Pumps at Achema Meeting the Makers of Tomorrow’s World

From Dominik Stephan

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Enablers of production – Same old in the “pump halls”? Not this time! If the production of tomorrow wants to truly unleash its efficiency potentials, pump experts are challenged. In fact, the largest exhibitor group at Achema is more innovative and digital than ever before.

Hidden Champions: Did you know that Achema is the world's largest exhibition for pumps, compressors and valves?
Hidden Champions: Did you know that Achema is the world's largest exhibition for pumps, compressors and valves?
(Source: © Andrei Merkulov - stock.adobe.com)

They work at the heart of production processes: pumps, compressors and valves thus also form the largest exhibitor group at Achema. For many process specialists therefore, a visit to “Pump Halls” 8 and 9 on the Frankfurt exhibition grounds becomes a pilgrimage into the realm of fluid dynamics.

And yet, fluidics hardly play any role in the official trade fair communication where everything is digital, modular, smart and of course green at Achema 2022. Between hydrogen visions and founder prizes, pumps seem slightly old fashioned — but is this really true? Does time stand still in the “pump hall”? Not at all, as figures show: Of the 3,300 terawatt hours of electricity that Europe’s power plants pump into the grid, pumps consume around one tenth. Whether it’s a wind turbine, a coal-fired power plant or a nuclear reactor — every tenth feeds the flow machines.


Fluidics experts never tire of emphasizing that a pump does not consume energy per se, but helps to convert it. Furthermore, that it should be viewed as a complete system. Nevertheless, the suspicion arises, that the whole thing is not really efficient. The industry association Europump — which is certainly not hostile to pumps — believes that water pumps alone could save around 35 TWh of their current 137 TWh energy consumption. According to the pump experts, this could take four average coal-fired power plants off the grid. All that with little effort.

Pump experts will now nod their heads: Yes, the old issue with uncontrolled units. In fact, many pumps still run purely digitally according to the on/off principle. Either at full power at a fixed speed or not at all. If less flow is needed, a throttle literally strangles the flowpath down. It is clear that this cannot be efficient — but how inefficient it really is, is surprising. Not only is more energy used than actually needed, but throttling also shifts the system characteristic curve and thus the operating point and head.

In addition, there is the bad habit of planning pumps and drives too large in order to keep power reserves available. Why are these needed when the requirements are actually calculated correctly? It doesn’t matter, a safety margin has never hurt anyone and sounds so nice as caution. If the unit, which was designed too large and ordered one size larger to be sure, then runs unregulated at full load, the waste of energy is obvious.

Stay in Control of Production Processes with Achema 2022

A frequency converter helps to regulate the speed of the motor and adapt it to the actual power requirement, pump manufacturers tirelessly emphasize — and explain that those who rely on uncontrolled units because of the lower initial purchase price often end up paying for it within a few years due to the unnecessary electricity costs.

Saving money and energy and thus relieving the burden on the power grid and the environment actually sounds plausible. Especially since a reasonably intelligent control system in the age of Industry 4.0 opens up completely different possibilities. If you don’t just order the pump around, but take a closer look and combine digital measurement and control technology with AI and cloud computing, you can gain unimagined insights into the state of the production process and plant. No wonder IT specialists and data analysts are now as much a part of the workforce at pump manufacturers as CFD experts and mechanical engineers, at least at major companies.

Digital Insights Help to Make More out of Pumps

EB Digital Lab is the name of the young team that develops and makes marketable digital products and services for sealing specialist Eagle Burgmann (hall 8.0/A41), one of the most important suppliers to the pump industry. This includes digital maintenance concepts such as condition monitoring or predictive maintenance as well as an innovative customer portal for sales and services.

Since last year, for example, Netzsch (hall 8.0/C27) has been offering the Multiprotector pump protection module, which can analyze the stator temperature relevant to dry running as well as the temperature of the motor by means of three temperature inputs. The developers in Waldkraiburg hope that this will help to detect and combat the dreaded dry running of displacement pumps. The pumps can also be set up via an app for tablet PCs or smartphones. Diagnostic software seems almost a matter of course.

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Another approach is taken by Fristam (hall 8.0/H79), which wants to offer a very simple, robust and economical solution for extreme speed and flow rate ranges in the form of the Fristam FDS TSG. Thanks to a twin-speed gearbox, the motor output can be selected 1-2 sizes smaller than without, explain the pump specialists. Since the pump also operates in the “feel-good” frequency range of a standard three-phase motor, its use is comparatively simple and reliable. In initial applications in milk and cheese production, the required drive power could be reduced by up to 30 percent under otherwise identical conveying and cleaning conditions.

The Pumps Digital Twin at Achema 2022

Accordingly, smart fluidics are just as much at home at Achema as new impeller geometries or material innovations. Fluid processes mean more than just a pump, valve or seal; it encompasses the entire system, including pipes, bends, fittings and valves.

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Of course, the digital twin does not stop at the pump: operation and maintenance should benefit from the digital image of the flow machines, of course, but increasingly also planners, plant engineers and architects. The megatopic BIM (Building Information Modeling) is intended to extend the digital plant to include the complete construction project and to bundle and network it together with all relevant data during the life cycle in a digital model. This makes it possible to calculate and optimize the functionality, energy consumption, CO2 emissions as well as the costs of construction projects.

One hurdle, however, remains the lack of standardization between BIM (for example, by the Association of German Engineers (VDI) or the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) or its European counterparts) and the VDMA Pumps + Systems (hall 8.0/A23) and Compressors, Compressed Air and Vacuum Technology trade associations, which have already defined a standardized Industry 4.0 management shell for pumps. This virtually maps a digital pump twin and supplements the “physical” pump to create a genuine Industrie 4.0 component.

That is immensely important, because optimizing a pump without looking at the process often only raises a fraction of the savings potential hidden in the overall system, explain the Europump experts. They calculate that if, for example, water pumps were “only” replaced by speed-controlled units, only five instead of the potential 35 TWh could be saved.

For this reason, pump manufacturers are among the most vocal advocates of a so-called extended product approach (EPA), which is intended to supplement the product-fixated European Ecodesign Directive. In fact, a pump can convert electrical energy into positional energy or flow with maximum efficiency — if the system, in which it is integrated, has inefficiencies, it will remain below its capabilities. 

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