Product Development: Rescale existing turbomachine design vs full design process

When deciding on a new product line, manufacturers of turbomachines and their engineering teams must often decide whether to rescale a product that they already manufacture or to begin a full design process for a completely new machine. For example, a producer of 5 MW axial turbines wants to start manufacturing 10 MW turbines, does it make sense to create a brand new design from scratch or to simply scale up the 5 MW turbine they already produce to a similar 10 MW version? To answer this question, many considerations have to be taken into account, the general answer however is, that it is almost always a better idea to start a new design.

Improved Design Technology

Many manufacturers wrongly believe that by simply scaling their current product that they will save not only on design costs, but that they can leverage their existing manufacturing capabilities to stamp out a similar product. What is not factored in however is the progress of design technology and theory since their original machine was first conceptualized. The result from a simple scaling process will simply be a less optimized and efficient machine for any use as compared to a new configuration using the latest in design software. Increasing software sophistication and computing power are constantly pushing the boundaries of efficiency while minimizing operating costs. Simply put, your competitors will have designed a superior product compared to yours.

BladeProfiling-Turbomachinery-Design-Software

        AxSTREAM 3D Blade Design Software

Improved Materials

When was your current machine designed? Many older machines were created using materials that by today’s standards are simply not capable of operating at the extreme conditions  (mostly temperatures) required today to attain the energy efficiency requirements set up by ever increasing regulations. Depending on materials used, the optimal blading structure, bearings, etc. geometries would be significantly unique. If one were to simply scale up their current product, they would either be using old materials or have inefficiently designed machine components for a different material. In either case, their scaled machine will be inferior to a configuration that was conceptualized and optimized from scratch.

Scaling Factors

Another very significant aspect of machine resizing is that it is not a straight forward process; if you want to double your power generation in a turbine for example you are not going to be doubling the blade size or mean diameter, for example, even when considering the same boundary conditions (inlet pressure and temperature, as well as, outlet pressure, rotation speed, and so on). For each specific set of conditions, fluid, rotation speed, mass flow rate, etc. a unique flow occurs inside the different blades. Changing one parameter will lead to changes in the flow and therefore result in inefficiencies, as it is what happens in off-design conditions (the machine is not operating at its maximum performance). This is why flow similarity parameters become relevant.

Machine Purpose and Type

One of the obvious questions to ask is, what is the purpose of my new machine and how much larger (or smaller) will I need it to be? If the new machine is intended for use with a completely different fluid, a new design will be optimal as different fluids interact in unique ways with varied rotor and stator configurations.

The machine type that you are considering is also critical to the decision. Different turbomachines do not scale in similar fashion with increase in size. For instance, radial turbines are usually not as efficient as axial turbines when one starts to approach the 2 MW range. In this instance the ideal solution is for a complete redesign since a smaller scale version that the manufacturer may have had would not be configured to operate at higher power ranges efficiently.

 

Re-inventing the wheel (or perhaps our education system)?

I hope everyone is having a great week. I wanted to write about our education system, as it relates to Turbomachinery, and perhaps some challenges that educators / students face, and some ideas for how things can be improved.

As computation technologies have evolved over the last 30-40 years, it seems that a large number of education institutions are still behind.

Part of my job at SoftInWay, is to make sure that local  & global Universities involved in Turbomachinery have the most advanced software tools, so that the students graduating from undergraduate, as well as Masters and PhD level programs, have some kind of relevant skills to develop / optimize Turbomachinery, as well as know how to use relevant software tools.

From talking to Academia from different countries, it seems that professors (perhaps due to bureaucracy of their positions) are often faced with several challenges / decisions:

1. No budget for software tools thus forced to use free tools

2. Desire to create their own software, to eventually spin off and start a company

3. Lack of deep technical program, thus only picking macro topics as they relate to turbomachinery as general thermodynamics, etc. (which is important also).

What’s the problem with all of these approaches: When students graduate, and want to go into the field of Turbomachinery, a large portion of these students think that “Turbomachinery Design” can be done with CFD.

Looking at the last 5-10 years of CFD as it relates to Turbomachinery, people have been in several “camps”, with the most known names (such as products from Ansys, or CD Adapco (now owned by Siemens), Numeca, and some free open source CFD codes.  Additionally, there has been a plethora of free or academic codes written by 100s of wide-eyed graduates students in hoping of making the next big software company.

