Femtosecond laser surface micro-texturing has emerged as a promising technology to enhance the tribological properties of different kinds of electromechanical devices. In this research paper, we have exploited the intrinsic flexibility and micrometric accuracy of femtosecond laser ablation to realize complex micro-structural modifications on the surface of a laboratory prototype of a steel thrust bearing (un-tapered) pad. The Bruggeman Texture Hydrodynamics theory (BTH) is employed for the design of the anisotropic and non-uniform texture maximizing the thrust load of the pad prototype. The preliminary experimental results, reported in this work, show that the non-uniform micro-texture largely affects the friction characteristics of the contact. In particular, in agreement with the BTH predictions, the tribo-system shows friction properties that are strongly sensitive to the direction of the sliding speed, as a consequence of the micro-fluid dynamics which are designed to occur only in a specific sliding direction. We suggest that the joint action of virtual prototyping (BTH lubrication theory) and ultrafast laser micro-prototyping can lead to unconventional and impressive results in terms of enhanced or tailored contact mechanics properties of the generic lubricated tribopair.
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