Turbomachinery Evolution through Generative Design

As human-beings, our differences are what makes us unique (if I may quote the Seek Discomfort crew – “What makes you different is what makes you beautiful”). For turbomachines, this sentiment also rings true.  We design different turbomachines because we have varied roles, needs and constraints for them. To that effect, there is no universally best turbine, compressor, or pump. Therefore, figuring out which set of “skills” a turbomachine should have is the key role of a design engineer so that they may effectively capture and estimate performances of the machine they will work on early on while having the certitude this is the best that can be done.

Generative design is one of these recent buzzwords that characterizes an approach to the design of components (or systems) that has been around for quite some time already. Rather than producing one geometry for one value of each input (such as boundary conditions, flow coefficients, number of stages, etc.), generative design allows you to create thousands of designs within minutes that you can review, compare, and filter to select the one that best suits your needs. Let’s look at an example of an axial turbine design process comparing traditional preliminary design vs. generative design.

Approach 1 or what most companies call Traditional Preliminary Design,  is to look in textbooks and previous examples of what a given turbine for that application “should” look like. It may involve things like using Ns-Ds diagrams, load-to-flow diagrams, blade speed ratio vs. isentropic velocity ratio correlations, scaling/trimming existing designs, etc. These have served their purpose well enough, but they have their limitations which make them fairly challenging to really innovate. Such limitations include previous experience/data being restricted to a given fluid, relative clearance size, given configuration, lack of secondary flows, etc. A summary of a traditional preliminary design workflow (familiar to too many engineers) is presented below.

Summary of traditional preliminary design workflow
Figure 1 Summary of traditional preliminary design workflow

Now, we know that changing (ahem, improving) your workflow is not always easy. But growth happens through discomfort and switching to a generative design approach does NOT mean rebuilding everything your team has done in the past. What it effectively gives you is the confidence that the input parameters you finalized will provide not only the desired performance but the best ones that can be achieved (and it saves time too…a lot of time). From there, you can use these inputs in your current design software or you can continue the design process in our design platform, AxSTREAM® (meaning you can add generative design capabilities upstream of your existing workflow or replace parts/all of that workflow depending on what makes the most sense for you). You can pay your engineers to do engineering work, instead of visiting online libraries and guessing input parameters in hope they will find the needle in the haystack. Or, with generative design, you kind of look for haystacks and shake them until the needle falls off.

So, how does this work in AxSTREAM, you may ask? Very well, I may reply :D. Read More

Rotor Dynamics Study of 4-Stage Compressor – from Theory to Application

Rotating machines have huge and important roles in our daily life although we may rarely think about them. Steam turbines at electrical power plants rotate the electrical generator shafts which produce electricity coming into our homes and offices. Driving to or from work, the reciprocating cycle in your vehicle’s internal combustion engine results in rotation of the transmission and the wheels of vehicles, while the electric car wheel operation is a result of induction motor rotation. If you get on an airplane, rotation of the turbo reactive gas turbine engine produces the effective thrust to sustain flight by moving, compressing and throwing the gas behind the plane. We can even find the useful effects of rotation in our kitchens when we are blending the food or washing our closes.

Although these rotating machines are different, the approaches to modelling their rotor dynamics are pretty much the same, since similar processes occur in rotating parts which differ in their vibrations from the non-rotating machines.

Do you remember the example of rotating washing machine? Have you ever seen it jumping on the floor trying to squeeze out your closet? We bet you have. This is the simplest example of the increased unbalance affecting the amplitudes of machine vibrations. Washing machines are designed to experience these noticeable vibrations during their operation without breaking. But the steam turbine or compressor rotors which have the tight clearances between the impellers and the casing can not boast of that leeway. In addition to that, the excessive vibrations significantly influence the machine’s useful life due to the increased fatigue.
This is why the rotor dynamics predictions are one of the most important parts of rotating machine analyses. And although they may seem easier than comprehensive stress-strain investigations of machine components, in some cases the rotor dynamics analysis can be trickiest part.

Usually, the rotor dynamics analyses are divided into lateral and torsional stages depending on the nature of rotor response to be used. They are discussed in different types of standards (API [1], ISO [2], etc.). Let’s consider the example of the lateral vibrations of a 4 stage compressor rotor with an operational speed of 8856 rpm.

