Centrifugal Pumps: Overview of Design, Operation and Malfunctions

D. Craig Sever

Charles T. Hatch
Bently Nevada Training Development Group Bently Nevada Corporation


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Table of Contents
1. INTRODUCTION TO CENTRIFUGAL PUMPS................................................................................. 1 THE ROLE OF PUMPS AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF PUMP MALFUNCTION ................................................... 1 WHAT IS A PUMP? ....................................................................................................................................... 2 TYPES OF PUMPS.......................................................................................................................................... 3 2. DESIGN AND OPERATION OF CENTRIFUGAL PUMPS............................................................... 6 TERMINOLOGY OF ENERGY IN LIQUIDS ....................................................................................................... 6 THREE FUNDAMENTAL WAYS CENTRIFUGAL PUMPS ADD ENERGY ............................................................ 7 PUMP COMPONENTS AND THEIR PURPOSES ................................................................................................. 7 Impeller................................................................................................................................................... 8 Casing ................................................................................................................................................... 13 Multiple Stages ..................................................................................................................................... 16 Inlet Geometry ...................................................................................................................................... 16 Seals...................................................................................................................................................... 17 Sealless Pump Designs ......................................................................................................................... 19 Wear Rings ........................................................................................................................................... 20 Shaft Sleeves......................................................................................................................................... 21 Thrust Balancing................................................................................................................................... 22 Bearings ................................................................................................................................................ 23 Couplings .............................................................................................................................................. 24 PERFORMANCE, OPERATION, AND TERMINOLOGY .................................................................................... 25 Pump Performance Curves: Important Pump Parameters..................................................................... 25 System Curves ...................................................................................................................................... 26 Pump Operation: How Pump and System Curves Relate ..................................................................... 27 The Best Efficiency Point ..................................................................................................................... 27 Specific Speed....................................................................................................................................... 28 Net Positive Suction Head and Suction Specific Speed........................................................................ 29 3. MALFUNCTIONS OF CENTRIFUGAL PUMPS .............................................................................. 32 GENERAL CONCEPTS ................................................................................................................................. 32 PUMP MALFUNCTIONS ............................................................................................................................... 33 High 1X Vibration due to Unbalance.................................................................................................... 33 Radial Loads (Misalignment and Sideload) .......................................................................................... 38 Rub........................................................................................................................................................ 47 Shaft Crack ........................................................................................................................................... 53 Fluid-Induced Instability....................................................................................................................... 62 Structural Resonances........................................................................................................................... 70 Cavitation.............................................................................................................................................. 72 Vane Pass Frequencies.......................................................................................................................... 77 4. REFERENCES........................................................................................................................................ 78


THE ROLE OF PUMPS AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF PUMP MALFUNCTION Vast numbers of processes require liquid to move from one location to another. These processes can be seen in nuclear and non-nuclear power generation, oil pipelines, petrochemical refineries, municipal wastewater and domestic water treatment facilities, both large and small buildings, on ships and offshore oil platforms, and manufacturing plants, and the list could go on. In virtually all of these processes, pumps play the essential role of providing the propulsion necessary to move the liquid. Pumps are a generally robust and reliable class of rotating machinery. However, pumps are critical machines in many processes because their loss can create serious or even catastrophic results. Power generation relies on boiler feedpumps, condensate pumps, and water circulation pumps to circulate water through the thermodynamic process that converts fuel into electrical power. Nuclear power generation would be impossible without the variety of pumps to circulate water through the primary reactor core loop, secondary power generating loop, and cooling water loop. Power generation pumps are typically large and custom, one-of-a-kind design. The failure of a powergen pump can result in significant financial loss due to pump damage, as well as damage to associated equipment. For example, a large high-pressure boiler evaporating about a million pounds of water per hour could suffer extensive damage within minutes if allowed to run dry due to a failed boiler feedpump. Process industries such as petrochemical refineries are also vulnerable to similar financial consequences. The processing of liquid product employs large numbers of pumps. A failed pump can shut down an entire process resulting in revenue losses on the order of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. In order to avoid such losses, many process industries find it necessary to devote large portions of their maintenance budgets to pumps. Safety is an even greater concern than the financial impact of pump malfunctions. Public and plant personnel can be seriously endangered by accidents stemming from pump failures in processes that handle radioactive or toxic liquids. For instance, operating conditions can affect the reliability of pump seals. If a malfunction causes vibration, temperature, or pressure to change radically or to move outside of normal operating ranges, these seals may leak and expose plant workers and the surrounding public to the adverse effects of hazardous liquids. Environmental damage due to pump failure can also be a very serious problem. Hazardous materials released into the environment through leaking pump seals can have significant environmental impacts. The consequences of such unintended releases are not limited to environmental damage, there may be heavy financial costs as well. Environmental regulations governing hazardous materials have become very stringent and environmental regulatory agencies may require the filing of a report, impose large fines, shut a plant down, or all of these, depending on the nature and amount of liquid released. All of these factors combine to make pumps a class of rotating machinery that deserve in-depth examination.


not all may be as familiar with the concept of frictional resistance to liquid flow.. Rougher pipe surfaces create more drag on a liquid than smoother surfaces and hence more friction. This translates directly into greater frictional resistance for higher viscosity liquids. Just as a car engine provides energy to keep the car moving against friction and gravity. and overcomes the gravitational resistance of moving a car up a hill (i. Driving against a strong headwind or up a steep grade gives one a special appreciation for these effects. Smaller diameter pipes have less cross-sectional flow area than larger pipes which yields greater resistance to flow.f= WHAT IS A PUMP? Almost everyone is familiar with pumps and their basic function. Emptying a can of motor oil versus a glass of water illustrates how the higher viscosity oil molecules cling to each other more than the water molecules.e. However. energy must be added on a continual basis to keep the liquid flowing against frictional resistance and elevation changes. However. In addition. or gradient. The greater the cohesion. This can be seen by observing flow in a river where the flow is slowest at the edges and becomes swifter toward the center. A closer examination of the concept of friction in liquids allows us to recognize that the magnitude of pipe friction loss depends on several factors. the greater the amount of energy required to make a liquid flow. We readily recognize that the water pump in an automobile circulates engine coolant through the radiator and water jacket. liquid in a pipe must be accelerated against the inertia of its mass and once accelerated to a desired velocity (or flow rate). certain properties of the liquid itself are contributing factors. 2 . tires. In actual practice. The actual flow of liquids in pipes is quite complex and these are just a few of the factors that affect frictional resistance. Liquid molecules immediately adjacent to a pipe surface have zero velocity while molecules in the center of the pipe have maximum velocity. It is well known that an automobile engine accelerates the mass of the car against the effects of inertia. This friction combined with gravity creates significant resistance that a pump must overcome if a liquid is to flow. The molecules of liquid rub because they are not all moving at the same velocity. The idea of pumping against an elevation change is not hard to imagine. This gradient means that adjacent liquid molecules have slightly different speeds causing them to rub against each other and produce friction.. friction also occurs between individual molecules of liquid that “rub” together while flowing down a pipe. between the molecules closest to the stationary pipe surface and those in the center of the flow. the inertia of flowing liquids are largely ignored because it is of less concern than the other two forms of resistance. It follows then that there must be a variation in speed. so too a pump provides energy to keep a liquid moving against elevation and frictional resistance. overcomes frictional resistance caused by air. As with a car. Pumps can be compared to the engine of a car. etc. elevation changes). This “cling” is largely due to the cohesion between molecules. However. it is simply the resistance encountered when moving a liquid uphill against earth’s gravitational pull. Likewise. Just as friction occurs between two blocks of wood that are rubbed together. it is helpful to establish the function of pumps in more precise terms. this simple explanation gives us sufficient understanding of the task that pumps must perform.

