A methodology has been developed for the design and construction of simple foil thrust bearings intended for parametric performance testing and low marginal costs, supporting continued development of oil-free turbomachinery. A bearing backing plate is first machined and surface-ground to produce flat and parallel faces. Partial-arc slots needed to retain the foil components are then machined into the plate by wire electrical discharge machining. Slot thicknesses achievable by a single wire pass are appropriate to accommodate the practical range of foil thicknesses, leaving a small clearance in this hinged joint to permit limited motion. The backing plate is constructed from a nickel-based superalloy (Inconel 718) to allow heat treatment of the entire assembled bearing, as well as to permit high-temperature operation. However, other dimensionally stable materials, such as precipitation-hardened stainless steel, can also be used for this component depending on application. The top and bump foil blanks are cut from stacks of annealed Inconel X-750 foil by the same EDM process. The bump foil has several azimuthal slits separating it into five individual bump strips. This configuration allows for variable bump spacing, which helps to accommodate the effects of the varying surface velocity, thermal crowning, centrifugal dishing, and misalignment. Rectangular tabs on the foil blanks fit into the backing plate slots.

For this application, a rather traditional set of conventionally machined dies is selected, and bump foil blanks are pressed into the dies for forming. This arrangement produces a set of bump foil dies for foil thrust bearings that provide for relatively inexpensive fabrication of various bump configurations, and employing methods and features from the public domain.

This work was done by Brian Edmonds and Christopher DellaCorte of Glenn Research Center and Brian Dykas of Case Western Reserve University. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Mechanics/Machinery category.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18397-1.