Industry 4.0 has transformed numerous sectors with greater inclination towards automation, accuracy, and performance improvements. The transition to faster speeds, greater outputs, and larger volumes in automated machinery is prompting the use of technologies such as shock and vibration mitigation. This has strengthened innovations in shock absorbers, air bearings, vibration dampers, and other devices, which run the gamut from faster response-designs to smart technologies.
Precision machining and the use of high-speed equipment have created the demand for next-gen solutions that support consumer requirements for high-level performance, bringing air bearings into focus. Recognizing the potential of the air bearings industry, Transparency Market Research (TMR), in its recent study, sheds light on the extensive application of air bearings, and highlights the key developments made by various competitors in the air bearings market.
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- Evolution of the Air Bearings Industry
From early orifice bearings to porous media air bearings, the air bearings industry has undergone notable developments. Previously, motion applications were seamlessly well-addressed by mechanical bearing guidance. However, the need for angular repeatability, precision, and geometric performance shifted end users’ attention towards air bearings. With the use of one of its preloaded mechanisms; and eliminating mechanical contact that prevents friction, hysteresis effects, and wear; the air bearing stage was considered a relatively viable solution. Similar shift of preference was witnessed with rolling-element bearings. From rolling-element bearings being the verified and best-fit technology that served various motion control applications, consumers have shifted to air bearings for their technical benefits, when it comes to meeting requirements such as precision motion and accurate performance.
Air bearings overcome various challenges associated with conventional bearings, which include lubricant handling, friction, and wear. Their distinctive advantages in high-speed applications and precision machining are positioning air bearings on a growth trajectory. Revenue generated by the air bearings market was US$ 7.6 Bn in 2018, and the market is expected to expand at a CAGR of ~ 7% in terms of value throughout the forecast period. The growing use of high-precision tools and spindles in the manufacturing of vehicles has resulted in major demand for air bearings, creating growth opportunities for market players.
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- Developments in Precision Technology to Fuel Demand
Precision is emerging as a hallmark of the new era of industrialization. The advent of precision machining across a number of application sectors, owing to the increasing need for accuracy, have generated demand for effective components that allow seamless operations. These components are becoming the first-choice for manufacturers, as such, bringing air bearings into the limelight. Precision machining tools are crucial in designing and creating tools, machines, and other industry components to provide dynamic stability and accuracy. As air bearings have lower frictional drag, they are used in precision machining tools, as such, making high speed at lower vibrational levels achievable.
- Technological Advancements Improve Capabilities
Technological developments act as catalyst for innovations in the air bearings industry. While air bearings help greater throughput for a variety of machines, manufacturers continue to utilize technological advancements to improve the efficacy of air bearings. Air bearings used in various machinery need to be monitored and tested periodically, in an attempt to ensure reliability, consistency, efficiency, and cost effectiveness of the operations. With advancements in the technology of air bearings, future vehicles could be designed with an array of frictionless motion solutions to overcome the challenges in vehicle testing, which is expected to boost global automotive sales.