using the minimal amount of mechanical energy per unit of energy added. The second category is referred to as kinetic pumps because they add energy by passing the liquid through an impeller which “speeds up” the liquid thereby increasing its kinetic energy. Energy is required to make a liquid flow against the effects of frictional and gravitional resistance. In other words. there are many different designs depending on the specific application. The goal is to pump as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. kinetic pumps do not push on the liquid quite as directly as displacement pumps. they take rotative shaft energy from a driver and convert it to increased energy in the pumped liquid.f= The relationship between energy lost to flow resistance and the energy gained from a pump can be shown graphically in a diagram called an energy gradeline diagram (Figure 1. gears. pistons. screws. Most of the pumps used in power generation and process industries are centrifugal pumps. the purpose of a pump is to provide the energy necessary to overcome these resistances. Centrifugal pumps may be single-stage (one 3 . In contrast to displacement pumps. to exert a force directly on the liquid.1). kinetic pumps add energy in a smoother and more continuous process. Energy lost to Friction Energy Grade Line Energy added by Pump to overcome Friction and Elevation Energy lost to Friction Pump supplies an abrupt increase in Energy Graph of Energy Change in Liquid Flowing through Piping System and Pump Figure 1. or other similar means. diaphragms. Pumps are actually energy converters. Of course. Energy losses are represented by a decreasing EGL while energy gains are represented by an increasing EGL. TYPES OF PUMPS Pumps fall into two broad categories depending on how they add energy to the pumped liquid. The first category is known as displacement pumps and these utilize plungers. and change in elevation.1 Energy Grade Line (EGL) shows how the energy of a liquid changes as it flows through a piping system. Kinetic pumps are sometimes referred to as centrifugal pumps. pump. They add energy using a different principle that will be explained in more detail in following sections. pumps do not accomplish the task of supplying energy by themselves. displacement pumps use a cyclical process that imparts the energy in pulses. Except for screw and gear type pumps. While all centrifugal pumps use an impeller to add kinetic energy.

These are just a few of the design differences among centrifugal pumps.3 Centrifugal pump used to pump water. discharges through top.2 Cross-section of a typical end-suction centrifugal pump with single-suction. Whereas the pump illustrated in Figure 2 is supported by its own mounting feet. section on right is taken through impeller and volute along mean flow line. Section on left is taken through pump shaft. 4 . albeit a common one.f= impeller) or multi-stage (more than one impeller) and may rotate about a horizontal or vertical axis. the pump shown above mounts directly to the driver (electric motor) housing with no additional support.2 and 1. In addition to the impeller.2 illustrates most of the components that are common to all (radial and mixed flow) centrifugal pumps. Single-stage centrifugal pumps may have their impeller over-hung (supported at one end only) or have their impeller supported on both ends between bearings. the design of the pump case also varies widely depending on application. The pumps shown in Figure 1. Figure 1. Figure 1.3 illustrate a typical single-stage end-suction volute pump. over-hung impeller. Shaft Seal Lubrication Port Mean Flow Line Discharge Coupling Shaft Sleeve Impeller Suction Suction Eye Bearings (2) Sealing Area Wear Rings (4) Casing Figure 1. Suction enters from left in both photos. It is only one of many variations among centrifugal pump designs.


This paper focuses on centrifugal pumps because they are the most widely used pump design in the world. In addition, centrifugal pumps represent a significant portion of the capital, operating and maintenance costs of the power generation and process industries. This paper will discuss the root causes underlying some of the more common centrifugal pump malfunctions, how to recognize their characteristic symptoms and how to correct them. In order to understand pump malfunctions, it is first necessary to understand how they are designed and operated.



TERMINOLOGY OF ENERGY IN LIQUIDS We have established that the fundamental purpose of pumps is to add energy to liquid so that it can flow against the effects of frictional and gravitational resistance. Before continuing with the explanation of how pumps accomplish this task, it is first necessary to understand the terms used to commonly describe this type of energy. Those who work with pumps refer to the energy added by a pump as head (H). Head is measured in units of feet or meters. Head can take on three forms with each form being measured by a different means. The first form is static pressure head, or simply pressure head (HP). Pressure head is the energy measured with a pressure gauge. The second form is elevation head (HE). Elevation head is the potential energy that a liquid has by virtue of its relative vertical position in a system. Thus, the higher a liquid is, the greater its elevation head. The third form is velocity head (HV). Velocity head is the kinetic energy of a liquid due to its velocity. Velocity head is commonly measured with a pitot tube. The total energy in a liquid consists of the sum of these three forms of energy. The total energy, or head, of a liquid can be distributed in any proportion among the three forms. The total energy may exist completely in one form to the exclusion of the other two, or it may exist as 30% pressure head, 30% elevation head, and 40% velocity head, or it may exist in any other combination as long as the sum of the three forms equals 100% of the total head. For example, the water at the bottom of a swimming pool will have no elevation head (compared to water at the pool’s surface) and will have no velocity head (assuming there is no circulation in the pool). However, it will have energy in the form of pressure head and this is exactly the pressure felt on one’s ears while diving to the bottom of a deep swimming pool. Conversely, water at the top of the pool will have potential energy because of its elevation head but it will have no pressure head. The lack of pressure head is sensed by the absence of pressure on one’s ears immediately below the water surface. Water situated at levels between the top and bottom of the pool will have some combination of pressure and elevation head depending on depth. We can convert the pressure head to velocity head by opening an imaginary valve located at the bottom of the pool. Water will flow through the valve and we can intuitively understand that higher pressure in the pool will correlate directly with a higher velocity through the valve. If we calculate the total head in the high elevation water at the top of the pool, and the total head in the high pressure water at the bottom of the pool, and the total head in the high velocity water flowing out of the valve it will be the same in all three cases. The fact that the total head converts among its three forms without increasing or decreasing (assuming no energy losses or gains by external means) is known as Bernoulli’s law. Bernoulli’s law is an expression of the fundamental principle of the conservation of energy. We must understand that head can exist in one of three forms and that it can convert between them because centrifugal pumps operate by first adding velocity head and then converting some portion of it into pressure head.



THREE FUNDAMENTAL WAYS CENTRIFUGAL PUMPS ADD ENERGY All centrifugal pumps use an impeller to add velocity head to a liquid. However, not all impellers accomplish this in exactly the same manner. Depending on the method used, impeller designs are grouped into three general types. The difference between them is the direction in which each type forces the high velocity liquid to flow. 1. Radial flow impellers increase liquid velocity in a direction perpendicular (or radial) to the pump axis (Figure 2.1a). 2. Mixed flow impellers increase liquid velocity in a direction that is a mixture of perpendicular and parallel flow with respect to the pump axis (Figure 2.1b). 3. Axial flow impellers increase liquid velocity in a direction parallel (or axial) to the pump axis (Figure 2.1c).
High Velocity Out
High Velocity Out

High Velocity Out

Low Velocity In Impeller

Low Low Velocity Velocity In In Impeller

Low Velocity In

Figure 2.1a Radial Flow Impeller Figure 2.1b Mixed Flow Impeller Figure 2.1c Axial Flow Impeller directs flow radially outward from directs flow both radially and directs flow axially along the pump axially to pump axis. pump axis. axis.

Each type of impeller provides a certain combination of performance features. Hence, each type is best suited to meet the needs of particular applications.

PUMP COMPONENTS AND THEIR PURPOSES Centrifugal pump designs range from small and simple to large and intricate. However, no matter how complex or simple the overall machine, there are parts common to all designs that provide the same function. The following is a discussion of these common pump components. It is intended that this will provide a context for the latter discussion of pump malfunctions.



Impellers The impeller, or more specifically, the impeller vanes, are that part of the pump where the rotative shaft energy from the driver is converted into kinetic energy in the pumped liquid. Radial and axial flow impellers perform this conversion using different mechanisms while mixed flow impellers combine the two methods. Radial Flow Impellers A radial flow impeller is essentially a rotating disk with several evenly spaced radial vanes protruding on one side (Figure 2.2). Liquid is guided into the “eye” or center of the impeller via the suction passage of the pump casing where it is then caught by the leading edges of the vanes. (The vanes are usually curved backward against the direction of rotation, this will be explained shortly.) Once caught by the vanes, centrifugal force drives the liquid toward the periphery of the impeller (hence the name centrifugal pump).


