Abstract The study on theoretically estimating variable axial clearance in a medium or high pressure external gear pump is rare yet, thus a dynamics model for determining such a clearance was established in the paper based on an analysis on forced acted on a floating axial sleeve (side plate), which consisted of the pressure in squeezed film, the outside compensated forces on the sleeve, the pressure in trapped oil and the working oil pressure. Then variable axial clearances were iteratively estimated from the model in a meshing cycle by using the Runge-Kutta method. Subsequently, an analysis on the influence of compression ratio, different distributions of working oil pressure and trapped oil pressure on the clearance value was conducted. The results show that the axial clearance is about 0.13 mm in all the cases, and it is consistent with the actual value. The greater the total force of oil pressure due to the different distributions of operating oil pressure at the same compression ratio, the smaller the axial clearance. As the other conditions remain unchanged, the higher the compression ratio, the smaller the axial clearance. Moreover the operating oil pressure and compression ratio have a significant impact on the clearance, but the trapped oil pressure just has slight effect on it. Generally, in a medium or high pressure external gear pump the axial clearance really shows less variable, so that the mean value of the variable clearances can be applied in design to simplify subsequent calculations.
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