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.


        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.


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