Fig. 1 - 4 Stage Compressor Rotor
Fig. 1 – 4 Stage Compressor Rotor

This rotor rotates in the 4 pad tilting, pad oil film journal bearings. The characteristics of these bearings should be determined carefully to ensure that there will not be an excessive wear, heat generation or friction in them. Read More

Scaling and Trimming in Axial Compressors and Fans

Introduction

Despite the deepening understanding of the essence of gas-dynamic processes and the development of computational methods, simpler design methods such as scaling and trimming remain in demand in turbomachinery engineering. The main advantage of these approaches over design from scratch is simplicity and its inexpensive nature due to the small-time expenditure and lower demand from computational resources. Good predictive accuracy of the performance and efficiency of the resulting machines is based on the use of an existing machine with well-known characteristics as a prototype.

Conversely, using the prototype imposes restrictions on the use of scaling and trimming methods. It is almost impossible to get a new design with pressure and efficiency higher than that of the prototype. Also, in cases where it is required to obtain performance that is significantly different from the prototype, the inherent reliability of the original prediction may be insufficient.

Scaling Method

Easy to apply and general, valid, scaling laws are needed for design and application engineers. The scaling laws are needed for the purposes of:

  1. Predicting the full-scale performance machine from model test data obtained from a scaled machine
  2. Obtaining a family of machines with different performances on the basis of one well-tested machine

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Experimental performance and efficiency testing on a full-size model of large machines such as fans to ventilate tunnels and mines or to move combustion air and smoke gas in power plants may be impractical due to the high energy costs and geometric limitations of the experimental stand. In these cases, a scale model is used. And although complete similarity is not maintained, for example, in terms of the Reynolds number, the correction factors in most cases are well known and the prediction accuracy is high.

The method involves the implementation of the flow path of the designed fan or compressor on a scale to the prototype. This means that all linear dimensions (e.g. diameters, blade chord, axial length, etc.) must be multiplied by the scaling factor (SF). The angular dimensions (e.g. blade angles at inlet and outlet, stagger angle, etc.) remain unchanged.

When scaling, it is assumed that parameters such as Pressure Ratio, circumferential velocity (U), and axial velocity (Cz) are equal for the designed machine and the prototype. Thus:

Trimming and Scaling Formula 1

The condition of equality of the Reynolds criteria is not ensured, since the designed compressor and the prototype do not have the same diameters of the rotor with the equality of other parameters that determine the number of Rew. This design guarantees the practical accuracy of the calculated characteristics, provided that the gas movement in the flow path is turbulent. It is known that for “physical” values of the Reynolds numbers

Trimming and Scaling Formula 2

the flow remains turbulent and the inequality of the Reynolds numbers of the designed compressor and the prototype has little effect on the gas-dynamic characteristics.

To determine the efficiency of low-pressure fans, a well-known formula is usually used:

Trimming and Scaling Formula 3

An example of obtaining a stage of an axial compressor by the scaling method is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 - Axial Compressor Stage Scaling
Figure 1 – Axial Compressor Stage Scaling

The disadvantages of the scaling method include the need to change the rotor speed. This can be relevant for industrial installations, where the rotation speed is often limited and tied to the frequency of the electrical network current. Additionally, the need to change the overall dimensions can be a limiting factor, especially if it is necessary to increase productivity significantly, and the installation location for the turbomachine is limited. In some cases, maintaining full geometric similarity is impossible for technological or constructive reasons. For example, the minimum value of the tip clearance may be limited by the operating conditions of the rotor (not touching the rotor against the housing) or the impossibility of obtaining a small clearance if the scaling is carried out from a large prototype to a small model.

Read More

Modern Approaches and Significance of Multiphase Flow Modeling

Introduction

Corresponding with the development of industrial technology in the middle of the nineteenth century, people dealt with multiphase flows but the decision to describe them in a rigorous mathematical form was first made only 70 years ago. As the years progressed, development of computers and computation technologies led to the revolution in mathematical modeling of mixing and multiphase flows. There are a few periods, which could describe the development of this computation:

«Empirical Period» (1950-1975)

There were a lot of experiments that were done during this period. All models were obtained from experimental or industrial facilities which is why using them was difficult for different cases.

