Porous air bearings enjoy some important advantages over conventional air bearing types such as increased load carrying capacity, higher stiffness and improved damping. However, these types of bearings have yet to find widespread acceptance due to problems with obtaining materials with consistent permeability, instability issues relating to the volume of gas trapped at the bearing surface in the pores, and manufacturing the bearing without altering the permeability. Using a series of fine grades of alumina powder to minimise surface pore volume it has been demonstrated that it is possible to consistently and reproducibly manufacture porous bearings by injection moulding and slip casting. The relationship between powder size, processing conditions, porosity, mechanical properties and fluid flow characteristics were experimentally determined. The temperature of processing and the green density were found to be the controlling parameters in the resulting fluid flow properties for a given powder size, Test bearings were produced from the range of processing conditions investigated. It was found that the fine powder size bearings were stable over the entire range of test conditions irrespective of their initial manufacturing route. The most important consideration for the bearing performance was the quality of manufacture. The bearings were found to be sensitive to the flatness of their working surface and quality of fit in their test holder. The bearings were compared with published theories for load capacity and stiffness. A reasonable agreement was found with load carrying capacity once a correction for surface roughness was incorporated. Stiffness predictions provided a useful tool for the analysis and prediction of properties such as optimum values of permeability for a given geometry, if certain allowances are made
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