A Basic Guide to Reverse Engineering

Reverse Engineering, or back engineering, is a term used for the process of examining an object to see how it works in order to duplicate or enhance the object when you don’t have the original drawings/models or manufacturing information about an object.

There are two major reasons reverse engineering is used:

  1.  create replacement parts to maintain the function of older machines;
  2.  improve the function of existing machines while meeting all existing constraints.

 

Figure 1 Uses of Reverse Engineering
Figure 1: Uses of Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering is extremely important in turbomachinery for replacement parts in turbines or compressors which have been operating for many years. Documentation, reports and drawings for a significant amount of these machines is not available due to a variety of reasons, therefore keeping these important machines running is a challenge. One of the options to deal with this issue is to buy the modern analogue of the machine, which is not always feasible due to economic constraints or that there is no replacement available.  Reverse engineering of the worn out parts might be the best option in the majority of cases.

In any case, the process to recovery original geometry of the object is the first and major step for all reverse engineering projects, whether you want just replacing/replicate parts or proceed with an upgrade to the machine.

Basic Steps to Any Reverse Engineering Project

Any reverse engineering process consist of the following phases:

  1. Data collection: The object needs to be taken apart and studied.  Starting in ancient times, items were disassembles and careful hand measurements were taken to replicate items.  Today, we employ advanced laser scanning tool and 3D modeling techniques to record the required information in addition to any existing documentation, drawings or reports which exists.
  2. Data processing: Once you have the data, it needs to be converted to useful information.  Computers are essential for this stage as it can involve the processing of billions of coordinates of data converting this information into 2D drawings or 3D models by utilizing CAD systems.
  3. Data modeling: This step was not available in beginning of reverse engineering. People just tried to replicate and manufacture a similar object based on the available data. Nowadays, engineers can utilize digital modelling, which represents all details of the geometrical and operational conditions of the object through a range of operation regimes. Typically, performance analysis and structural evaluation are done at this stage, by utilizing thermo/aerodynamic analytical tool, including 3D CFD and FEA approaches.
  4. Improvement/redesign of the object: If required, this is the step where innovations can be created to improve the effectiveness of the object based on the collected data about the object’s geometry and operation.
  5. Manufacturing: After the part is been modeled and meets the design requirements, the object can be manufactured to replace a worn out part, or to provide increased functionality.
Reverse Engineering in Today’s World

It very common to find the situations where reverse engineering is necessary for parts replacement, particularly with turbomachinery – steam or gas turbines, compressors and pumps. Many of these machines have been in operation for many years and experienced damaging effects of use over that time – like water droplets and solid particles erosion, corrosion, foreign objects, and unexpected operating conditions. Besides these expected needed repairs, some other reasons for reverse engineering might arise from a components part failure, as well as part alterations needed due to previous overhauls and re-rates.

All the conditions mentioned above require not only recovering the original geometry but also an understanding of the unit’s history, material properties and current operating conditions.

This article focuses on reverse engineering objects which have experienced significant change in their geometry due to the challenges of long term operation and their shape could not be directly recovered by traditional methods – like direct measurement or laser scanning.  Pictures below are examples of such objects – steam turbines blading with significant damage of the airfoils with different causes such as mechanical, water/solid particle erosion, and deposit.

Figure 2 Water droplet erosion on steam turbines long blades
Figure 2: Water droplet erosion on steam turbines long blades
Figure 3 Steam turbine blading with mechanical damage
Figure 3: Steam turbine blading with mechanical damage
Figure 4 Steam turbine control stage nozzles solid particle erosion
Figure 4 Steam turbine control stage nozzles solid particle erosion
Figure 5 Deposits on Rotating Blades
Figure 5: Deposits on Rotating Blades

In the situations shown above, recovering the original geometry may be impossible if an engineer only has the undamaged portion of original part to work with. Which means that relying on undamaged portion of an original part it may be impossible to recover the needed portion due to significant level of damage.

Looking at the eroded turbine blading in Figure 1, recovering these airfoils with sufficient accuracy based on only a scan of the original part, would be very difficult, if not impossible, considering that 1/3 to ½ of the needed profile is wiped out by erosion.

In order to recover the full airfoil shape for turbines / compressors / or pumps blading, the information about flow conditions – angles, velocities, pressure, temperature – is required to recreate the airfoils profiles and a complete 3D blade.

In many cases with significant blading damage, the information obtained from aero/thermodynamic analysis is the only source of the information available for a designer and the only possible way to recover turbomachinery blading. In fact, in such a situation, the new variant of the airfoils is developed based on aero/thermodynamic information and by considering the remaining portion of the part, which would be the most accurate representation of the original variant. A structural evaluation should also be performed for any recovered part to ensure blading structural reliability in addition to the aero/thermodynamic study.