«Awakening Period» (1975-1985)

Because of sophisticated, expensive, and not universal experiments, the researchers’ attention was directed to the physical processes in multiphase flows.

«Modeling Period» (1985-Present)

Today, the models for multi-flow calculation using the equations of continuity together with equations of energy conservation are obtained, which allow describing phase’s interaction for different flow regimes. (A.V. Babenko, L. B. Korelshtein – Hydraulic calculation two-phase gas-liquid course: modern approach // Calculations and modeling journal. – 2016. – TPА 2 (83) 2016. – P.38-42.)

Technology Development

Since the time of industrial development, installation designs have undergone great changes. For example, there are shell and tube evaporators for freeze systems where the heat transfer coefficient has increased 10 times over during the last 50 years. These results are a consequence of different innovation decisions. Developments led to research into mini-channels systems, which is the one of the methods to increase intensification of phase transition. Research has shown that heat exchange systems with micro and nano dimensions have a much greater effect than the macrosystems with channels dimensions ≤3-200 mm.

In order to organize fundamental research, it is very important to understand hydro, gas dynamics, and heat changes in two-phase systems with the phase transition. At present, the number of researchers using advanced CFD programs has increased. Our team is one of the lead developers of these program complexes.
Mathematical modeling of compressible multiphase fluid flows is interesting with a lot of scientific directions and has big potential for practical use in many different engineering fields. Today it is no secret that environmental issues are some of the most commonly discussed questions in the world. People are trying to reduce the emissions of combustion products. One of the methods to decrease emissions is the organization of an environmentally acceptable process of fuel-burning with reduced yields of nitrogen and sulfur. The last blog (https://blog.softinway.com/en/modern-approach-to-liquid-rocket-engine-development-for-microsatellite-launchers/) discussed numerical methods, which can calculate these tasks with minimal time and cost in CFD applications.

Waste Heat Boiler
Picture 1 – Waste heat boiler http://tesiaes.ru/?p=6291

For more effective use of energy resources and low-potential heat utilization, the choice of the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) is justified. Due to the fact that heat is used and converted to mechanical work, it is important to use a fluid with a boiling temperature lower than the boiling temperature of water at atmospheric pressure (with working flow-boiling temperature about 100⁰C). The usage of freons and hydrocarbons in these systems makes a solution impossible without taking into account the changes of working fluid phases. Read More

Willis Carrier, Air Conditioning, and His Contribution to Mechanical Engineering and HVAC Systems

Welcome to this special edition of the SoftInWay blog! While we at SoftInWay are known for helpful articles about designing various machines, retrofitting, and rotor dynamics, we believe it is also important to examine the lives of some of the men and women behind these great machines.

Commonly listed among the greatest mechanical engineering inventions of the 20th Century, the air conditioning system has gone from basic use in refrigeration to a staple of living in many countries. Locales that were previously borderline uninhabitable for people sensitive to heat or poorer air quality, became available, thanks to this device that could be installed in homes and businesses. But who invented the air conditioning system?

A portrait photograph of Willis Carrier in 1915

Willis Haviland Carrier (1876-1950) was born on November 26th, 1876 in Angola, a small town in Upstate New York just outside of Buffalo. Carrier was the inventor of modern air conditioning as we know it. While other forms of air conditioning had been around for millennia, what Carrier invented was utterly life-changing for those who were able to use it, and work/live in air-conditioned environments.  His work has been so influential on modern HVAC engineering and the world in general, that his legacy company has a website in his honor.

Read More

Rotor Dynamics Challenges in High-Speed Turbomachinery for HVAC Applications

In comparison to large steam and gas turbines, the rotating equipment found in heat ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) applications is often seen as more simplistic in design. However, sometimes a simpler model of a rotating machine does not mean a simpler approach can be used to accurately investigate its rotor dynamics behavior. For example, a large number of effects should be taken into account for single-stage compressors used in HVAC applications. Three important ones include:

  1. High values of rotational speeds above the first critical speed;
  2. Rigid rolling element bearing used in the design and therefore a relatively flexible foundation which should be modeled properly;
  3. Aerodynamic cross-coupling adding additional destabilizing forces to the structure.

