Archive for the ‘Engineering and Science’ Category

The Depositor’s Pneumatic Actuator

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

    Last time we learned that a fruit jelly depositor in a food manufacturing plant is an example of a positive displacement pump at work.  Today we’ll see how pieces of equipment on the depositor, known as a pneumatic actuators, work.   Pneumatic actuators do not come in contact with the jelly flowing through the depositor.   In other words, no jelly flows through the actuators.   The jelly only flows through the transfer valve and positive displacement pump as we saw last time.  The pump and valve can’t move by themselves.   So, they need some device to set them in motion.   That’s where the pneumatic actuators come into play.   They impart movement to the pump and transfer valve to get the jelly flowing from the hopper and down through the nozzle and onto the pastry.

    A pneumatic actuator is a device that operates using compressed air.   Compressed air, from an external air compressor, enters into a tube in the actuator known as a cylinder.   Inside the cylinder is a piston that can move along the length of the tube.   Attached to the piston is a piston rod which extends to the outside of the cylinder.

    When compressed air is introduced into the cylinder on the left side of the piston, it forces the piston and piston rod to move towards the right side of the cylinder.   But, air must be vented out to atmosphere from the right side of the piston for this movement to occur.   If no venting took place, trapped air to the right of the piston will get squeezed between the piston and the right end of the cylinder.   When the air gets squeezed, it becomes pressurized.  The pressure will impede the movement of the piston.

    Likewise, when compressed air is introduced into the cylinder on the right side of the piston, it forces the piston and piston rod to move towards the left side of the cylinder.

 The Depositor’s Pneumatic Actuator

The Depositor’s Pneumatic Actuator 

 

    So, depending on which end compressed air is admitted to the pneumatic actuator’s cylinder, the piston rod will move to the left or the right.   In engineering terms, the actuator imparts linear motion to machines.   In other words, the piston rod moves back and forth in a straight line.

    Next time, we’ll see how the pneumatic actuator is connected to the depositor’s pump to impart the linear motion that draws jelly from the supply hopper and sends it streaming out of the nozzle onto a passing pastry.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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A Jelly Depositor is a Positive Displacement Pump

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

    Our last blog introduced a project I oversaw while acting as a design engineer in a food manufacturing plant.   The objective was to deposit fruit jelly into raw pastry dough as it whizzed along a production line conveyor belt before being sent off for baking.   A special piece of equipment known as a depositor would be required to meet this challenge, and we’ll take a look at how one functions today.   In fact, a jelly depositor acts very much as a human heart, as they’re both examples of positive displacement pumps.

    A depositor is a device specifically made for the food industry.   It consists of a hopper to hold the product to be deposited, in this case fruit jelly, which is discharged by the hopper into a rotating diverter valve and then on to a positive displacement piston pump.   See below.

A Jelly Depositor is a Positive Displacement Pump

A Jelly Depositor is a Positive Displacement Pump

   

    When the diverter valve rotates, a passageway opens to allow jelly to flow from the hopper into the piston pump.   A pneumatic actuator, a device we’ll discuss in more depth next time, moves the pump’s piston to the left, away from the diverter valve, which allows the filling to be released into the pump from the hopper.   At the end of the piston’s travel a set quantity of fruit jelly filling is drawn into the pump’s housing, just enough to fill one pastry. See below.

The Depositor Draws Filling Into The Pump

The Depositor Draws Filling Into The Pump

   

    When the diverter valve rotates in the opposite direction, a passageway opens inside the valve that allows jelly filling to move from the pump to the nozzle.   As the piston moves back toward the diverter valve the filling is forced out of the pump, through the nozzle, and into the pastry dough.   The pump’s piston moves back and forth, that is, away from and then towards the transfer valve, ushering a set quantity of jelly filling through the mechanism each time.   See below.

The Depositor Deposits The Filling

The Depositor Deposits The Filling

   

    Now that we know how the depositor works, next time we’ll discuss the pneumatic actuator’s role in the filling process.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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Positive Displacement Pumps Are Used in Industry

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

    Last time we learned that the human heart functions as the greatest of all positive displacement pumps, moving a set quantity of blood through it at precise intervals during its operating cycle.   Today we’ll begin our exploration into how positive displacement pumps are used in industry, specifically within a food manufacturing plant.

