In this numerical study of the approximations that led Reynolds to the formulation of classical Lubrication Theory, we compare results from (1) the full Navier-Stokes equations, (2) a lubrication theory relative to the “natural,” i.e., bipolar, coordinate system of the geometry that neglects fluid inertia, and (3) the classical Reynolds Lubrication Theory that neglects both fluid inertia and film curvature. By applying parametric continuation techniques, we then estimate the Reynolds number range of validity of the laminar flow assumption of classical theory. The study demonstrates that both the Navier-Stokes and the “bipolar lubrication” solutions converge monotonically to results from classical Lubrication Theory, one from below and the other from above. Furthermore the oil-film force is shown to be invariant with Reynolds number in the range 0 < R < Rc for conventional journal bearing geometry, where Rc is the critical value of the Reynolds number at first bifurcation. A similar conclusion also holds for the off-diagonal components of the bearing stiffness matrix, while the diagonal components are linear in the Reynolds number, in accordance with the small perturbation theory of DiPrima and Stuart.

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