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All these effects should be modeled properly when performing lateral rotor dynamics analyses of HVAC machines. And, in some cases, this simpler model can prove a much more challenging task than building the complex model of a steam turbine rotor.

Let’s consider a seemingly simple example of a high-speed single-shaft compressor for HVAC application (Figure 1). It consists of the compressor and motor rotors, the flexible coupling connecting them, the ball bearings connecting the rotors to the bearing housing joined with the compressor volute, and the structural support.

Fig. 1 - Single stage compressor model
Fig. 1 – Single-stage compressor model [1]
The compressor rotor is connected with the motor through a flexible coupling. Its lateral vibrations can be considered uncoupled from the motor rotor vibrations, and the lateral rotor dynamics model appears pretty straightforward (Figure 2).

Fig. 2 - Rotor dynamics model of the single stage compressor rotor
Fig. 2 – Rotor dynamics model of the single-stage compressor rotor

However, additional factors are discovered if you include the mechanical properties of the supporting structure when considering the lateral rotor dynamics calculations. These factors are very important to an accurate model. Read More

An Overview of Axial Fans

Axial fans have become indispensable in everyday applications starting from ceiling fans to industrial applications and aerospace fans.  The fan has become a part of every application where ventilation and cooling is required, like in a condenser, radiator, electronics, etc., and they are available in a wide range of sizes from few millimeters to several meters. Fans generate pressure to move air/gases against the resistance caused by ducts, dampers, or other components in a fan system. Axial-flow fans are better suited for low-resistance, high-flow applications and can have widely varied operating characteristics depending on blade width and shape, a number of blades, and tip speed.

Fan Types

The major types of axial flow fans are propeller, tube axial, and vane axial.

  • – Propellers usually run at low speeds and handle large volumes of gas at low pressure. Often used as exhaust fans these have an efficiency of around 50% or less.
  • – Tube-axial fans turn faster than propeller fans, enabling operation under high-pressures 2500 – 4000 Pa with an efficiency of up to 65%.
  • – Vane-axial fans have guide vanes that improve the efficiency and operate at pressures up to 5000 Pa. Efficiency is up to 85%.
Types of Fans
Figure 1 Different Types of Axial Fans
Aerodynamic Design of an Axial Fan

The aerodynamic design of an axial fan depends on its applications. For example, axial fans for industrial cooling applications operate at low speeds and require simple profile shapes. When it comes to aircraft applications however, the fan must operate at very high speeds, and the aerodynamic design requirements become significantly different from more traditional fan designs. Read More

An Introduction to Accurate HVAC System Modeling

HVAC (Heat, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) is all about comfort, and comfort is a subjective feeling associated with many parameters like air quality, air temperature, surrounding surface temperature, air flow and relative humidity. For example, while it is easy to understand how the temperature of the air in your living impacts how good you feel, the surfaces with which you are in contact also strongly affect your comfort. For example, last night I got out of bed to clean up after my dog who thought it would be a good idea to swallow (and give back) her chew toy. If I was wearing my slippers, it would have been much easier to go back to sleep between the warm bed sheets without the discomfort of waiting my cold feet warm up to normal temperature.

Speaking of sleep discomfort, many stem from HVAC imbalances.  If you wake up in the middle of the night quite thirsty, then you should probably check how dry your bedroom is. The recommended range is 40-60% relative humidity. A higher humidity puts you at risk for mold while lower humidity can lead to respiratory infections, asthma, etc.

Now that we know how HVAC contributes to our comfort, let’s look at the HVAC unit as a system and see its role, functioning and simulation at a high level. The following examples provided are for a house, but similar concepts apply to residential buildings, offices, and so on.

Controlling Temperature

The easiest parameter to control is the air temperature. It can be set by a thermostat and regulated according to a heating or cooling flow distributed from the HVAC unit to the different rooms through ducting. Without the introduction of thermally-different-than-ambient air, the house will heat or cool itself based on a combination of outside conditions and how well the building is insulated. Therefore, to keep a constant temperature a certain amount of energy must be used to provide heating (or cooling) at the same rate the house is losing (or gaining) heat.  This is a match of the house load and heating/cooling capacity. Figure 1 provides a graph of the energy needed.