    At one point in my career I was employed as a design engineer in a food manufacturing plant.   The plant was owned by the leading manufacturer of bakery products in the United States, responsible for supplying restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores with finished and partially finished pastry goods that they would then resell.   The plant produced vast amounts of puff pastry dough products, all of which were formed and filled with various fillings while zipping along on a production line conveyor belt.   One of the products was a fruit filled pastry in which the belt moved so quickly, depositing fruit fillings into the dough by hand would be impossible, resulting in a frenzied mess similar to what Lucy encountered when she worked in a candy factory.

    Clearly, an automated machine would work better in this and other scenarios.   We’ll see how one known as a depositor functions on a food pastry line next time.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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Master of All Pumps, the Human Heart

Monday, May 21st, 2018

    We couldn’t do without pumps. They serve up water from the tap, circulate our car’s coolant, and the master of all pumps, the human heart, keeps us alive.   Pumps are essential in countless areas of our lives, and they’re of two major types, positive displacement or centrifugal.   We’ll start our discussion with a focus on positive displacement pumps.   Our hearts belong to this category.

Master of All Pumps, the Human Heart

Master of All Pumps, the Human Heart

As their name implies, positive displacement pumps displace, that is to say they move or circulate, a set quantity of liquid with each operating cycle.   Your heart moves 2 to 3 ounces of blood with every heartbeat and up to 2,000 gallons of blood per day!

Next week we’ll introduce an industrial application for a positive displacement pump when we install one in a food manufacturing plant.   You didn’t think those jelly pastries filled themselves, did you?

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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Reducing Cavitation With A Booster Pump

Monday, May 14th, 2018

    In our last article, we looked at an example problem involving a cavitating centrifugal pump that was drawing water from a storage tank.   The bottom of the storage tank was sitting at the same level as the centrifugal pump’s inlet.   The water level in the tank could not be increased to raise the pump inlet pressure, and thus eliminate the cavitation.   So, the problem was solved by elevating the tank with respect to the pump inlet.   Okay, what if the tank could not be elevated?  How do we stop the centrifugal pump from cavitating?   Well, we can install a booster pump between the tank and the centrifugal pump.

    A booster pump is, as its name implies, a special kind of pump that is used to boost, or raise, water pressure flowing in a pipe.   With regard to our example problem in the preceding article, the cavitating centrifugal pump inlet water is at 108ºF and a pressure of 1.2 pounds per square inch (PSI).

Reducing Cavitation by Raising Tank Elevation--Before

Reducing Cavitation With A Booster Pump — Before

   

    Referring to the thermodynamic properties of water as found in tables appearing in engineering texts, we determine that if we keep water temperature at 108ºF but raise the pressure at the pump inlet from 1.2 PSI to 1.5 PSI we can stop the centrifugal pump from cavitating.   We can install a booster pump to boost the pressure by the required 0.3 PSI and say goodbye to our cavitation problems.

Reducing Cavitation With A Booster Pump -- After

Reducing Cavitation With A Booster Pump — After

   

    This wraps it up for our series on cavitation in pumps.   Next time, we’ll begin learning about some different topics.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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Reducing Cavitation by Raising Tank Elevation

Monday, May 7th, 2018

    Last time we learned that the risk of damaging cavitation bubbles forming at a centrifugal pump’s inlet can be eliminated by simply increasing the water level inside the tank.   Today we’ll do the math that demonstrates how reducing cavitation can be accomplished by raising tank elevation.

Reducing Cavitation by Raising Tank Elevation--Before

Reducing Cavitation by Raising Tank Elevation–Before

   

    In our example we’ll suppose that we’re having a problem with cavitation bubbles forming at the inlet, where water temperature is 108ºF and water level inside the tank stands at 33 inches.   We are using the formula,

P = γ × h                                                                                    (1)

    Equation (1) was introduced previously to correlate water pressure, P, with the specific weight of water, (0.036 pounds/inch3), and the height, h, of the water surface in the tank.   If h is 33 inches, then we obtain,

P = (0.036 pounds/inch3) ×  (33 inches) = 1.2 pounds/inch2         (2)

    So, the weight of the water in the tank exerts a pressure of 1.2 pounds per square inch (PSI) at the bottom of the tank and the pump inlet when it sits at the same elevation as the tank.