Figure 2.2 Flow of liquid through radial flow impeller. Pumped liquid enters center of impeller where it is caught by vanes and driven outward by centrifugal force. Total velocity of the liquid increases as it moves further out toward the periphery of the impeller.

The liquid accelerates as it travels outward. One way to understand the change in velocity is to think of it as having 2 vector components. One component, U, is equal to radial distance (r) times angular velocity (ω). The other component, VT, is the velocity of the flow tangential to the vanes and is related to the velocity of liquid flowing through the vane passages (Figure 2.3).

An increase in either variable results in increasing total velocity. fluid and mechanical friction) which cause the actual performance to be less than ideal. Since the direction of VT2 is tangent to the vane. V2.3 Vector Components (U and VT) of Total Velocity (V) at Impeller Inlet and Outlet. While this description represents an overly simplified and highly idealized approach. The increase in U from inlet to outlet accounts for the gain in total velocity V. as VT2 increases. There are energy losses (for example. Manufacturers include these losses when estimating the actual performance.f= U1 = r1ω + r1 V1 VT1 ω r2 VT2 U2 = r2ω V2 Figure 2. the actual performance must always be determined by testing. Note also that U2 depends on impeller rotative speed . the net effect of increasing backward vane curve is an overall reduction in total velocity. and impeller diameter. Even with the best estimation techniques. The backward curve of the vanes determines to what degree an increase in VT2 reduces V2. it is a useful model for understanding how radial flow impellers boost velocity head and it provides a basis from which actual pump performance can be calculated. The velocity at inlet and outlet is determined by summing the respective U and VT components (vector components are summed graphically by placing the tail of one to the head of the other). ω . A visual comparison of the length of the total velocity vectors at inlet and outlet shows that total velocity V is greatest at the periphery of the impeller. V2. we see that the net increase in velocity head is the difference between V2 and V1. 9 . From this description. V1 cannot be counted as energy gained because it was already present in the liquid prior to entering the impeller [8]. The vector components sum to the make up the total velocity. r2. The growth in U from inlet to outlet explains the difference between V2 and V1.

Axial flow vanes are shaped to push the liquid in the direction of the pump axis. Rather. shaft rotative speed) and remains constant when these variables are held constant.2 and 2. V. U and VT. high flow is needed.) Decreasing head versus increasing flow is desirable from the standpoint of pump operation as explained in more detail below in the section entitled “Pump Operation: How Pump and System Curves Relate”.. The value of VT rises and falls as a function of the amount of flow through the impeller (this is no different than. Figure 2. low flow applications while axial flow pumps are used where low (pressure) head.e. opposite the direction of impeller rotation) as shown in Figures 2.1b shows. at inlet and outlet can each be thought of as the sum of two individual vector components. (The main contributor to this head versus flow characteristic is frictional resistance in the pump flow passages.. Vane Curvature The vanes of most radial and mixed flow impellers are curved backward (i. Mixed flow pumps occupy a range in between. backward vane curvature serves to accentuate this effect. As Figure 2. In order to understand how backward vane curvature produces this effect. they do not use centrifugal force to increase velocity head.3. the direction of VT is tangent to the vane surface. we need to refer to the velocity triangles in Figure 2. liquid is accelerated radially and axially. the change in velocity of water through a garden hose as more or less water flows through it. Since VT flows tangentially to the vanes which are directed 10 . Mixed Flow Impellers The third type of centrifugal pump impeller is really a combination of the two just described.) In addition. A few radial flow impellers are produced with straight vanes.4 Axial Flow Impeller.3. The basic shape of each of the three types of impellers provides a different combination of head versus flow characteristics. Impeller Design Features: 1. There we see that the total velocity head. axial flow impellers operate on the same principles as propellers (Figure 2. for example. unlike radial flow pumps that move the liquid at right angles to the shaft axis. The backward vane curvature is partly responsible for the decrease in head as flow through the pump increases. Mixed flow impellers combine goemetric features of both radial and axial flow impellers. These head versus flow characteristics are described by a parameter known as a pump’s specific speed. However.4). Radial flow pumps are used in high (pressure) head. This meaning of this term is explained in the section below entitled “Specific Speed”. The value of U depends on impeller radius and on angular velocity (i.e.f= Axial Flow Impellers Axial flow impellers are usually included in the general category of centrifugal pumps.

or maybe the piping can handle the extra pressure but the excessive power consumption of an oversize pump is uneconomical. Furthermore. These shrouds are an integral part of the impeller and thus rotate with it. increases in VT act to cancel U. the discharge piping could burst if it does not have the strength to withstand the pressure head created by an oversize pump. shaft rotative speed (or angular velocity. Minor reductions in impeller diameter (called “trimming”) are sometimes made in order to reduce the pump discharge head or to reduce the pump power consumption.f= mostly opposite to rotation at the point where they contact the impeller periphery. and reinstalled in the same pump casing. then the net effect of an increase in VT is a reduction in the total velocity head. Generally. Open versus Closed This categorization indicates whether the impeller vanes are enclosed by shrouds on the front.3). 11 . The pump affinity laws predict the effect that trimming will have on pump performance. V (Figure 2. we know that this problem could be dealt with by modifying any one of several variables that determine the head a pump will produce. 2. If U is held constant. these parameters are not so easily changed in most applications. This leaves reducing the impeller diameter as the most cost-effective solution for situations of this kind. 3. back. the vanes are an integral part of the impeller and are not modifiable unless the impeller is changed. Flow could be increased (which raises VT thereby lowering V). or impeller diameter could be reduced (which lowers U thereby lowering V). Impeller Diameter The outside diameter of the impeller is another important design parameter that determines the amount of velocity head that an impeller can develop. ω) could be reduced (which lowers U thereby lowering V). Pump casings are designed to accommodate a range of impeller diameters which allows impellers to be removed. they deserve mentioning because they are so widely used for predicting how impeller trim will affect head versus flow characteristics. From the previous discussion of vane curvature and impeller diameter. a larger diameter impeller will require more power for a fixed speed. Knowing that the one of the two vector components which sum into the total velocity head is U and that it is directly dependent on outlet radius and angular velocity (or shaft rotative speed). Except for reducing impeller diameter.2 is represented by the flat disk which supports the vanes. More backward curvature results in greater decrease in total velocity head with increase in flow. The shroud of the impeller shown in Figure 2. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to explain these laws. V. trimmed. Increasing the head that a pump can produce by increasing impeller diameter is not without a cost. or vane curvature could be increased (which causes VT to further cancel U thereby lowering V). we realize that increasing or decreasing outlet radius will have a like effect on the total velocity head. Any increase in diameter will also require an increase in the torque required to turn the impeller. the process determines the flow and the driver is often a single speed electric motor. For example. One can see that the reduction in total velocity head with increasing flow depends directly on the degree of backward vane curvature. Since power is a direct function of torque and shaft rotative speed. or front and back of the vanes.

double suction pumps have a lower Net Positive Suction Head Required (NPSHR) than single suction pumps (NPSHR is explained below in “Net Positive Suction Head”). Closed impellers provide the greatest reduction in leakage and therefore are more efficient than open impellers. In addition.15 respectively. on one or both sides. Single suction impellers are usually preferred because they are less expensive. an open impeller is simply a hub with vanes attached to it [1]. The impeller shown in Figure 2.14). their design provides a better balance of the axial forces that occur when pumps are operated off of design capacity (see section entitled “Thrust Balancing”). The pumped liquid is naturely driven back to suction by the high discharge pressure. This joint is usually lined with replaceable wear rings which also add cost to the pump (see section entitled “Wear Rings” below).14 and 2.2 is actually a semi-open impeller because it is enclosed on one side by a shroud. Double suction impellers have several advantages over single suction impellers. Enclosing the vane passages with shrouds helps to keep the liquid flowing in the intended direction instead of leaking back to suction through open areas between the vanes and the sidewall of the casing.f= The shrouds serve to keep the liquid flowing through the vane passages in the proper direction. Single and double suction impellers are shown in Figures 2. 12 . First. This leakage represents wasted pumping energy and a reduction in efficiency. In other words. Closed impellers have shrouds on both the front and back sides (Figure 2. or “eyes”. double suction impellers have a larger suction area than single suction pumps for a given flow which means that less energy is required to push flow into the suction. they are also more expensive to manufacture. Single versus Double Suction Impellers can be designed with suction inlets. Second. Single suction pumps are easier to manufacture and less likely to clog when handling suspended matter such as sewage [1]. 4. a tight clearance running joint must be provided between the impeller shrouds and the pump casing. However. Strictly speaking.