All of these engineering steps require employment of dedicated engineering design and analysis tools, which can perform:

  • – Accurate modelling of the turbo machinery flow path,
  • – 1D/2D aero/thermodynamic analysis and in some cases 3D CFD,
  • – Profiling and 3D staking of the blading,
  • – Structural evaluation, including 3D FEA tools.

SoftInWay’s team offers a comprehensive set of turbomachinery design and analysis tools within the integrated AxSTREAM® platform, which covers many steps, required for reverse engineering activities.

In Figure 6 below, a process diagram shows how AxSTREAM® products are used for reverse engineering.

Process Diagram
Figure 6: Process diagram of AxSTREAM® products use in reverse engineering

After data collection, most of the geometry recovering steps are processed by AxSTREAM® modules:

  • AxSLICE™ to process original geometry data, available from the scanned cloud of points.
  • AxSTREAM® solver to perform 1D/2D aero/thermodynamic
  • AxSTREAM® profiler to recover profile shape and 3D airfoil stacking.
  • AxSTRESS™ for structural evaluation and 3D design.
  • AxCFD™ for detailed aerodynamic analysis and performance evaluation.

Geometry recovered in this way is now ready to be used to develop detailed 3D CAD models and 2D drawings for further technological and/or manufacturing processing.

As an example of such capabilities, Figure 7 demonstrates the reverse engineering process for the 1000 mm last stage of 200 MW steam turbine with significantly damaged blades due to water erosion.

It is possible to recognize and extract the profile angles with a specialized tool – AxSLICE™, obtain slices on the desired number of sections and insert the extracted geometric data to an AxSTREAM® project.

200 MW steam turbine water eroded 1000mm last stage blade reverse engineering process using AxSTREAM and upgraded variant of the blade
Figure 7: 200 MW steam turbine water eroded 1000mm last stage blade reverse engineering process using AxSTREAM® and upgraded variant of the blade.

The AxSTREAM® platform can provide seamless reverse engineering process for all components of complex turbomachinery.

Meet an Expert! 

Boris Frolov Dr. Boris Frolov is the Director of Engineering at SoftInWay, Inc. and manages all of the turbomachinery consulting activities. He has over 35 years of experience in steam/gas turbines design, analysis and testing.

Earning his PhD in turbine stages optimization with controlled reaction, he is an expert in steam turbines aerodynamics and long buckets aeromechanics. Dr. Frolov has over 50 publications and 7 registered patents and he shares this vast knowledge as a lecturer in steam turbines, gas dynamics and thermodynamics for students studying power engineering sciences. Prior to joining SoftInWay, he was the engineering manager at GE Steam Turbines.

Study of a Supercritical CO2 Power Cycle Application in a Cogeneration Power Plant

This is an excerpt from a technical paper, presented at the ASME Power & Energy Conference in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania USA and  written by Oleksii Rudenko, Leonid Moroz, and  Maksym Burlaka.  Follow the link at the end of the post to read the full study! 

Introduction

Supercritical CO2 operating in a closed-loop recompression Brayton cycle has the potential of equivalent or higher cycle efficiency versus supercritical or superheated steam cycles at similar temperatures [2]. The current applications of the supercritical CO2 Brayton cycle are intended for the electricity production only and the questions which are related to the building of CHP plants based on Supercritical CO2 technology were not considered yet.

CHP is the concurrent production of electricity or mechanical power and useful thermal energy (heating and/or cooling) from a single source of energy. CHP is a type of distributed generation, which, unlike central station generation, is located at located at or near the point of consumption. Instead of purchasing electricity from a local utility and then burning fuel in a furnace or boiler to produce thermal energy, consumers use CHP to improve efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For optimal efficiency, CHP systems typically are designed and sized to meet the users’ thermal base load demand. CHP is not a single technology but a suite of technologies that can use a variety of fuels to generate electricity or power at the point of use, allowing the heat that would normally be lost in the power generation process to be recovered to provide needed heating and/or cooling. This allows for much greater improvement in overall fuel efficiency, therefore resulting in lower costs and CO2 emissions. CHP’s potential for energy saving is vast.

It should be noted that CHP may not be widely recognized outside industrial, commercial, institutional, and utility circles, but it has quietly been providing highly efficient electricity and process heat to some of the most vital industries, largest employers, urban centers, and campuses. While the traditional method of separately producing useful heat and power has a typical combined efficiency of 45 %, CHP systems can operate at efficiency levels as high as 80 % (Figure 1) [1].