    We know that if we increase the water depth in the tank relative to the pump inlet, we can raise the pressure at the pump inlet in accordance with equation (1).   Raising the pressure will eliminate the cavitation bubbles that can form there.   But, our tank is of fixed volume, and we can’t add more water to raise water depth beyond 33 inches.    However, we can increase the elevation of the tank with respect to the inlet, which will produce the same effect.   We’ll use equation (1) to determine the tank elevation, h, that will provide the needed increase.

    Referring to the thermodynamic properties of water as found in tables appearing in engineering texts, we determine that if we keep water temperature at 108ºF but raise the pressure at the pump inlet from 1.2 PSI to 1.5 PSI, while maintaining current water depth in the tank, cavitation will cease.   In other words, we need to increase P by 0.3 PSI.

Example of Reducing Cavitation by Tank Elevation--After

Example of Reducing Cavitation by Tank Elevation–After

   

    Plugging our known values into equation (1) we solve for h,

0.3 PSI = 0.036 pounds/inch3 × h                                                  (3)

h = 0.3 PSI ÷ 0.036 pounds/inch3                                                  (4)

h = 8.3 inches                                                                              (5)

    Cavitation will cease when we elevate the tank by 8.3 inches with respect to the pump.

    Yet another means of increasing inlet pressure is to install a booster pump.  We’ll talk about that next time.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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Reducing Cavitation by Increasing Water Tank Elevation

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

    In our last blog we learned of one way to prevent cavitation bubbles from forming at a centrifugal pump inlet when we simply added more water to the storage tank, thereby raising the water level and with it the water pressure at the pump’s inlet.   Today we’ll discuss another way of reducing cavitation, by increasing water tank elevation.

 Reducing Cavitation by Increasing Water Tank Elevation

Reducing Cavitation by Increasing Water Tank Elevation

   

    As presented previously, water pressure, P, at the bottom of the tank is determined by the engineering formula,

P = γ  × h

where γ is the Greek symbol gamma,representing the specific weight of water, (0.036 pounds/inch3), and h is the depth of the water inside the tank.

    This formula applies to another scenario as well, that of raising the entire tank’s elevation with respect to the pump, as shown in the illustration.   Here h is the height of the surface water in the tank with respect to the pump’s inlet.   The equation tells us that the higher the tank is elevated, the greater the pressure at the inlet and the less chance there is of cavitation bubbles forming.

    How high do we need to elevate the tank?   We’ll do the math next time.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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One way to Reduce Cavitation by Increasing Water Pressure

Monday, April 16th, 2018

    Ever hear the old saying, “There’s more than one way to cook a goose”?   The statement is meant to encourage creative thinking when problem solving.   This forward thinking can be applied to the problem of destructive cavitation bubbles as well.   Finding ways to reduce cavitation is something engineers are well versed in.   As discussed in our last blog, one way to prevent cavitation is by lowering water temperature at a centrifugal pump’s inlet.    But sometimes that isn’t possible.   Today we’ll discuss another way, reducing cavitation by increasing water pressure.

One way to Reduce Cavitation by Increasing Water Pressure

One way to Reduce Cavitation by Increasing Water Pressure

    If you’ve ever seen a movie featuring divers, you’ll no doubt be aware that the deeper a diver goes, the more water pressure there is bearing down on him from above.   The same goes for a centrifugal pump’s storage tank.   The higher the water level inside the tank, the higher the pressure bearing down on the pump’s inlet, which is located at the bottom of the tank.   This is the area in which cavitation bubbles are likely to form.   The mathematical equation that illustrates this relationship is,

P = γ  × h                                                                   (1)

where, P is water pressure at the bottom of the tank, γ is the Greek symbol gamma, representing the specific weight of water, (0.036 pounds/inch3), and h is the depth of the water inside the tank.