The volute provides the expanding flow passage necessary for diffusion to occur. The volute casing is so called because of its spiral shape (Figure 2.f= Casing Function It is apparent that the liquid and impeller must be contained in some kind of vessel which directs the flow toward the discharge. Pressure Head of Flow Through Pump. Since total Vanes Inlet Tips amount of energy must remain of Impeller constant (assuming not losses or Vanes Velocity gains). As liquid leaves the impeller periphery its velocity head is very high – in fact it is too high and the pressure head is too low for many applications. Casing Design: 1. Figure 2.6). The expansion causes a reduction in velocity Figure 2.5 shows the how velocity head decreases while pressure head increases as the flow moves through the discharge side of the Pressure case. The cutwater divides the liquid coming off the impeller into two flows with one side flowing through the volute and the other side flowing toward the discharge. The conversion process follows the principle of Outlet Tips conservation of energy as stated of Impeller by Bernoulli’s law. The pump case has another equally important role – it must convert some of the velocity head into pressure head. There are two common convert velocity head into pressure head while preserving the case designs which accomplish total amount of head. this in an efficient manner (“Efficient” in this instance means no energy losses through turbulence. and an accompanying increase in Graph shows the relationship between velocity head and pressure head of flow through the pump. Simply put. Flow Path diffusion occurs when flow area is expanded. The energy in turbulent liquid flow is non-recoverable). The smallest point of flow area where the volute begins is called the cutwater. Some of that velocity head must be converted into pressure head in order to be useful. Casing discharge is designed to pressure. The conversion of velocity head into pressure head occurs in the pump case.5 Velocity vs. pressure head must increase as velocity head is reduced. The way to reduce velocity is by increasing the cross-sectional Casing Impeller Casing area of the flow through the Suction Discharge process of diffusion. Volutes The most common type of casing design is the single volute casing. there is more to the case design than simply catching and containing the high energy liquid as it comes off the impeller. 13 . However.

the problems presented by excessive radial forces that result from operating off of design capacity have spawned the following case designs. it actually produces many radial forces that act in all directions upon the impeller (Figure 2. the single volute is still the most commonly used case design. These radial forces are generally balanced when the pump is F operated at its Best Efficiency Point (BEP). Pump to-Impeller Clearance efficiency increases as the clearance between cutwater and impeller is reduced. spiral shape of the volute can be seen in the figure. Balanced design capacity. Since the pressure acts around the full circumference of the impeller. The Frequency”. 14 . This is explained in more detail below in the section entitled “Vane Pass Figure 2. force. when Figure 2. The net radial force can be as much as fifteen times the force at design capacity (Figure 2. However. F (Figure 2.7a). The impeller. net radial force will vary depending on operating point relative to design capacity. if the clearance is too small. The clearance between cutwater and pump shafts and failed seals and bearings. as the name implies. Part of the reason for this is that it costs less to manufacture than other designs [2]. in some cases. However. the forces in pump operated at operated below or above forces become unbalanced which design capacity. impeller must be optimized for best efficiency and The pressure of the liquid in the volute acts lowest pressure pulsations.6) of the impeller is a Direction of Cutwater Rotation critical design dimension because it must be sized to strike a compromise between Cutwaterefficiency and pressure pulsations. However.7b radial forces in pump operated above or below BEP. The sum total of these nearly balanced forces is a net radial force that is minimal or.10). Unbalanced radial forces produce a can result in a significant net minimal net force on the radial forces result in a net radial force.7b). on the projected area of the impeller to produce a radial force. Volutes have an additional drawback The cutwater divides the flow coming off the which has been the cause for many broken impeller. F.) Despite this drawback.7a Balanced radial Figure 2. However. the pump is producing the maximum output per input when operated at the BEP. then large pressure pulsations resulting in pump failure Single Volute can occur. Direction and magnitude of F varies with direction and magnitude of this flow.f= The clearance between the cutwater and the periphery (Figure 2. (The term Best Efficiency Point (BEP) is described below in the section “Best Efficiency Point”. practically Unbalanced nonexistent.6 Single Volute Pump Casing.

each vane acts as a miniature volute.8 Double Volute Pump Casings contain an additional volute positioned 180° to volute of casing sidewall. The vaned diffuser may be contained in either a concentric or volute shaped casing.8). Vaned diffuser produces least amount of radial force when the pump is operated off of BEP.f= 2. Figure 2. The vaned diffuser contains several vanes set around the periphery of the impeller (Figure 2. Note that the number of impeller and diffuser are not the same.10). Equal numbers of vanes and certain other combinations can lead to destructive high vibration which occurs at the “vane pass frequency” (see section “Vane Pass Frequency”).9 Vaned Diffuser. Pump designers pay careful attention to the number of impeller and diffuser vanes. Essentially. The double volute balances the sideloads produced when the pump is operated off of design capacity. Vaned Diffusers Another type of casing design which balances hydraulically produced sideloads is the vaned diffuser. Direction of Rotation Impeller Direction of Rotation Double Volute Figure 2. Double Volutes Double volute casings have two opposing volutes positioned 180° opposite of each other (Figure 2.10 Radial (sideload) force versus flow for three types of pump casings. The distribution of many evenly spaced “small volutes” makes the vaned diffuser the most effective of the three casing designs at minimizing sideloads (Figure 2.9). The unequal number of vanes minimizes pressure pulsations which would be magnified if the same number of each were used. 3. Designers follow guidelines to avoid these combinations of vane numbers. This feature makes the double volute more effective than the single volute at minimizing the radial loads produced by operation away from the BEP (Figure 2. Radial force is minimum when flow is at the Best Efficiency Point (BEP). Double Volute Radial Load + Single Volute Casing (Concentric shown) Vaned Diffuser Vaned Diffuser Flow + Best Efficiency Point (BEP) Figure 2. 15 .10).

