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Trend Report: Pumps & Compressors

Modular System Designs Pose a Challenge for Component Suppliers

| Editor: Alexander Stark

Suppliers who deliver equipment for key subsystems (e.g. columns, pumps and compressors) are working on modular designs (skids) for new systems and system upgrades. (sample image)
Suppliers who deliver equipment for key subsystems (e.g. columns, pumps and compressors) are working on modular designs (skids) for new systems and system upgrades. (sample image) (Source: Pixabay / CC0)

Industry 4.0 and digital transformation solutions are a priority for many pump, vacuum equipment and compressor manufacturers. The race to develop new business models has just started. 3D printing has a special role to play, and it will revolutionize the spare parts market.

Frankfurt/Germany — How can the process industry increase production speed and flexibility and also deliver greater product customization? Conventional single-output systems are not really suitable and remain the domain of commodity production. Modular design is needed to meet the need for increased speed, agility and customization. The goal is repetitive execution of specific basic functions on the systems to minimize process and installation times. The fundamental concept is to define a proven solution as a standard and use it repetitively, creating a type of "copy & paste" scenario with subsequent plug & play. This also makes documentation for validation easier.

Suppliers who deliver equipment for key subsystems (e.g. columns, pumps and compressors) are working on modular designs (skids) for new systems and system upgrades. In the future, engineers will be thinking in terms of functions, in other words modules and system solutions. This approach has the advantage that engineers do not always have to pay attention to every detail of components such as pump, vacuum and compressor systems. Even more importantly, modularized subsystems facilitate reuse of proven, pre-designed solutions on new projects. Based on the Lego principle, new systems can be engineered by designing in modules with different functions for use with a wide variety of production technologies.

One of the characteristics of modularity is the ability to offer the same functionality on different models of a product line designed for different operating parameters, for example a family of pumps with versions which handle different volume flows and pressure ranges. This approach requires standardization of technical components (this also facilitates qualification and validation in regulated industries).

KSB offers virtual impeller trimming which enables a user to directly change the rotational speed from a smartphone. In contrast to mechanical modification of the impeller, no intervention in the operating process is needed. This makes it possible to optimize energy efficiency if the actual flow/head point deviates from the expected value or react to a system-related change of the operating point. Pump customization can be delayed until much later in the procurement process. The number of versions can also be reduced, and in the future that will have a major impact on pump selection. With rotational speed customization, fewer model sizes will be needed to cover the entire parameter range with practically the same efficiency and NPSH. The version complexity of the hydraulics is reduced by more than 50 %, and that saves time and money in engineering.

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Multi-stage high-pressure pumps are a good design option for modular function blocks (e.g. Grundfos, Rheinhütte, Flowserve, Xylem). Operators can choose different combinations of pump sizes, materials, connections and features. Varying the number of pumping stages provides the flexibility to adapt the pump capacity to the chosen module size. The system manufacturer can operate the motor in the supersynchronous range to alter the pump dimensions (more compact design).

In combination with greater standardization, modularization creates the possibility to configure simple pump solutions on the manufacturer's homepage. Similar to the way in which engineers can now use a configurator to design a pump, users have access to virtual tools which initiate the actual production process (pump on demand).

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