An experimental study is presented with the main objective of understanding the hydrodynamic behavior of a tapered-land thrust bearing with fixed geometry. The experimental results were obtained using an original test rig designed at the “Institut Pprime.” Extensive instrumentation applied to the thrust bearing allows a precise evaluation of various characteristics such as the temperature, the film thickness and the friction torque. The results are in good agreement with the findings of other surveys in the literature. However, large differences between the measured parameters were observed from one pad to another. The authors demonstrate that this is due to the imperfections on the active surface, produced during machining. For a better understanding of the influence of irregularities in the flatness, the test was repeated with a thrust bearing manufactured using a high-precision surface polishing process. Experimental results with respect to the real geometry of the bearings were presented with both processes being compared. Interesting features, such as hot spots and a pressure peak, were identified on the pad at different supply temperatures and inlet pressures. This experimental study significantly advances the comprehension of the hydrodynamic behavior of tapered-land thrust bearings.

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