Air Pad Slides

Larger scale air bearing slides requiring lower mass elements present a set of engineering challenges best addressed by Professional Instruments Company’s air pad slides. While the air bearing pads used in these slides are some of the simplest air bearings we produce, the structures that hold them and the elements that make up the motion system are some of the most complex. Building structures that simultaneously position the air pad while resisting the large preload forces required in precision air bearing slides requires attention to detail in design, manufacture, and assembly. Our kinematic mounting system is a unique solution to these problems. While others may rely on springs and screws to control preload and flying height, Professional Instruments Company employs sophisticated diaphragm support structures and air piston preloaders that allow for kinematically correct constraint of the pads and operation at all pressures. Brushless-DC linear motors and glass scales are close-coupled to the guideway structures to complete the shortest possible structural loops. Getting the drive and feedback devices acting as close to the center of mass of the stage is an absolute requirement in high-bandwidth applications.

Professional Instruments Company is currently producing an X-Y slide (a stroke of 12” x 6”) that positions to .000,080”, travels at 40 inches per second, and is capable of 4g accelerations. Other lower-performance drive and feedback systems are also applied to air pad slides, making this type the most universal of the five we produce. The air pads themselves can be compensated with element, orifice, or porous-wall structures to custom-tailor slide performance. A wide range of materials including hard-coated aluminum, stainless steel, graphite, and ceramic ensures that the slides are corrosion resistant and robust.