Why does this cripple the education system, industry and the general concept of innovation? First of all, in all of these packages, you are going on the assumption that you already have a geometry of the turbomachinery and generally know what the machine looks like. Granted, some advertise that by “partnering” with other vendors they can do 1D or inverse design, when looking at these options closely, they are still very weak.   At the same time, there are lessor known CFD packages (from example our Turbomachinery specific CFD module AxCFD that we offer) that while hasn’t been aggressively marketed, comes at 30% of the cost, and has not only faster computation speed, but is fully integrated in a complete turbomachinery design platform. While this is a great option for students, very few know about it, and we are always stuck with a thought “people need to understand the complete process of design, not just CFD, so let’s focus on teaching that, and sharing that message”.

In addition to working with Universities, another part of my job at SoftInWay is hiring, so what have i learned from looking at 1000s of resumes from masters and PhD students?

If you start to dig deeply, about what candidates have learned about turbomachinery design, how well do they understand, for example, compressor aerodynamics, or gas turbine cooling, quite often the answers come up short. This creates a steep learning curve, not just for our company, but also for major manufacturers and service providers.

We believe, that instead of the next generation of students, trying to re-invent the wheel, and spend their 2,3,4,5,6 years of education  on equations and writing code, for a problem that has been solved, they should use a holistic approach, to advance, Power Generation, Transportation, Propulsion and Advance the clean energy space.

We have created a range of free resources for students in an online university format (learn.softinway.com) and encourage everyone to dig deeply, and together we can create a greener world, for the future generations.

Additionally, our turbomachinery development platform AxSTREAM (r), is the only platform in the world which is wholly integrated and developed in-house, including thermodynamic cycle design, 1D,2D,3D turbomachinery design, analysis and optimization, rotor dynamics and bearing design, stress analysis, advanced optimization and visualization, etc.

** Feel free to fact check this by looking at your current software simulation tools, and see how many modules or features or “tools” are borrowed from other companies.  How can one ever learn and understand how things work and talk to each other, if knowledge is not developed, but rather borrowed.

If  you are a student, or a professor at a college or university, and are interested in improving your turbomachinery program, and giving your students the extra skills (fundamentals and software), to really develop innovations, please write me a message !

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Free Engineering Webinar – November 12!

Innovation Strategy: How to Leverage Turbomachinery Reverse Engineering

SoftInWay will be hosting its next free webinar on Thursday, November 12! This webinar will delve into the complicated world of reverse engineering and demonstrate the best methods and tools.

Reverse engineering of Turbomachinery is extremely important for the partial replacement of turbines or compressors that have operated for many years, especially for owners, operators, and non-OEM service providers.

Documentation for a significant amount of these machines is not available due to different reasons, thus replication/reproduction becomes costly and time consuming. In the owner/operator scenario, one of the options is to buy new, modern machinery (as a replacement), but this is often significantly more expensive than performing overhauls & optimization of the flowpath, while maintaining the casing and other components. For OEMs looking to study a competitor’s machine, things become even more complicated.

SoftInWay’s turbomachinery software platform, AxSTREAM, has a unique capabilities for extracting turbomachinery geometry and profiles from scanned data, thus streamlining the reverse engineering, benchmarking, duplication, and optimization process. Additionally, by leveraging the extensive experience of SoftInWay’s 60+ person engineering team, customers are able to benefit from our techniques and software for different types of overhaul, rerates, cycle changes, and other sophisticated projects.

The webinar will include:

  1. An introduction to the reverse engineering of turbomachinery including its origins and modern trends
  2. The significance of special software and specialized experience for reverse engineering of turbomachinery
  3. Information on how to leverage reverse engineering and modern software to improve existing turbomachinery performance
  4. Examples of reverse engineering-based improvement, innovation, and modification

Who should attend:

  1. Engineering professionals performing or involved in reverse engineering projects
  2. Engineering professionals working in the mechanical, aerospace, automotive, marine, or power generation industries seeking to renovate or improve existing turbomachinery equipment
  3. Engineering professionals working in turbomachinery operation who want to renovate or improve their equipment performance
  4. Engineering students looking for comprehensive and state-of-the-art approaches for turbomachinery reverse engineering

Register for this webinar by clicking the link below! Can’t attend? Register and we will make sure you receive a recording of the presentation.

