This paper presents an overview of a finite-element-method (FEM) approach for the calculation of the dynamic stiffness of circular, externally pressurized gas thrust bearings with a nonuniform clearance. Some observations are made about the characteristic behavior of gas bearings subject to dynamic loading. The primary emphasis of this paper, however, is the development and qualification of a test apparatus and the necessary test techniques for measuring dynamic stiffness up to 250 N/μm at frequencies up to 2000 Hz. A thorough, experimental verification of the FEM model is reserved for a later paper.

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