Figure 1 - CHP Process Flow Diagram
Figure 1. CHP Process Flow Diagram.

Taking into consideration the high efficiency of fuel energy utilization of CHP plants and the high potential of the supercritical CO2 technology, the latter should be also considered as the base of future CHP plants. The comparison with traditional Steam based CHP plants also should be performed.

The study of CHP plant concepts were performed with the use of the heat balance calculation tool AxCYCLE™ [3].

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Role of AxSTREAM® in Radial Turbine Design

Radial turbines are quite popular for turbochargers and micro-gas turbines. They can also be found in compact power sources like in auxiliary power units of aircrafts. In short, they are suitable in power generation applications where expansion ratios are high and mass flow rates are relatively small. In a radial turbine, the flow enters radially and exits either axially or radially depending on whether it is an inflow or outflow type radial turbine. The most commonly used type of radial turbine is a radial-inflow turbine, in which the working fluid flows from a larger radius to a smaller radius. A centripetal turbine is very similar in appearance to the centrifugal compressor, but the flow direction is reverse. Figure 1 shows the radial-inflow turbine on the left and radial-outflow turbine on the right.

Radial-inflow turbine on the left; Radial-outflow turbine on the right
Figure 1: Radial-inflow turbine on the left; Radial-outflow turbine on the right

Nowadays, the popularity of radial-outflow turbines, in which the flow moves in the opposite direction (from the center to the periphery), is growing. With recent advancement in waste heat recovery applications, there has been a renewed interest in this type of turbines. These radial-outflow turbines are most commonly used in applications based on organic Rankine cycles (ORC).

The radial-outflow turbine design was first invented by the Ljungström brothers in 1912, however it was rarely used for a number of reasons. One of which was related to the decrease of turbine-specific work due to the increase of the peripheral velocity from inlet to outlet while expanding the vapor. Another reason was the usage of steam as a working fluid. It is known from thermodynamics that the expansion of steam is characterized by high enthalpy drops, high volumetric flows and high volumetric ratios. Thus, a significant number of stages are needed to convert the enthalpy drop of the fluid into mechanical energy.

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2.4 Flow Path Elements Macro Modelling

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Key Symbols
Indexes and Other Signs
Abbreviations

Macromodels are dependencies of the “black box” type with a reduced number of internal relations. This is most convenient to create such dependence in the form of power polynomials. Obtaining formal macromodels (FMM) as a power polynomial based on the analysis of the results of numerical experiments conducted with the help of the original mathematical models (OMM).

Therefore, the problem of formal macro modelling includes two subtasks:

1. The FMM structure determining.
2. The numerical values of the FMM parameters (polynomial coefficients) finding.

As is known, the accuracy of the polynomial and the region of its adequacy greatly depend on its structure and order. At the same time, obtaining polynomials of high degrees requires analysis of many variants of the investigated flow path elements, which leads to significant computer resources cost and complicates the process of calculating the coefficients of the polynomial.

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Turbojets – Basics and Off-design Simulation

The Brayton cycle is the fundamental constant pressure gas heating cycle used by all air-breathing jet engines. The Brayton cycle can be portrayed by a diagram of temperature vs. specific entropy, or T–S diagram, to visualize changes to temperature and specific entropy during a thermodynamic process or cycle. Figure 1 shows this ideal cycle as a black line.  However, in the real world, the compression and expansion processes are never isentropic, and there is always a certain pressure loss in the combustor.  The real Brayton cycle looks more like the blue line in Figure 1.

Ts_Real_Brayton_Cycle
Figure 1 T-S diagram for ideal and real Brayton cycle
(Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ts_Real_Brayton_Cycle_2.png)

The four stages of this cycle are described as:

1-2: isentropic compression

2-3: constant pressure heating

3-4: isentropic expansion

4-0: constant pressure cooling (absent in open cycle gas turbines)

The most basic form of a jet engine is a turbojet engine. Figures 2a and 2b provide the basic design of a turbojet engine. It consists of a gas turbine that produces hot, high-pressure gas, but has zero net shaft power output. A nozzle converts the thermal energy of the hot, high-pressure gas at the outlet of the turbine into a high-kinetic-energy exhaust stream. The high momentum and high exit pressure of the exhaust stream result in a forward thrust on the engine. Read More

Design of a Competitive Axial Turbine for Downsized Turbocharged IC Engine

The following article was written by Lorenzo Baietta a student at Brunel University London and presented at the International CAE Conference Poster Competition in Vicenza, Italy. Lorenzo’s work placed 6th overall and 1st among articles written by a single author. We’re thrilled for Lorenzo and excited to continue supporting universities and young engineers all over the world. 

