The use of tilting pad journal bearings (TPJBs) has increased in recent years due to their stabilizing effects on the rotor bearing system. Most of the studies addressing steady state and dynamic behaviors of TPJBs have been evaluated by means of thermo-hydrodynamic (THD) models, assuming nominal dimensions for the bearing, (i.e., the physical dimensions of all pads are identical and loads applied along the vertical direction). However machining errors could lead to actual bearing geometry and dimensions different from the nominal ones. In particular, for TPJB the asymmetry of the bearing geometry has not been well-investigated and can lead to an unexpected behavior of the bearing. The asymmetry of the bearing geometry can arise from large machining errors on only one or more pads, as a consequence of a pivot failure or after bad-mounting of the pads during assembly. These conditions can sometimes be detected by high values of the pad temperature, as measured by the temperature probes installed on the bearing pads, or by the abnormal vibration caused by pad-flutter phenomena.

In this paper the authors investigate large machining errors on the pad thickness for a five-pad TPJB and analyze their effects on the bearing operating characteristics. Pad thickness errors correspond to a different preload factor or clearance for each pad. A sensitivity analysis was performed for several combinations of pad thickness using a THD model and the behavior of the bearing was analyzed, including dynamic stiffness and damping coefficients, clearance profile, shaft locus, minimum oil-film thickness, power loss, flow rate, and maximum pressure.

The experimental case of a five pads TPJB with an intentional large machining error on the thickness of the pads is also described in the paper. The bearing has a nominal diameter of 100 mm, a diameter to length ratio (L/D) equal to 0.7 and can run at up to 3000 rpm. The experimental measurements are compared with the results obtained from the analytical model. The results show that the effects of asymmetry of the bearing geometry are more evident if the direction of the static load applied on the rotor bearing system, which is different from the vertical load, is also considered. For instance, the shape of shaft locus obtained by experimental tests changing the static load direction at a constant speed is an irregular pentagon if it is compared to the case of the nominal bearing.

Based on our findings, we concludes that the machining error on the pads has a large influence on the shaft locus, minimum oil-film thickness and maximum pressure on pads, especially at high rotational speed, but has little effect on the flow rate and power loss. In addition, this error significantly affects the dynamic stiffness and damping coefficients, both in terms of rotational speed and load direction.

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