    Let’s see what happens when we increase the water level, h, from 72 inches, shown on the left, to 144 inches, on the right.

P = (0.036 Lb/in3)  × (72 in) = 2.592 PSI                      (2)

When the water level is raised to 144 inches, P becomes,

P = (0.036 Lb/in3)  × (144 in) = 5.184 PSI                     (3)

    We see that by raising the water level in the tank from 72 to 144 inches, pressure at the bottom of the tank where the inlet is located is increased from 2.592 PSI to 5.184 PSI, pounds per square inch.

    Next time we’ll see how simply elevating the tank has an impact on cavitation.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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Manipulating Water Temperature to Control Cavitation

Monday, April 9th, 2018

    As we learned previously, cavitation bubbles form at a centrifugal pump’s inlet when the thermodynamic properties of water, namely temperature and pressure, are right.   Today we’ll see how just manipulating water temperature can control cavitation.

 Manipulating Water Temperature to Control Cavitation

Manipulating Water Temperature to Control Cavitation

   

    Some centrifugal pumps draw water from an external heat source such as a heat exchanger in order to provide heat to buildings, generate power, and perform manufacturing processes.   On some exchangers heat is applied at a fixed rate and can’t be varied.   On others heat can be varied by using a heat exchanger fitted with a temperature control.   This makes it easy to reduce or lower water temperature introduced at the pump’s inlet.   If the temperature is kept low enough relative to the pressure at the inlet, cavitation bubbles won’t form.

    Let’s say water enters the pump’s inlet from a heat exchanger at 59ºF and internal pump pressure is 0.25 pounds per square inch (PSI).   With these parameters in place water boils and cavitation bubbles will form in the pump inlet.   But if the heat exchanger is adjusted so that temperature is lowered by a mere two degrees to 57ºF, cavitation ceases.   This is in accordance with the boiling points of water, listed for various pressures and temperatures, as published in engineering thermodynamic texts.

    If it’s not possible to lower water temperature at the pump inlet, an alternate method to control cavitation is to raise water pressure, which can be accomplished in different ways.   We’ll review those options next time.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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The Principle of Continuity – What Goes In Must Come Out

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

    Last time we learned how cavitation degrades a centrifugal pump’s performance by restricting and reducing the water flow at the pump’s inlet where these destructive bubbles are formed.   Today we’ll see that despite the fact these cavitation bubbles return to a liquid water state further along in the pump’s high pressure section when they implode, the water flow within the pump remains the same.   This is true because of the engineering principle of continuity, which holds that the water flow rate within a pump or any other closed system remains the same throughout that system.   What goes in must come out.

    Continuity has to do with the rate of water flowing through pipes, valves, and pumps within a plumbing system.   As water flows through a centrifugal pump, its flow rate is measured as the volume of water that moves past a certain point in the pump per unit of time.   Suppose for example that during one minute of elapsed time the volume of water flowing through at the inlet point is found to be five gallons.   This then becomes the system’s flow rate of 5 gallons per minute.   We’ll call this flow rate Q1.

 The Priniciple of Continuity – What Goes In Must Come Out

The Principle of Continuity – What Goes In Must Come Out

   

    The principle of continuity states that this flow rate Q1 must remain the same throughout the pump.   If this were not true, any observed difference in water volume would mean water is somehow either lost or created between the pump’s inlet and discharge.   This is an impossibility if the pump is an intact enclosed system, absent any other inlet points or leaks.   So according to the principle of continuity, Q1 must equal Q2, the flow rate at pump discharge.

    When cavitation occurs at the pump’s inlet, Q1, these steam bubbles restrict water flowing into the pump.   Although these bubbles will later implode and return to a liquid water state further along the pump system, this change will not affect the flow rate of the water within the pump.   The flow rate established at intake will remain the same at pump discharge, Q2.

    Next time we’ll see how cavitation in centrifugal pumps can be prevented.

Copyright 2018 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE

Engineering Expert Witness Blog

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