The flow in the tip clearance of a hard disk drive model has been investigated with laser Doppler techniques. The flow was driven by co-rotating disks inside a cylindrical enclosure in order to simulate a hard disk drive used for data storage devices. The main focus of the investigation was on the understanding of complex flow behavior in the narrow gap region between the disk tip and the outer shroud wall, which is supposed to be one of the causes of flow induced vibration of the disks. Experiments in the past have never been able to examine this region because of the lack of the spatial resolution of sensors in the highly three-dimensional flow in the region. In the present investigation, the flow velocity in the tip clearance region was measured with optical measurement techniques for the first time. The flow behaviors are investigated for four different conditions with two different gap widths and two different shapes of the shroud walls with and without ribs. The velocity measurements were taken both with conventional laser Doppler velocimetry and using a laser Doppler velocity profile sensor with a spatial resolution in the micrometer range. The circumferential velocity component was measured along the axial and radial directions. The steep gradients of the circumferential mean velocity in both directions were successfully captured with a high spatial resolution, which was achieved by the velocity profile sensor. From the supplementary investigations, the existence of vortex structures in the tip clearance region was confirmed with a dependence on the shroud gap width and the shroud shape. The interactions of the two boundary layers seem to be the source of the complex three-dimensional behaviors of the flow in this region.
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