Digital Prototyping for More Powerful Pumps

Routine maintenance of sewer pipes is necessary to prevent clogging, cracking and failure in the long run, saving sewage companies considerable time and money. FMC Technologies, which makes reciprocating pumps used to force water at high pressure through sewage pipes to clean them, turned to engineering simulation to design their latest product when customers began demanding smaller, lighter pumps with a higher output pressure. These pumps would be easier for the operator to move and place for optimal operations in the field. Also, reducing size and weight would make the pumps less expensive to purchase, easier to maintain and more energy efficient.

sewer pipe

Making a physical prototype of a smaller, lighter, higher-pressure pump would take a month or more, and that’s just for one iteration. So the engineers turned to digital exploration and prototyping so they could try hundreds of virtual designs in the same time it would take to make and test one physical prototype.

To make the simulations even simpler, the engineers decided use ANSYS Mechanical to focus on the most important and physically demanding component of the pump — the crankshaft — while modeling the remaining 24 components as rigid bodies. They also used ANSYS nCode DesignLife to measure fatigue factors to ensure that a sufficient margin of safety existed during the pump’s operating lifetime.

Performing these digital explorations upfront enabled the engineers to make changes earlier in the process, when the cost of making changes is low. Digital prototyping let them test more designs in much less time than would be required for physical prototyping, and helped them converge on an optimal design faster. As a result, FMC Technologies was able to meet customer demands and get a new product on the market faster, beating their competition while maintaining and growing their customer base.

old and new FMC pumps

Old (left) and new (right) sewer cleaning pumps from FMC.

Using simulation for digital exploration and prototyping, FMC Technologies engineers were able to design a pump with one crankshaft instead of the previous two, while increasing the outlet pressure to the required 4,000 psi needed to cut through tree roots that can force their way into sewage pipes. They reduced the weight of the existing pump by about half while making the footprint significantly smaller.

Now, sewage companies using FMC pumps can protect their operators by giving them lighter pumps to work with; they can also save money through energy efficiency and lower initial investment cost for the pumps.

To learn more read the article “Pipe Cleaner” in the latest issue of ANSYS Advantage magazine.