The continue research for engine efficiency improvements is one of the major challenges of the last decades, leading to the design of highly downsized boosted engines. Among other boosting strategies, turbocharging allows to recover part of the exhaust gas energy, improving the overall efficiency of the power unit. However, turbochargers lead to less responsive power units because of the widely known turbo-lag effect due to the inertia of the rotating parts in the system. With engine manufacturers testing different concepts to reduce this effect, for both commercial and motorsport applications, the work is about the development of a low inertia turbocharger axial turbine, evaluating pro and cons of several design solution. The idea is to initially evaluate the performance (mainly efficiency) difference between prismatic and twisted blades turbine for different size ranges. In fact, as one of the issue of axial turbines compared to radial ones is the production cost, the use of low aspect ratios blades, in such a way to minimize the difference between the use of 3D optimized turbines and prismatic turbines, should allow for more cost-effective solutions to be implemented.

After selecting a specific engine to develop the axial turbine, several CAE techniques were used to verify the idea and to obtain the best possible solution. The OEM turbocharger was 3D scanned, with a blue light technology stereoscopic optical system, to acquire accurate geometry data and calculate several properties. A 1D engine model, calibrated on the dyno, was used to calculate the aerothermal boundary conditions for the design of the turbine every 1000rpm from 1000 to 6000 to have all the required boundary conditions data to design/test the turbine at different engine operating points.

Several turbines were preliminary designed and optimized with AxSTREAM® and their performances were evaluated considering many parameters, mainly focusing on the reduction of the turbocharger spool-up time. The AxSTREAM® preliminary design module resulted crucial to compare the performance of over 1 million turbines allowing the comparison of the results with different loss models and a wide number on flow boundary conditions and geometrical constraints.

Turbine Design Methodology – Preliminary Design in AxSTREAM

The generated turbine preliminary CAD and the scanned OEM turbine mesh were used along with CAM programs at an external company to estimate the production cost of different solutions. A final turbine design was chosen, among the pre-designed ones, to be validated with generation of complete maps within the AxSTREAM® streamline solver which allowed an initial verification of the suitability of the turbine for the desired application. A further optimization of the results was obtained with increasing precision CFD simulations in the AxSTREAM® Profiling and CFD modules. 2D cascade simulations were used to optimize the stator and rotor airfoils in the Profiling module. Then, in AxCFD™, axisymmetric CFD simulations were run at several operating points to quickly investigate the suitability of the generated design for the whole power unit operating range. To conclude, full 3D CFD and FEA simulations were conducted to obtain more accurate values and complete the design process of the turbine and finally compare the data of the newly designed turbine and the OEM one.

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Tidal Energy

If you’re looking for clean, free energy… a song comes to mind.

Tide after tide.
If you flow I will catch – I’ll be waiting.
Tide after tide.

With no particular link to Cyndi Lauper, waves just want to have fun so let’s allow them to do so while catching their drift as a potential energy source using tidal turbines.

Introduction:

Wave energy is a form of hydropower used to convert energy obtained from tides into mechanical and/or electrical power. Wave energy is produced when electricity generators are placed on the surface of the ocean. The energy provided is most often used in desalination plants, power plants and water pumps. Energy output is determined by wave height, wave speed, wavelength, and water density.

sea wave during storm
Figure 1 Ocean Waves

How are Tides Generated:

Tidal forces are periodic variations in gravitational attraction exerted by celestial bodies. It is these forces that are responsible for the currents in the world’s oceans. A local, strong attraction on a part of the ocean allied with moving celestial bodies and the rotation of the Earth leads this bulging part of water to meet the adjacent shallower waters of the shoreline which creates the tides.

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Turbine Blade Cooling – An Integrated Approach

It is a well-known fact in the turbomachinery community that the highest temperature achievable at the inlet of the turbine is a critical performance parameter for the turbine. For any given pressure ratio and adiabatic efficiency, the turbine specific work is proportional to the inlet stagnation temperature. Typically, a 1% increase in the turbine inlet temperature can cause a 2-3% increase in the engine output.

Increase in net power output of a gas turbine over a one percentage point rise in turbine inlet temperature
Figure 1 Increase in net power output of a gas turbine over a one percentage point rise in turbine inlet temperature

The major limitation for the maximum achievable value of the turbine inlet temperature comes from the material used for the turbine. The maximum material temperature has to be kept in check for multiple reasons, from the physical integrity to the structural reliability, and resulting temperature needs to be less than the turbine blade material’s maximum temperature.