• the angular orientation of impeller vanes and volutes are offset. NPSH is a very important parameter because centrifugal pumps will cavitate if the available NPSH falls below the required NPSH. The minimum pressure required to prevent cavitation is termed the Net Positive Suction Head Required (NPSHR) because it denotes the pressure at the suction flange that is required to prevent the liquid downstream within the flow passages of the impeller from flashing into vapor bubbles (i. Thus. or staggered. In addition. Centrifugal pumps with as many as fifteen or so stages are not unusual (even twenty stage pumps have been built). between stages. • impellers are generally single suction.) The inlet geometry of a centrifugal pump is worth discussing for the reason that is a major determinant of a pump’s required Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH). Inlet Geometry The inlet geometry refers to the flow passage in the pump casing from the point where the inlet piping attaches at the suction flange to the point where the liquid contacts the impeller (Figure 1. within the low pressure regions of the impeller vane passages. pumps which contain more than one impeller (each stage represents an impeller and casing volute). The staggered orientation results in a more balanced angular distribution of the radial sideloads produced at the different stages.. increasing head in smaller incremental steps using multiple stages preserves efficiency. and pipeline booster pumps. in applications which require high head.2). however. It is a general term that includes all casing geometry from the pump’s suction flange right up to the eye of the impeller. Since 16 . The stages are connected in series so that the discharge from one stage flows into the suction of the stage immediately downstream. suction flange) to prevent the pumped liquid from vaporizing into bubbles. double suction impellers are sometimes used in the first stage since they reduce the required NPSH of a pump. or cavities. the Available NPSH) of the incoming liquid falls below the vapor pressure of the liquid. NPSH is the positive pressure required at the pump inlet (i. a brief description is as follows. These are a few notable particulars about the design of multistage centrifugal pumps: • cases may be split axially or radially. cavitating). Each stage increases the head by a certain amount with the total head added by the pump being the summation of all the stages. reactor feedpumps.e. NPSH and cavitation are explained in much greater detail below in their respective sections.f= Multiple Stages Multistage centrifugal pumps are. However. The reason for designing multistage pumps lies in the fact that efficiency suffers if too big an increase in head is attempted with a single stage. Cavitation is an undesirable condition because the vapor bubbles can cause serious damage to the impeller when they collapse.. Common applications that require high head multistage pumps are boiler feedwater pumps. Vertical pumps can also be multistage. Cavitation occurs when the pressure (i. as the name implies. (The inlet of a pump is also referred to as the suction.e.. this helps to reduce pressure pulsations and vibration which occur at vane pass frequency.e.

A pump that requires less NPSH is advantageous because this pressure must be provided by the inlet piping system and this can result in greater overall expense of the installation. typically by studs with nuts that can be tightened or loosened to provide compression as needed. The main components are shown in Figure 2. The seal must prevent the high pressure liquid contained in the case from leaking through the joint where the rotating shaft (or shaft sleeve) and stationary components are in contact. The packing gland is situated on the atmospheric side of the gland assembly so that it can be accessed for tightening or loosening. The stuffing box can be either an integral part of the casing or it can be a bolt-on assembly. The term stuffing box refers to the general part of the pump that houses the packing assembly. Good inlet design practices can include large suction side diameter. Seals Seals are a particularly important pump component because they are probably the most frequent cause of regular pump maintenance and thus the cause of a high percentage of overall pump maintenance cost [2]. The suction specific speed is a number that provides a way to compare the effectiveness of a pump at reducing the NPSH required to prevent cavitation (see “Suction Specific Speed”). of the packing rings is the stuffing box bushing. Seals are critical items because the leakage of a hazardous or toxic liquid can have severe safety and economic consequences.11. Each approach will be explained separately with a brief comparison to follow. On the opposite. The stuffing box bushing provides a seat 17 . it follows that the pressure measured upstream at the suction flange must also be kept above some minimum level. a well designed pump inlet will minimize these frictional losses so that less NPSH is required.2]. the reader should be aware of their existence and their importance. Two commonly used suction configurations are the end-suction (Figure 1. or high pressure end. This creates the seal between the shaft (or shaft sleeve) and casing. and other features which reduce frictional losses. The packing gland is a collar that is compressed against the rings. There are two general approaches to centrifugal pump shaft sealing: packing and mechanical seals. They are also frequently one of the first parts to be affected by a malfunction. all centrifugal pumps require a seal where the shaft penetrates the case. smooth flow passages. Square cross-section packing rings of a pliable material (usually a fibrous or metallic substance) are “packed” into the stuffing box throat. Packing Packing is the oldest and one of the most common shaft sealing systems for centrifugal pumps [2]. This difference in pressure is caused by the frictional losses that occur as the liquid flows through the inlet passage between these two points. These rings must be held tightly in place and this is done with the packing gland. The references listed at the end of this paper provide greater detail on these as well as other types of inlet designs [1. however.2) and inline suction designs. Other than the sealless designs described in the next section. It is the point where the shaft penetrates the casing. Therefore. The stuffing box contains the stuffing box throat which is an annular space surrounding the shaft (or shaft sleeve if there is one).f= pressure in the impeller must stay above the liquid’s vapor pressure to avoid cavitating. It is beyond the scope of this paper to describe these designs.

Lubrication flows circumferentially through the lantern ring to lubricate the packing rings-to-shaft sleeve contact area. ring receives pressurized lubrication via the threaded passage above. of the nonrotating packing rings Shaft Sleeve down onto the rotating Packing Rings (5) Shaft shaft (or sleeve). To avoid periodic replacement of expensive pump shafts. the packing ring material will burn and the shaft sleeve will wear excessively. or compression. on the order of several drops per minute. They do not attempt to seal directly against the rotating shaft as does a packing assembly. Without this lubrication. one which rotates with the shaft and the other which is stationary with the 18 . Packing gland between the packing compresses the packing rings against the stuffing box bushing and shaft rings and shaft that must sleeve to seal in the high pressure liquid on left side of assembly.11). High wear of the rotating shaft surface is inevitable even with lubrication. Mechanical Seals Mechanical seals have been developed to address the shortcomings of stuffing box and packing gland assemblies. Sometimes it is necessary to use other lubricating fluids if the pumped liquid has poor lubricity or contains abrasives. Mechanical seal designs are quite varied but all based on the same general concept. The leakage of lubrication can be significant. Lubrication of the packing is not the only design feature necessitated by the hard radial compression. This creates a hard contact Figure 2. The lantern ring has spaces that allow the lubricating fluid to flow circumferentially and seep into the joint between the packing rings and shaft (sleeve) in order to provide the necessary lubrication. Thus. Rather. a mechanical seal moves the joint off the shaft and places it between a pair of sealing faces. Lantern be kept lubricated. almost all packed pumps use less expensive.12. An effective stuffing box seal involves a fairly hard radial “squeeze”.11 Stuffing Box and Packing Assembly.f= against which the rings can be compressed. The main components are shown in Figure 2. replaceable shaft sleeves made of a hardened or hard-coated material (see “Shaft Sleeves” below). This tight clearance also limits the flow of liquid that can leak in case the packing fails completely. This lubrication is typically accomplished by routing a small amount of pumped fluid into the packing rings via a lantern ring (Figure 2. a means of lubricating the packing must be provided. The Lubrication Lantern Ring Stuffing Box annular clearance Packing between this bushing and Gland shaft (sleeve) is tight to prevent the packing from Stuffing Box extruding into the pump Bushing and loosing compression.

mechanical seals are well suited for applications where leakage of pumped liquid through packing would create safety. mechanical seals have a few disadvantages when compared to packing. The number of such applications has grown as environmental and safety regulations have become increasingly stringent. Plate While the amount of leakage through a mechanical seal is generally less than through packing. or production problems. Sealless Pump Designs There are some applications where even the low leakage of mechanical seals is unacceptable. On the other hand. are described in more depth in the references listed at the end of this paper [1. Magnetic drive pumps and canned motor pumps eliminate the shaft-through-case penetration and its associated seal. This is accomplished by enclosing the rotating parts in a cylindrical containment shell that tightly wraps the rotor. Thus. Spring Mechanical seal designs employ various means of Figure 2. 19 . The mechanical seal faces are oriented perpendicularly to Fixed Collar Seal Face Seal Face the shaft axis and held in contact (rotates with (rotating) (fixed) by one or more springs. the due to There are other variations in contact pressure between and faces. shaft) mechanical seal designs have been able to eliminate the radial compression required by stuffing End box and packing assemblies. Thus.2]. and can handle higher pressures. When they fail. Two types of sealless pump designs will be mentioned here [2]. Also. some is still required for lubrication. Dynamic seal occurs between the rotating and fixed seal faces. These shown. The lubricating elements comprising mechanical seals. Spring maintains fluid can be gas or liquid. boost mechanical efficiency due to lower friction losses. The demand for zero-leakage pumps has given rise to sealless designs. and operated). require less maintenance than packing (when properly selected. their initial cost is generally higher and they are less tolerant of axial shaft movement. environmental. The need for lubrication exists because the rotating-to-stationary seal faces would quickly be destroyed if allowed to run dry. they usually do so much more quickly and catastrophically. Mechanical Seals versus Packing Mechanical seals generally leak less than packing. such as with toxic or radioactive liquids. Variations in designare not type of lubricating fluid contacting/non-contacting mechanical seal designs. installed.f= case.12 Simplified illustration which shows the general lubrication. In magnetic drive pumps.