Illustration of dependency of house load and heating capacity on outside temperature
Figure 1 Illustration of dependency of house load and heating capacity on outside temperature

Read More

A Century of Chiller Technology

A convergence of technologies had to occur to make the modern, high-efficiency centrifugal chiller a reality. To appreciate the technology fully, we must go back in history and understand the origins of the air conditioning and refrigeration industry. Along the way, we will find an important diversion in aerospace and the critically important centrifugal compressor. Ultimately, we will find that the modern chiller is a testament to advanced technology that was developed in multiple fields.

Some of the first advances in and applications of modern industrial refrigeration were in the United States. In May 1922, Willis Carrier revealed the “Centrifugal Refrigeration Machine” – a very early incarnation of what we now call a chiller [1]. The first installation went to a Philadelphia candy manufacturer; it’s interesting to know that the birth of modern refrigeration and air conditioning started on a large scale. Back in those days, economy of scale enabled the technology to be developed. It was not until a decade later that the core technology began to be adopted into compact units that could be used in smaller businesses such as boutique shops. It took several more decades for smaller residential air conditioners to take off commercially.

Shown in the photograph below is Carrier’s first centrifugal chiller in his New Jersey factory [1].

First Centrifugal Chiller
Photo from [1]
The size of this machine is evident, as is the fact that its design, at the time, necessitated components be spread out in space for assembly and maintenance. By modern standards, the same footprint space could be used to accommodate a modern chiller with over 500 refrigeration tons in capacity. By comparison the original design has less than 100 refrigeration tons of capacity.

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Vertical Pumps: What Are They, Where Are They Used and How To Design Them?

Introduction

Vertical pump designs are similar to conventional pumps, with some unique differences in their applications.  Pumps use centrifugal force to convert mechanical energy into kinetic energy and increase the pressure of the liquid. Vertical pumps move liquids in the vertical direction upwards through a pipe. All pumps pressurize liquids, which are mostly incompressible. Unlike compressible gases, it is impossible to compress liquids, therefore the volumetric flow rate can not be reduced. Therefore liquids are transported by pumping and the inlet volume flow rate is equal to the exit volume flow rate.

Vertical centrifugal pumps are simply designed machines, and have similarities to their horizontal counterparts. A casing called a volute contains an impeller mounted perpendicularly on an upright (vertical) rotating shaft. The electric drive motor uses its mechanical energy to turn the pump impeller with blades, and imparts kinetic energy to the liquid as it begins to rotate. These pumps can be single stage or multistage with several in-line stages mounted in series.

The centrifugal force through the impeller rotor causes the liquid and any particulates within the liquid to move radially outward, away from the impeller center of rotation at high tangential velocity. The swirling flow at the exit of the impeller is then channeled into a diffusion system which can be a volute or collector, which diffuses the high velocity flow and converts the velocity into high pressure. In vertical pumps, the high exit pressure enables the liquid to be pumped to high vertical locations. Thus the pump exit pressure force is utilized to lift the liquid to high levels, and usually at high residual pressure even at the pipe discharge.

Applications of Vertical Pumps

An “in line” vertical pump is illustrated in Figure 1 (Reference 1), where the flow enters horizontally and exits horizontally and can be mounted such that the center line of the inlet and discharge pipes are in line with each other.  This is a centrifugal pump with a tangential scroll at the inlet that redirects the flow by 90 degrees and distributes it circumferentially and in the axial direction into the impeller eye. The discharge is a simple volute that collects the tangential flow from the impeller exit, and redirects it into the radial direction.

in line Pump - Figure 1
An “in line” Vertical Pump. Source

Figure 2 shows a vertical pump that has a vertical intake that directs the flow straight into the eye of the pump rotor. At the impeller exit, the tangential flow is collected by a volute and diffused in an exit cone. An elbow after the exit cone redirects the flow into the vertical direction to lift the liquid to the desired altitude. (Reference 2). Read More