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Flexible, Fast and High Fidelity Approach to Gas Turbine Unit Part-Load and Off-Design Performance Predictions

Gas turbine (GT) engines are the primary engines of modern aviation. They are also widely used as power propulsion engines for power stations. The specificity of these engines implies they frequently work at off-design/part load modes that occur with:

  1. Different modes of aircrafts:
    1. Ground idle mode
    2. Take off
    3. Maximum continuous mode
    4. Cruising mode
  2. Different ambient conditions
  3. Grid demands (for power generation engines and gas pumping (compressor) stations)

 

Due to the off-design/part load operating conditions, the parameters of the engines might change significantly, which influences not only the engine efficiency, but also the reliable work of the turbine (high temperature at turbine inlet) and compressor (surge zone) at joint operational points. This is why accurate predictions of the gas generator parameters are crucial at every off-design mode.

To define the joint operational point, the compressor and turbine maps which are created for specified ambient conditions can be used. For example, pressure equal 101.3kPa, temperature – 288.15K. Maps method is widely used, relatively simple and allows you to find the needed engine parameters in the shortest time. However, when cooling is present, engine operation at low power modes (ground idle) impede the accurate determination of joint operational conditions based on maps. The significant drawback to the maps based approach is that it does not give the full picture of the physical processes in turbomachine flow paths which is critical for off-design calculations.

Compressor and Turbine Maps
Compressor and Turbine Maps [1]
Utilization of the digital twin concept allows significant increase of the off-design performance calculation accuracy. Use of the digital equivalent of object was introduced in 2003 [2]. Despite this, less 1% of machines that are in use today are modeled with digital twin technology [3]. Utilization of digital twin leads to a significant decrease in time and cost for developing and optimization of an object.

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The Pros and Cons of Wind Energy

Who knew passing wind would be so exhilarating?

Last month we discussed a few basic aspects of wind as a source of clean energy. We showed what wind was, how it forms and where it goes.  Then after going on a tangent about the history of turbines, we showed where on the Earth we could recover the highest amount of wind energy and how this potential changes with altitude. Today’s post offer the pros and cons of wind energy while touching upon several topics discussed in the previous post before diving into the optimal where and when.

Getting into the “What”

With an established worldwide potential of more than 400 TW (20 times more than what the entire human population needs) and a clean, renewable source wind is definitely attractive to the current and future generations. In terms of harvesting it, over 99% percent of wind farms in the USA are located in rural areas with 71% of them in low-income counties. Indeed, the more land is available (and the fewer buildings), the higher the possibility and interest to transform this kinetic energy into mechanical work and then most likely electricity.

Where one would see sporadic turbines on the side of the highway, these stand-alone equipment have begun to turn into actual modules (farms) that can work as an overall unit instead of individual ones. This strategy of creating a network of turbines follows the philosophy of “the Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts”. What this translates into is that by having 20 (arbitrary number) wind turbines working together to determine the best orientation, pitch, etc. of their blades in such a way that it least negatively impacts the downstream units we can produce more energy than if each of them were live-optimized individually (some interesting A.I. work is going into this). This means that the overall system is more efficient at converting energy and therefore it is more cost effective to provide bulk power to the electrical grid. This is similar to the concept in the post on solar energy comparing PV panels and CSP. Read the full post here. 

In terms of power production per wind turbine, the utility-scale ones range from about 100 kW to several MW for the land-based units (Offshore wind turbines are typically larger and produce more power – getting ahead of myself here but check out the figure below for wind potential in Western Europe that clearly showcases coast vs. non-coast data). On the low-power end of the spectrum, we find some below 100 kW for some non-utility applications like powering homes, telecommunications dishes, water pumping, etc. Solar power (PV) is generally regarded as the first choice for homeowners looking to become energy producers themselves, but wind turbines make an excellent alternative in some situations. It would take a wind turbine of about 10 kilowatts and $40,000 to $70,000 to become a net electricity producer. Investments like this typically break even after 10 to 20 years.

Wind potential in Western Europe
Figure 8 Wind potential in Western Europe – https://globalwindatlas.info/

Onto the “Where”

One of the elements of wind formation we covered in the last post here was a different in pressure (and therefore temperature). This simplification works rather well at the macro-scale, but as we zoom in closer to the surface we can see that wind flow speeds and patterns vary quite significantly based on more than just the general location of Earth. On top of the altitude we already discussed, factors like vegetation, presence of high-rise buildings or bodies of water come into play.

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