In canned motor pumps. Secondly. In general.e. The “Double Flat Ring” style is shown. the of Impeller Vane suction-to-discharge pressure difference will cause the liquid Double Flat Rings to leak back through any other Figure 2. However. Similar to the magnetic drive pump. sealless pumps are not known for vibration stemming from fluid-induced instability.. The flux from the outer magnet then passes through the containment shell and turns an inner magnet attached to the impeller. unless (Impeller Mounted) recirculation is occurring – recirculation is explained below Impeller Leading Edge in “Cavitation”). Briefly. If the impeller case and impeller at the close-clearance gap called the leakage is closed. the motor rotor and pump impeller share a common cavity with the rotor and impeller inside the containment shell and the stator outside of it. the liquid can leak joint.. any design configuration that rotates an inner cylinder at a different speed inside an outer cylinder with a fluid trapped between them in a close clearance is susceptible to fluid-induced instability (see “Fluid-Induced Instability”). we realize that it is much higher on Wear Ring the discharge side of the impeller (Case Mounted) Case than it is on the suction side. First. Clearance should large enough to prevent contact between back to suction in the space rings and small enough to minimize leakage from discharge back between the impeller shroud and to suction. this configuration is one of the conditions necessary for whirl or whip to occur. Replaceable wear rings are mounted to available paths. i. the potential exists and it has been known to occur. Whirl and whip can cause high amplitude vibration that is very destructive. As explained below in “Fluid-Induced Instability”. Retaining Screws The pressure difference between suction and discharge acts to drive the liquid back toward suction.13 Wear Rings. 20 . Wear Rings If we step back and consider that the basic function of a pump is to raise pressure. However. both types of pump have a rotor turning in close proximity to a stationary outer containment shell with the process fluid in between them. If the impeller wear ring configurations are also available.f= an outer magnet external to the shell is rotated by a separate driver motor. there is no need for mechanical seals because only the flux of the motor penetrates the containment shell.k. The liquid can not flow backwards through the impeller vane passages because centrifugal force drives it in the Wear Ring proper direction (that is. in the wrong direction.a. both designs typically use radial fluid-film (sleeve) bearings that are lubricated by the process fluid. Several other the pump casing. whirl and whip) can occur. Sealless pumps may have this design configuration in possibly two locations. One notable aspect of both types of designs is that they may contain the configuration by which the malfunction of fluid-induced instability (a.

030 inches) depending on overall impeller diameter [1]. They deserve mention because they are a common part of many centrifugal pump designs.76 mm (0. and labyrinth type rings. L-type rings. Shaft Sleeves Centrifugal pump shafts are usually fitted with a sleeve which protects the shaft from wear at stuffing boxes or where it is in contact with corrosive and abrasive liquids (Figure 1. one or both of the wear surfaces is usually fitted with a renewable ring – called a wear ring.) For closed impellers. a corrosive or abrasive liquid can also wear away these surfaces with the same detrimental effect. the tight impeller-to-case clearance is located at the periphery of the impeller on the discharge side. these surfaces may contact and wear away which will open up the clearance resulting in lowered efficiency. Shown in Figure 2. In order to prevent this leakage. these clearances vary from about 0. To overcome this problem. This work represents wasted energy. These sleeves are renewable parts meant to be replaced during pump overhaul. one of just several wear ring designs.012 inches) to about 0. The name is a bit misleading because under good pump operating practices these rings should never contact. Such leakage means decreased pump efficiency because the work previously done to move the leakage from suction to discharge has to repeated.2). With closed impellers. (Less frequently. clearances between the casing-mounted and impeller-mounted wear rings are kept to a minimum (Figure 2. the clearances between certain points of the impeller and the case are made as tight as possible. Other wear ring types are single flat-rings.30 mm (0. For open impellers.f= is open. The tight clearance between these rotating and stationary parts can present a drawback. However. 21 . liquid will leak back to suction over the vane tops. Though not intended to rub. their design allows them to be replaced should wear occur. this means that the vane tops should run close to the case without touching. In addition to wear from surface contact.13 is a double flat-ring.13).

Since it is a by-product of the difference between suction and discharge pressure. trimming can also affect axial thrust. • Unequal leakage through the two leakage joints. Figure 2. Thus. The combination of pressures acting on the suction side of the impeller are lower than the discharge pressure which acts over the entire discharge side of the impeller. Can be due to uneven wear at the wear rings. Double suction pumps contain opposing impeller vane passages that theoretically should cause axial forces to cancel. closed impeller. Consequently. The unequal pressure on the two sides results in a net axial thrust force.14 shows the pressure distribution surrounding a single-suction. it will vary as this difference varies. The axial thrust force is not a constant. However. other circumstances often disrupt this balance resulting in axial thrust [1]. Only discharge pressure exerts a force on the discharge side of the impeller. centrifugal pumps must be designed to handle an axial thrust force that varies with operating conditions.f= Thrust Balancing Centrifugal pumps experience axial thrust because of the difference between the suction and discharge pressures acting on the cross-sectional area of the impeller. axial thrust will vary with impeller diameter. Can be caused by elbows (elbows are bends in the piping) located too close to pump suction. A single-suction impeller that is trimmed (trimming is a common practice of machining down the outside diameter of an impeller so that it will produce less head and consume less power) will have different suction-to-discharge pressure than an untrimmed impeller. Also. Figure 2. However. This narrow joint separates the suction and discharge pressures. the suction side of the impeller has combination of high discharge pressure and low suction pressure acting on it. The difference between suction and discharge pressures produces a net force that acts in the axial direction. Different operating points (see “Pump Operation” below) will produce changes in this difference.14 Axial Thrust Force of Single-Suction Closed Impeller. such as: • Unequal flow into the two suction eyes. Discharge Pressure Suction Pressure Discharge Pressure Axial Thrust Force Wear Ring Single-Suction (Closed) Impeller Figure 2. 22 .15 shows how the impeller is designed to provide a balanced distribution of suction and discharge pressures. The wear ring is located at the leakage joint between the impeller and case.

These bearings must maintain relatively constant rotor position under loads that fluctuate. Can be caused by asymmetrical waterways or an impeller located off-center. Suction and Since axial thrust is a certainty in most centrifugal pump designs and a possibility in others. Single-suction pumps may have balance holes through the impeller that allows suction pressure to leak to the discharge side. Multistage pumps may use balancing drums (a.. These additional balancing devices serve to relieve the thrust bearings of much of the axial thrust present in the pump. balancing pistons) and/or balancing disks. since sleeve bearings sometimes experience the malfunction of fluid-induced instability (whirl and whip). Figure 3. discharge pressures are balanced.15 Zero Net Axial Thrust Force of Double-Suction Impeller. including centrifugal pumps. Most fluid-film bearings are oil lubricated. However. other designs are also used. In addition to thrust bearings. 23 . Discharge Pressure Suction Pressure Discharge Pressure Suction Pressure Wear Rings Double-Suction Impeller Figure 2.k. An additional wear ring on the back side of the impeller prevents excessive suctionto-discharge leakage.f= • Unequal discharge pressure between the two sides of the discharge. The reader who desires greater detail on the design and operation of these balancing devices is referred to the references. The wear ring on the back side of the impeller is situated so that suction pressure on that side can balance suction pressure on the front side. The simplicity and load-carrying capacity of plain. cylindrical bearings (also referred to as sleeve bearings) make it the most commonly used type of fluid-film bearing. require bearings to support and position the rotor axially and radially. other balancing devices may also be incorporated. The most common types of bearings used in centrifugal pumps are either fluid-film bearings or rolling element bearings. Net axial thrust force is minimized. all centrifugal pumps incorporate thrust bearings. Bearings All rotating machines. Fluid-film bearings.a.33 in the section “Fluid-Induced Instability” shows some of these designs and describes how they reduce the potential for fluid-instability.