 

Optimizing Your Power Plant Redesign

Our next webinar will be held on February 26th and cover the best industry practices when it comes to power plant redesign. The constant increase of global energy consumption and rising cost of fuel require higher energy generating capacity with a simultaneous improvement of the efficiency of energy conversion processes. The greatest effect of improving the performance of existing power plants and other energy systems can be obtained by modifying the thermodynamic cycles of these plants.

The Kendall Cogeneration Station in Cambridge, MA

Continue reading “Optimizing Your Power Plant Redesign”

What’s Going to Happen to the Service Market?

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-04-29/ge-said-to-covet-alstom-business-servicing-electric-power-plants
Source: Business Week, “GE Said to Covet Alstom Business Servicing Power Plants”

GE considers buying Alstom but so is Siemens. What’s going to happen to the service market?

Currently Alstom covers 25% of the world’s service market and is the world’s third largest provider of equipment and services for power generation. (Source: Alstom)

Power plants are aging as we speak, so the service market is attracting the attention from different service providers.
Continue reading “What’s Going to Happen to the Service Market?”

Sustainable Turbomachinery

iStock_000015544357MediumThis past Tuesday was the 44th celebrated Earth Day. On Earth Day, more than 100 countries join together to literally stop and smell the roses, appreciate the splendor and beauty of Mother Nature and take extra efforts to be more conscientious for our shared home.

Turbomachinery, though not always the first thing that comes to mind when speaking on the subject of green technology, plays an important role toward our efforts for a more sustainable environment.
Continue reading “Sustainable Turbomachinery”

Designing Supercritical CO2 Power Plants

The supercritical CO2 power cycle is one of the most promising power technologies. It is not by chance though, because carbon dioxide (CO2) has a unique combination of attributes, such as a low critical temperature, an environmentally natural origin, a high standard of safety and a low cost. Carbon dioxide is also thoroughly studied, therefore there is sufficient information surrounding it. But on the other hand, the supercritical CO2 cycle has a high energy conversion factor, such as high thermal efficiency.
Continue reading “Designing Supercritical CO2 Power Plants”

Which gas turbine is the best for my combined cycle power plant conversion?

combinedcyclesThe goal of this test case is to find the gas turbine necessary to produce 58 MW of total net power for the conversion of a steam turbine to a combined gas-steam cycle while providing the highest level of cycle thermal efficiency.

The exhaust gases from the gas turbine are used to heat up steam through three HRSGs (Heat Recovery Steam Generators) in series. The steam is then used in the studied steam turbine which is comprised of two “cylinders” in series.
Continue reading “Which gas turbine is the best for my combined cycle power plant conversion?”

Retrofitting – Why Turbine Seals Are Important

Wreckage of 330 MW Turbine-generator from LP rotor burst
Wreckage of 330 MW Turbine-generator from LP rotor burst

Whether it is caused by a “poor” design, extreme operating conditions or even too much deterioration, turbine failures can occur. In order to help prevent these it is necessary to perform regular maintenance on all parts of the machine and control the conditions at which the turbine is operating at any moment in time as well as performing repairs and retrofits to keep the pieces in good shape.

One way to improve steam turbine efficiency is through better seals. However, when designed incorrectly they can create significant damages and performance losses in the turbine. Sealing steam turbine rotors presents several challenges. Any gap between the rotor and the packing lets the steam escape, dropping the pressure and wasting energy. If the packing ring is too tight, however, the rotor will rub, which creates localized hot spots. Continue reading “Retrofitting – Why Turbine Seals Are Important”

Retrofitting – When Steam Turbines Age

Steam-Turbine
Steam-Turbine

Statistics show that as a power plant reaches its rated lifetime, the number of its forced outages begins to grow substantially, and its reliability and availability fall.

Simultaneously, in the operation process the turbine’s efficiency lowers more and more, even though it is partially restored at overhauls.

It is possible to find steam turbines that have successfully operated for 40 – 50 years or more. Lately, power equipment lifetime extension has substantially gained in its scope and acquired much more serious significance. Continue reading “Retrofitting – When Steam Turbines Age”