The more common option for drive mechanisms is often a mechanical configuration. However, popular doesn't necessarily mean more efficient. Mechanical configurations operate by a domino effect. Generally, power is delivered to the ball, causing it to rotate. Since all the moving parts come in contact with one another, as the ball rotates so do the other moving parts. Air bearing configurations are designed so that no two parts come in contact with one another. They instead activate and operate solely based on pressurized air flow, which can afford a number of benefits.
One of the greatest benefits offered by an air bearing configuration is the elimination of friction. With mechanical configurations, the bearings and ball constantly rub up against each other, generating a high-level of friction. Friction doesn't just induce wear on its own, but it can also cause increased heat production, which can further escalate wear. Increased wear leads to higher maintenance costs and shorter lifespans.
With an air bearing configuration, all the moving components move independently of one another and instead rely on air pressure for movement. This independent movement allows you to eliminate the risks of friction-based damage. As an added benefit, a friction-free environment can help your system operate at higher levels of acceleration, eliminate the need for lubrication, and also offer a quieter operation cycle.
Whether it's an air bearing or mechanical configuration system, precision is critical. Even the slightest instability can cause a drive mechanism to underperform and possibly fail. Air bearing systems offer an edge in this department for a number of different reasons. A common issue with mechanical configurations is cogging, also known as no-current torque. Cogging is problematic because it causes shifting, which can lead to instability and a lack of precision.
The reason that mechanical configurations are more prone to this issue has to do with friction. Since all the moving parts constantly collude with one another, when one component is having stability issues, it can easily cause the other component to also shift out of place. With an air bearing configuration, the lack of friction significantly reduces the risk of cogging. Additionally, air bearing configurations are machined with the ball and roller bearings mounted on a base. The mounted base helps ensure stability and, therefore, increased precision.
Reduced friction and greater precision mean higher productivity, efficiency, and an overall better performance. Don't overlook the benefits afforded by an air bearing configuration.