Filtering screens and hardened bearings are a few of the methods that manufacturers have used to counteract the detrimental effects of using pumped liquid for lubrication. oil. The close-coupled configuration imposes special requirements on the shaft (or shaft sleeve) material. water. Vertical pumps are the primary example of this type of application. The term is true in the general sense. Many pump applications use flexible couplings since they are designed to tolerate small variations in alignment (excessive misalignment can be a serious pump malfunction as explained below in “Radial Loads”). Their bearings are completely contained within the shell that separates the rotating from stationary parts and so they take advantage of the pumped liquid in which their rotating parts are immersed. The pump and motor are positioned close enough so that the motor bearings alone are sufficient to carry the loads generated by the impeller. Because the shaft is one solid piece. This allows the pump and motor to share the same shaft. ball bearings have the greatest application in centrifugal pumps because they are capable of carrying both radial and axial loads. Not only must the initial alignment be very precise but it must also remain very stable under operation. Rolling element bearings are sometimes referred to as “antifriction” bearings. Couplings Centrifugal pumps require torque from a driver in order to move the pumped liquid against system resistance. couplings must transmit torque while allowing for variation in alignment within a specified tolerance. it must be able to resist any corrosive effects. 24 . and in certain designs. Close-coupled pumps have the pump housing mounted directly onto the motor housing via close-tolerance fits. They include ball. however. [2] Rolling element bearings. roller. some friction is still present under normal operating conditions. Rolling element bearings are very commonly used in smaller centrifugal pumps. The applications that require sealless pumps usually do so because of the harmful nature of the liquid to be pumped. Lubrication may be grease. no coupling is required. An additional advantage of close-coupled pumps is that no bearings are required in the pump.f= Some pump designs rely on the pumped liquid for lubrication. Solid couplings are normally used only where the pump has no bearings and the motor must support the shaft. The magnetic drive and canned motor pumps described above in “Sealless Pump Designs” are examples of pumps that fall into this latter category. all rolling element bearings incorporate some type of lubrication. For this reason. This torque is transmitted from driver shaft to pump shaft through a coupling. Because the shafting penetrates into the casing and contacts the pumped liquid. and tapered rolling element bearings. Solid couplings require extremely precise alignment. A type of commonly used centrifugal pump that eliminates couplings is the closecoupled pump. Since it is impossible to perfectly align driver and pump shafts. Generally. The liquid in these applications is often corrosive or abrasive and thus quite hard on bearings.

OPERATION. the head output by the pump. The SI and U.16 Pump Performance Curves.% of energy output (pump head) to energy input (power from driver) 25 .S. The SI units of flow are meter3 per hour (m3/hr) and the U. Most pumps in use at this time are not variable speed.f= PERFORMANCE. for a constant speed. of the liquid flowing through it. Efficiency (η) is a measure of how well the pump converts the energy supplied to it by the driver into energy added into the liquid. The “drooping” head at low flow is characteristic of some radial flow pump curves. Efficiency peaks at the Best Efficiency Point (BEP). Head (H) is energy added to the liquid by the pump. customary units of flow are gallons per minute (gpm). Flow (Q) is the amount of liquid flowing the the pump.S. Head (H) η H + Power (P) P Efficiency (η) “Drooping” Head at Low Flow (Radial Flow Pumps) Flow (Q) + Best Efficiency Point Pump Performance Curves Figure 2. The relationship between the rotative shaft energy input by the driver. The three parameters in Figure 2. P – kilowatts (kw) or brake horsepower (bhp) •Head added to output by pump. or energy level. AND TERMINOLOGY Pump Performance Curves: Important Pump Parameters The sole purpose of a centrifugal pump is to use rotative shaft energy from a driver to raise the head.16 are plotted against flow. customary units of the plotted parameters are: •Rotative shaft energy from driver. H – meters (m) or feet (ft) •Efficiency. Q. thus the curves provided by manufacturers’ will show pump performance at a fixed speed only. η . The “drooping” chararcteristic is notable because a pump operated in this region can experience unstable operation (see “How Pump and System Curves Relate”). and the efficiency of this energy conversion process is expressed in the pump performance curves. Power (P) is energy supplied to the pump by the driver.

described above in the section entitled “Impeller”. or the front of vanes (open impellers) • mechanical losses – friction between mechanical parts such as seals. packing rings. Trimming effectively shifts the entire head curve downward without changing its shape.f= Figure 2. The combination of these losses make up the total pump efficiency. A system curve displays this information by plotting head on the vertical axis versus flow on the horizontal axis.1). Stable pump operation requires that pumps rise to shutoff. involves machining down the outside diameter of an impeller in order to reduce the head output and the power required. When using the term “system” in the context of pumps.16 shows that head decreases as flow increases. we are referring the pipes. it operates within a larger system (Figure 1. The practice of trimming. Manufacturers show how trimming affects performance by plotting several curves for a single pump where each curve corresponds to different impeller diameter. fittings. A pump application engineer tasked with specifying a pump needs to know how much head is required to overcome the resistance of a given flow through the system. Note that the head plotted in a system curve is the energy lost in the liquid due to the frictional resistance and elevation change. Thus. The “rising to shutoff” shape is true for all centrifugal pumps with the exception of some radial flow pumps which “droop” at low flow – that is. and valves that deliver liquid to the pump suction and carry it away from the pump discharge. shaft. and bearings • disk friction losses – frictional resistance of the liquid trapped between rotating impeller (which can be thought of as a disk) and the stationary case These losses increase the amount of power required by the pump to output a desired flow. have a decrease in head as flow decreases. System Curves A pump is not an isolated piece of machinery. Mixed flow pumps have steeper curves while axial flow curves are the steepest of the three types. Pump efficiency is affected by the following losses: • hydraulic losses – frictional resistance to liquid flow through the impeller and case passages • volumetric losses – leakage from discharge back to suction past wear rings (closed impellers). increasing head on a system curve means more head is being consumed whereas increasing head on a pump curve means that more head is being produced. The pump efficiency curve rises. The steepness of the curve varies depending on the type of impeller. This is not to be confused with the head plotted on a pump curve. A pump operating at the peak (Best Efficiency Point) is producing the maximum head for the least amount of power input. Radial pumps tend to have the flattest curves. Efficiency (η) is a measure of how well the pump converts the energy supplied to it by the driver into energy added to the liquid. Manufacturers generally recommend that radial flow pumps with drooping curves not be operated in the drooping region. 26 . peaks. that is the energy added to the liquid by the pump. This increasing head/decreasing flow curve shape is often referred to as “rising to shutoff”. and then falls off.

Pump Operation: How Pump and System Curves Relate The pump H-Q curve defines the head a pump will produce at various flows and the system H-Q curve defines the head that a system will consume.. The “drooping at low flow” regions of some radial pump curves are unstable because there are two flows for a given head.16 shows that there is one particular flow where every pump will operate with maximum efficiency . Pump curves that “rise to shutoff” allow the pump to function in a stable operating mode. Pump Curve System Curve Head (H) + Flow (Q) + Pump Operating Point Pump versus System Curve Figure 2. Changes in elevation of the flow (i.f= System curves generally have a parabolic shape (Figure 2. also at various flows. the pump operating point is defined. flow uphill or downhill) shift the curve up or down without changing its shape. When the two curves are put together in a single graph (Figure 2.e. The Best Efficiency Point (BEP) The efficiency curve in Figure 2. A pump operating at its BEP is producing head with the minimum amount of losses (pump losses are described in “Pump Performance Curves” above). The pump will supply exactly the amount of head needed to overcome system resistance at the given flow.17 Pump operating point occurs where the pump and system curves intersect.17).17).this operating point is known as the Best Efficiency Point (BEP). The BEP is important for two reasons: 27 . Frictional losses are responsible for this shape because fluid friction increases with the square of the flow velocity. These pressure and flow fluctuations result in surging. Pumps operating in the unstable region tend to “hunt” or fluctuate between the two points as they search for their operating point. This operating point occurs at the intersection of the two curves.

