Bearings are machine elements that allow components to move with respect to each other. A thrust bearing is a particular type of rotary bearing permitting rotation between parts but designed to support a predominately axial load. Oil-lubricated bearings are widely used in high speed rotating machines such as those found in the aerospace and automotive industries. With the increase of velocity, the lubrication regime will go through boundary lubrication, mixed lubrication, and hydrodynamic lubrication (full film). In this paper, the analysis was in the hydrodynamic lubrication region.

THRUST is used to predict the steady-state operating characteristics of oil-lubricated thrust bearings. As a thermoelastohydrodynamic prediction tool, THRUST assumes a 3D turbulence model, 3D energy equation, and 2D Reynolds equation. Turbulence is included by obtaining average values of eddy momentum flux (Reynolds stress) and averaging the influence down to a 2D Reynolds equation. Convergence is achieved by iterating on the pad tilt angles and pivot film thickness until the integrated pressure matches the load applied to the pad. Despite the multiple experimental, CFD, and TEHD studies of thrust bearings that have been performed to date, no validation has yet been performed to confirm the accuracy of TEHD methods in modeling the performance of thrust bearings by both experimental and advanced computational means simultaneously. This study addresses this need by comparing TEHD and CFD simulation results of film thickness, temperature, power loss, and pressure in thrust bearings taken from the literature at multiple speeds and loads with results from experimental data.

Starting from the case of the lowest speed and load, it was verified that this case is indeed laminar and with negligible thermal and elastic effects. Four cases were run in THRUST, a TEHD solver, combining thermal and deformation in each rotational speed and load combination. Additionally, a CFD study was performed in ANSYS CFX with the assumptions of isothermal, non-deforming. The average viscosity from THRUST was used in CFD to follow the effects of the isoviscous assumption. Then, the experimental, TEHD and CFD results were compared at each case. Experimental, TEHD, and CFD results show acceptable agreement when turbulence is negligible.

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