This study presents the design and development of a new hydrodynamic thrust bearing test rig with a novel (patent pending) hydrodynamic pressure feedback bearing alignment control system. The bearing alignment system maintains even distribution of thrust load across the bearing thrust pads using active hydrodynamic pressure as input to manipulate bearing orientation with stepper motors. The test rig is used to conduct performance evaluation of fixed geometry hydrodynamic thrust bearings with variable taper depths. The influence of helical taper angle, rotational speed, and applied load on key performance characteristics including minimum oil film thickness (MOFT), hydrodynamic pressure distribution, and bearing temperature is presented and analyzed. A numerical model based on the Reynolds equation is used to support the experimental results obtained. Trends in performance established by the numerical analysis show mutually agreeable results compared to experimental data. The average percent deviation of the experimentally gathered change in MOFT as load is increased with respect to the numerically predicted values is 24%. Comparison of experimental to numerical pressure distribution data shows an overall average percent deviation of 32%.

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