Air Bearing Counterbalance Increases Precision and Reduces Cost in CNC Micro-Machining

High performance CNC micro machining centers used to fabricate small high precision parts from plastics, metals, glass, and ceramics require extreme control of forces and speeds. Micro machining equipment manufacturers with the need for tight control of small incremental movements along with low forces, high speeds and extreme levels of repeatability and resolution are discovering the benefits of air bearing technology used to provide zero friction counterbalancing. A counterbalance removes the effect of vertical masses in the system and protects from damage in power- off situations. A counterbalance system is often used to reduce the weight and drag inherent in the linear motor driver and associated linear bearing guide systems; however mechanical counterbalance devices often exhibit more friction than is ideal. Airpot’s Airpel –AB Air Bearing actuator used as a counterbalance device allows the use of lower cost and smaller linear motor drives which helps to reduce heat and the adverse effects of differing thermal expansion rates. Air bearing technology enables levels of measurement and control previously unattainable with conventional air cylinders or mechanical cable counterbalance systems. The actuators combine air cylinder-like linear actuation with zero friction air bearing technology.

The Airpel -AB provides “Force Without Friction” which is made possible by a specially shaped stainless steel piston that is precisely fitted to a borosilicate glass cylinder. The introduction of pressurized air into the air bearing’s cylinder creates a true air bearing airflow effect around the piston.

With as little as 5 PSI of air applied to the cylinder, the same air that drives the piston also produces a stiff cushion of air to support the piston and prevent it from contacting the cylinder wall. The result is an air cylinder that delivers virtually unlimited piston life, no lubrication and clean operation. In addition, the output force of this friction-free air cylinder is reduced only infinitesimally by movement of ultra-low friction ball joints used to connect the rod. These unique qualities allow Airpot Corporation to guarantee that the Airpel -AB will exceed the life of any machine or instrument in which it is originally installed and operated in accordance with specifications.

“The Airpel -AB air bearing actuator is designed to fill a niche in the air cylinder industry where even the slightest friction, contamination, wear, or extreme temperature vulnerability of typical air cylinders cannot be tolerated.” said Mark Gaberman, President of Airpot Corporation.

Industries include, semi-conductor, optics, medical, and test and measurement. Applications may include, counterbalancing and safety support for vertically positioned linear motor driven masses, precise tensioning, positioning mechanisms supporting delicate materials, sensitive force control for holding or clamping fragile materials, or precise laboratory test equipment.

Airpel-AB air bearing actuators are available in metric models with four bore diameters and ten standard strokes to provide precisely repeatable driving or supporting forces from 2 grams to 58 kg. Operating temperatures range from -20 C to +90 C.

Airpot Corporation manufactures instrument quality, precision Air Dashpots, Snubbers, Pneumatic Actuators, Airpel Anti-Stiction Air Cylinders and -AB Air Bearing Actuators. Airpot welcomes custom requirements and works with customers to adapt products to suit their individual application needs. Value added subassembly services are also a specialty. Airpot Corporation is a trusted supplier to many of the world’s most prestigious original equipment manufacturers. Visit for detailed specifications. Call or email our technical staff for application assistance and ordering information. 203-846-2021.

Key Markets:

Semiconductor processing, Electronics assembly, Medical Devices, Metrology, Test & Measurement, Laboratory Diagnostics.

Key Applications:

Counterbalancing and safety for vertically positioned linear driven motor masses, filament & wire tensioning, positioning and manipulating optics, liquids, delicate devices, super sensitive force control, , Measuring weight, creep, tensile strength and calibration.

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