This paper describes the pressure distribution in the bearing clearance of circular aerostatic thrust bearings with a single air supply inlet. For high air supply pressure, large bearing clearance and a relatively small bearing outer radius, it was believed that shock waves are caused and that a complex fluid flow structure is formed in the bearing clearance. Accordingly, analytical models based on the occurrence of shock wave in the bearing clearance have been proposed. Recently, very small aerostatic bearings have been used in various machine devices where the pressure distribution near the air inlets has a large influence on the bearing characteristics due to a short distance between air inlets and the bearing edge. In order to accurately predict various bearing characteristics for these kinds of bearings, a proper analytical model has to be established. However, it is very difficult to obtain the detailed information about the flow structure from flow visualization because of a very thin bearing clearance. Therefore, we calculated the flow field using computational fluid dynamics (CFD), which can solve the Navier-Stoke equations directly. It was found that the airflow just after entering the bearing clearance becomes turbulent in a region where relatively rapid pressure recovery occurs and that no shock wave is generated at the boundary between subsonic and supersonic flow. In addition, the numerical results presented show good agreement with experimental data.

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