From the electricity that charges our phones to the jet engines that propel airplanes across the sky, turbines can be found powering our modern world in various forms and configurations. These mighty machines are the silent heroes of our energy infrastructure, found in everything from locomotives and power plants to industrial machinery and rocket engines. But what distinguishes one turbine from another? How do engineers decide on the design and configuration of these mechanical marvels? This intricate task requires an understanding of turbomachinery design, including axial and radial configurations. So, let’s dive into the differences between an axial and radial configuration.
In an axial turbine, the fluid (such as steam, gas, or water) flows along the rotation axis, similar to a windmill where the fluid enters and exits in the same direction. The turbine blades are arranged in stages along the rotor, with each stage converting the fluid’s energy into mechanical energy. Read More
Hydrodynamic plain bearings play a crucial role in the overall reliability, vibration, and performance of rotary bearing systems. High-performance rotating machines operate at high speeds and subject bearings to significant static and dynamic loads. Consequently, bearing modeling must accurately simulate physical effects. However, the increasing complexity and demanding applications of bearings pose challenges for engineers striving to develop reliable designs.
One critical aspect of bearing design is optimizing the bearing clearance to prevent metal-to-metal contact, especially under heavy loading. This optimization is closely linked to the selection of the minimum oil film thickness (MOFT), which becomes a limiting factor during the process. Another limitation to consider is the maximum allowable level of bearing loading (eccentricity).
The variable parameters that can be considered in the optimization process are as follows:
Update – March 1, 2023: AxSTREAM NET is our legacy software replaced by AxSTREAM System Simulation. System Simulation was born out of the union of the legacy AxCYCLE and AxSTREAM NET software packages.
In pumps, compressors, gas turbines, and powertrains with rotating parts, there are typically cavities between the spinning rotor and the fixed stator elements. The flow’s behavior at those cavities can significantly affect a machine’s temperatures, structural loads, vibrations, and overall efficiency. Similar radial cavities, where the flow is restricted between a rotating part and a non-rotating wall, are ubiquitous in the secondary flow channels of gas turbine engines (Figure 1).
Careful planning of secondary flows can be extremely useful. For example, since secondary flows influence the pressure in cavities, flows can be designed to compensate for axial loads acting on the rotor. Additionally, flow rotation in secondary flow channels critically impacts blade cooling design. For these reasons, a solid understanding of the processes occurring in radial channels is vital for high-quality design and optimization. Read More
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.
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
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 , ISO , etc.). Let’s consider the example of the lateral vibrations of a 4 stage compressor rotor with an operational speed of 8856 rpm.
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
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.
Easy to apply and general, valid, scaling laws are needed for design and application engineers. The scaling laws are needed for the purposes of:
Predicting the full-scale performance machine from model test data obtained from a scaled machine
Obtaining a family of machines with different performances on the basis of one well-tested machine
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:
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
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:
An example of obtaining a stage of an axial compressor by the scaling method is shown in Figure 1.
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.
Pumps are machines that transfer liquids from suction to discharge by converting mechanical energy from a rotating impeller into what is known as head. The pressure applied to the liquid forces the fluid to flow at the required rate and to overcome frictional losses in piping, valves, fittings, and process equipment.
When it comes to pump selection, reliability and efficiency go hand-in-hand. Generally, a pump that has been selected and controlled properly for its normal operating points will operate near its best efficiency point (BEP) flow, with low forces exerted on the mechanical components and low vibration — all of which result in optimal reliability.
There are several factors like process fluid properties, end use requirements, environmental conditions, pump material, inlet conditions, and others which should be considered while selecting pumps for industrial applications. Selecting the right pump type and sizing it correctly are critical to the success of any pump application. Pumping applications include constant or variable flow rate requirements, serving single or networked loads, and consisting of open loops (nonreturn or liquid delivery) or closed loops (return systems).
Some crucial factors considered while pump selections include:
Fluid Properties: The pumping fluid properties can significantly affect the choice of pump. Key considerations include:
Acidity/alkalinity and chemical composition. Corrosive and acidic fluids can degrade pumps and should be considered when selecting pump materials.
Operating temperature: Pump materials and expansion, mechanical seal components, and packing materials need to be considered with pumped fluids that are hotter than 200°F.
Solids concentrations/particle sizes: When pumping abrasive liquids such as industrial slurries, selecting a pump that will not clog or fail prematurely depends on particle size, hardness, and the volumetric percentage of solids.
Specific gravity: It affects the energy required to lift and move the fluid and must be considered when determining pump power requirements.
