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Hydrodynamic Lubrication of Floating Valve Plate in an Axial Piston Pump

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posted on 10.06.2019 by David W Richardson

The valve plate/cylinder block interface in an axial piston pump is often subject to extreme pressures, which can cause wear of the valve plate and ultimately, failure of the pump. The purposes of this study were to: a) experimentally investigate the film thickness generated between a floating valve plate and cylinder block in situ using proximity probes, b) develop a model which can predict the motion, film thickness and pressures of the floating valve plate and corroborate with experimental results, c) investigate surface pockets to provide additional lubricant at the valve plate interface by measuring the flow velocities and cavitation areas in a thrust washer bearing, d) numerically investigate surface modifications of the floating valve plate to observe any changes in lubricant pressure, temperature, cavitation, or valve plate deformation. Two different test rigs were designed, developed and used to investigate the performance of axial piston pumps and surface pockets. The axial piston pump test rig (APTR) was designed to operate and measure the steady state conditions of an axial piston pump. The APTR utilizes three non-contact proximity probes to measure the valve plate motion and film thickness between the cylinder block at various speeds and pressures. A thrust washer test rig (TWTR) was developed to measure the cavitation areas and flow velocities of lubricant in a pocketed thrust washer using μPIV. Through a novel interpolation approach, the depths of the micro-particles in the bearing pocket were determined using an analytical model. Using this approach, the μPIV measured 2D velocity field was employed to develop a 3D velocity field, which illustrates the fluid motion inside a pocketed thrust bearing at various speeds and viscosities. A dynamic lubrication model was developed using the thermal Reynolds equation augmented with the JFO boundary condition and the energy equation to determine the pressure, cavitation regions and temperature of the lubricant at the valve plate cylinder block interface. The lubricating pressures were then coupled with the equations of motion of the floating valve plate to develop a dynamic lubrication model. The stiffness and damping coefficients of the floating valve plate system used in the dynamic lubrication model were determined using a parametric study. The elastic deformation of the valve plate was also considered using the influence coefficient matrix approach. The experimental and analytical motion of the valve plate were then corroborated and found to be in good agreement. 4 and 8 pocket designs were then added as surface modifications to the floating valve plate in the dynamic lubrication model. The addition of surface modifications improved the lubricating conditions at the valve plate/cylinder block interface and resulted in increased minimum film thicknesses and lowered lubricant temperatures at the same operating conditions.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Farshid Sadeghi

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Charles Krousgrill

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Steven Wereley

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Andrea Vacca



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