The contacts of adjacent balls in a retainerless bearing are subjected to the zero entrainment velocity (ZEV). The existence of an effective elastohydrodynamic lubrication (EHL) film between contacts running under ZEV conditions has long been proven experimentally. However, the classical EHL theory predicts a zero film thickness under ZEV conditions. Mechanisms, such as the thermal viscosity wedge effect and immobile film theory, have been proposed to tentatively explain the phenomenon. However, detailed numerical results are needed to provide theoretical evidence for such film formations. This paper aims to simulate, based on the viscosity wedge mechanism, the film formation of EHL point contacts under ZEV conditions. Complete numerical solutions have been successfully obtained. The results show that the thermal viscosity wedge induces a concave film profile, instead of a parallel film (Hertzian) as postulated by some previous researchers. By the simulation solver developed, the variation of film thickness with loads, oil supply conditions and ellipticity parameters have been investigated. Some unique lubrication behaviors under ZEV conditions are demonstrated. Furthermore, preliminary quantitative comparisons with the latest optical EHL experiments are finished. Both results are in good correlation.
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