Vapor pressure and Viscosity: Proper consideration of the fluid’s vapor pressure will help to minimize the risk of cavitation. High viscosity fluids result in reduced centrifugal pump performance and increased power requirements. It is particularly important to consider pump suction-side line losses when pumping viscous fluids.
Materials of Construction: It is always required to check the compatibility of materials of construction with the process liquid or any other liquids the pump might encounter. The initial cost of these materials is normally the first consideration. The operational costs, replacement costs and longevity of service and repair costs will, however, determine the actual cost of the pump during its lifetime. Charts are available to check the chemical compatibility and identify the most appropriate materials of construction for the pump.
The impact of the impeller material on the life of a pump under cavitation conditions is shown in Figure 1. As an example, changing from mild steel (reliability factor of 1.0) to stainless steel (reliability factor of 4.0) would increase the impeller life from cavitation damage by a factor of four. Hard coatings, such as certain ceramics, can also increase the impeller life under cavitating conditions.
Pump Sizing and Performance Specifications: The desired pump discharge is needed to accurately size the piping system, determine friction head losses, construct a system curve, and select a pump and drive motor. Process requirements can be achieved by providing a constant flow rate, or by using a throttling valve or variable speed drives. Read More
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.
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
Update – February 28, 2023: AxCYCLE is our legacy software and is depreciated by AxSTREAM System Simulation. System Simulation was born out of the union of the legacy AxCYCLE and AxSTREAM NET software packages.
Everyone is familiar with pumps, but how many people really think about how much depends on this ubiquitous invention? The scope of pump applications is wide: distribution and circulation of water in water supply and heat supply systems, irrigation in agriculture, in the oil industry, in fire extinguishing systems, etc.
A pump is a hydraulic machine designed to move fluid and impart energy to it. A schematic diagram of a simple pumping unit is presented below.
Positive Displacement and Dynamic Pumps
According to the principle of operation, pumps can be divided into two main groups: positive displacement and dynamic. In positive displacement pumps, a certain volume of the pumped liquid is cut off and moved from the inlet to the pressure head, where additional energy is supplied to it. In pumps with dynamic action, the increase in energy occurs due to the interaction of the liquid with a rotating working body.
The most widely used pumps are centrifugal pumps which are of the dynamic type. The principle of centrifugal pumps uses a rotating impeller to create a vacuum in order to move the fluid. The impeller rotates within the housing and reduces pressure at the inlet. This motion then drives fluid to the outside of the pump’s housing, which increases the pressure.
These pumps benefit from a simple design and lower maintenance requirements and costs. This makes them suited to applications where the pump is used often or continuously run.
In most cases, the pumps are electrically driven, but if the pump is of high power and high speed, then these pumps are driven by steam turbines. Read More
Centrifugal Compressors are the turbomachines also known as turbo-compressors, and belong to the roto-dynamic class of compressors. In these compressors the required pressure rise takes place due to the continuous conversion of angular momentum imparted to the working fluid by a high-speed impeller into pressure. These compressors are used in small gas-turbines, turbochargers, chiller units, in the process and paper industries, oil & gas industries and others.
The design and manufacturing of such compressors are always challenging because of its 3-dimensional shapes, high rotational speeds that interact with different loss mechanisms, and stringent working environments. In many circumstances, it is necessary to analyze an existing compressor, with the end goal being to redesign it, enhance its performance, or to use it in completely different applications. In order to meet such requirements, reverse engineering is a viable option. With reverse engineering, one can review competitor’s design to remain in market competition.
Reverse engineering allows us to collect incomplete or non-existing design data and manufacture an accurate recreation, safely, of the original product or component.
Sometimes, it is also referred to as back engineering, in which centrifugal compressors or any other product are deconstructed to extract design information from them. Oftentimes, reverse engineering involves deconstructing individual components like the impeller or diffuser of larger compressors. End-users often use this approach when purchasing a replacement impeller or any other compressor part from an OEM is not an option. In some cases, where older impellers that have not been manufactured for 20 years or more, the original 2D drawings are no longer available. When this is the case, the only way to obtain the design of an original compressor is through reverse engineering.
Reverse engineering requires a series of steps to gather precise information on a product’s dimensions. Once collected, the data can be stored in digital archives. Figure 1 (left) shows the typical process of reverse engineering. In figure 1 (right), one can see the scanning process of the centrifugal impeller using a laser scanner.
To reverse engineer an impeller or any other part of compressor, an organization will typically acquire the component and take it apart to examine its internal mechanisms. This way, engineers can unveil information about the original design and construction of the product. One can start by analyzing the dimensions and attributes of the impeller and make measurements of the blade widths, diameters and angles, as these dimensions often relate to the compressor’s performance. Read More