A model of face seal lubrication is proposed and developed. Hydrodynamic lubrication for rough surfaces, surface waviness, asperity load support, elastic deflection, and wear are considered in the model. Predictions of the ratio of hydrodynamic load support to asperity load support are made for a face seal sealing a low viscosity liquid where some contact does occur and surface roughness is important. The hydrodynamic lubrication is caused by circumferential surface waviness on the seal faces. Waviness is caused by initial out of flatness or any of the various distortions that occur on seal ring faces in operation. The equilibrium solution to the problem yields one dimensional hydrodynamic and asperity pressure distributions, mean film thickness, elastic deflection, and friction for a given load on the seal faces. The solution is found numerically. It is shown that the fraction of hydrodynamic load support depends on many parameters including the waviness amplitude, number of waves around the seal, face width, ring stiffness, and most importantly, surface roughness. For the particular seal examined the fraction of load support would be small for the amount of waviness expected in this seal. However, if the surface roughness were lower, almost complete lift-off is possible. The results of the analysis show why the initial friction and wear rates in mechanical face seals may vary widely; the fraction of hydrodynamic load support depends on the roughness and waviness which are not necessarily controlled. Finally, it is shown how such initial waviness effects disappear as the surface profile is altered by wear. This may take a long or short time, depending on the initial amount of hydrodynamic load support, but unless complete liftoff is achieved under all operating conditions, the effects of initial waviness will vanish in time for steady state conditions. Practical implications are drawn for selecting some seal parameters to enhance initial hydrodynamic load support without causing significant leakage.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.