, eco-friendly machine that does what you need it to do. You do not have to provide much in the way of maintenance because you never need to replace any steel balls or fix the components because of rust or corrosion from water. You never have to flush the system to clean it either. There are several other reasons why air bearings are just better, and you can discuss these points at length with any air bearing system manufacturer.


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