Specific Speed Specific speed is a very important parameter because it provides a way to characterize different pump impeller designs with respect to their head (H) versus flow (Q) characteristics. you can guess its impeller type. N. Radial flow impellers can deliver high head/low flow performance but not low head/high flow performance. there needs to be a way to compare pump impellers with respect to their H-Q optimization.65NSM [2]. However. Conversely. If you know a pump’s specific speed. The specific speed is a number that can be calculated for every pump using the following equation: NS = N Q H 3/ 4 (1) where N = pump rotative speed (rpm). the specific speed for a particular pump is constant for different values of rotative speed. The specific speed. The pump affinity laws allow manufacturers and users to predict the effects of impeller trim or speed changes. specific speed is calculated at the BEP and full impeller diameter.2]. once calculated. Mixed flow pumps fall in a large general class somewhere in between axial and radial flow. and impeller diameter. The SI unit version of specific speed is NSM where flow. they are worth mentioning because they are such important tools to pump manufacturers and users. is given in meters3/hour and head. Further explanation of pump affinity laws is beyond the scope of this paper. As noted. In short. Q = flow at BEP and full impeller diameter (gpm) H = pump head at BEP and full impeller diameter (ft). 2. Good economic practice demands that pumps be optimized for the intended application. specific speed is a function of impeller geometry. Q.18 shows this relationship. Figure 2. axial flow impellers can only deliver low head/high flow performance. In comparison. its operating efficiency would be poor. The relationship between impeller geometry and specific speed holds true regardless of impeller size. Even if one impeller type could function at all the different combinations of head and flow. Consequently. Radial flow pumps provide high head/low flow and thus have a low specific speed. The conversion factor between the two is: NS = 51. The differences between radial flow. is an index that makes this comparison possible. axial flow pumps provide low head/high flow and have a 28 . and axial flow impeller geometries exist because each design is best suited for providing the different H-Q combinations required by different applications. NS. Radial Loads: Radial (side) loads are minimum when a pump operates at its BEP (the sections entitled “Casing” and “Radial Loads” explain the source and effects of operation off of design capacity in more detail). mixed flow. is given in meters. However.f= 1. The pump affinity laws provide the basis for this fact. One impeller type does not satisfy all applications. Economics: Operating costs are minimum when a pump operates with maximum efficiency. The references listed provide more detail on this subject [1. H.

head by the system friction and gravity losses. Figure 2. In most pump applications.) Instead. (In practice. driver speed is somewhat of a rough variable. The specific speed number indicates the H-Q performance of a pump impeller. and speed (N) are predetermined.f= Values of Specific Speed (NS) 3000 500 750 4000 8000 10000 15000 20000 Axis of Rotation 1000 1500 2000 6000 Radial Vane Francis Vane Mixed-flow Vane Axial Vane (Propeller) Impeller Profile versus Specific Speed (NS) Figure 2. and speed by the driver to be used. lets the pump application engineer select the right impeller geometry for the application. Friction losses cause the driving pressure to decrease as the liquid flows from the suction flange to the point where the impeller vanes begin to raise the pressure. For example. In order to avoid cavitation. liquid must be pushed into them by a driving or “positive” pressure. Electric motors of different speed settings are available. NS. Axial flow pumps have a high specific speed because they deliver low head/high flow performance. This is helpful when selecting the best pump design for a particular application. the liquid will turn to vapor (or cavitate) at the point in the pump where pressure drops to its lowest level.15 in [2]). As the term indicates. The driving pressure is properly referred to as the Net Positive Suction Head. the pressure measured upstream at the suction flange must be high enough so that the pressure downstream in the impeller remains above the liquid’s vapor pressure at all times. Since the point of lowest pressure happens to be in the impeller vane passages. Other impeller types fill the gap in between the two extremes. (This figure taken after Figure 2. flow will be determined by the process requirements. (This is true whether a pump is operating at full capacity or just starting up.18 Relationship between Impeller Profile and Specific Speed. Specific speed is useful when comparing the H-Q performance of different pumps. head (H).) Combining these terms into specific speed. high specific speed. NPSH is measured at the pump suction flange simply because it cannot be 29 . Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) and Suction Specific Speed (S) Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) and Suction Specific Speed (S) are two parameters that describe how much suction head a pump requires in order to prevent cavitation (cavitation is explained in detail below in the section entitled “Cavitation”). this where cavitation will occur. flow (Q). Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) Centrifugal pumps cannot “pull” or suck liquid into themselves.18 shows that between the two extremes is a continuum of impeller profiles that will deliver different combinations of head versus flow. Radial flow pumps deliver high head/low flow peformance and thus have a low specific speed. If the driving pressure is insufficient.

Cavitation is determined to be present when the head produced by the pump has dropped 3% in response to the reduction in NPSHA. The NPSHA at which cavitation begins is figured to be the NPSHR for the given flow. Other guidelines on NPSH calculate ratios that vary with certain pump parameters and. 30 . Most pump and fluid dynamics reference books show how to calculate NPSHA. • Vapor pressure head: the vapor pressure of the pumped liquid at the operating temperature. cavitation can still occur even if the NPSHA exceeds the NPSHR. a negative pressure. also the liquid being pumped. • Friction head: the friction losses in the piping between suction and reference point. merely maintaining NPSHA in excess of the NPSHR may not be enough to prevent cavitation damage. The NPSHA is then gradually reduced until the onset of cavitation is detected. but for any given pump it changes with flow. the NPSH Required to avoid cavitation is based on a certain temperature. Consequently. the temperature of the pumped liquid also determines whether or not cavitation will occur (see “Cavitation”). Manufacturers test a pump by operating it at a steady flow with excessive NPSHA. Some operators use a fixed margin. This is explained by the fact that friction is velocity dependent and velocity is a function of flow. The Available Net Positive Suction Head (NPSHA) is really a sum (or net) of several positive and negative pressures acting of the liquid. This method is misleading because cavitation is actually present before the 3% breakaway (so termed because cavitation causes the curve to “breakaway” from the normal H-Q curve). The reason for this lies with the test method that manufacturers use to determine the NPSHR figures. Consequently. Thus. They are: • Atmospheric head: the static pressure acting on the liquid. The problem with this procedure is with the method that manufacturers use to detect the onset of cavitation. The NPSHR differs from pump to pump because it is dependent on how well the pump inlet design prevents friction losses. In actual practice. usually atmospheric pressure measured at a known reference point. Theoretically. negative if reference point is lower than suction flange. • Suction head or suction lift: the elevation head from the reference point to the suction flange. In addition to pressure. The temperature of the pumped liquid must remain below the temperature upon which the NPSH Required values are based in order to avoid pump cavitation.f= measured within the rotating impeller vanes where cavitation can occur. Not only does the NPSHR differ between pumps. therefore a negative pressure. The least amount of NPSH that will prevent cavitation is termed the NPSH Required (NPSHR). most pump operators use a margin or ratio between Available and Required NPSH to avoid cavitation. cavitation will not occur as long as the NPSHR is less than NPSH available in the pumped liquid (the emphasis on “theoretically” will be explained shortly). Positive if reference point is higher than suction flange. for instance 5 feet of head minimum difference. sometimes. The reader who desires greater detail on this subject may wish to refer to those sources [2].

f= Suction Specific Speed Another important pump parameter is the Suction Specific Speed (S). However. the suction specific speed compares the pump inlet geometry. a high suction specific speed is desirable because it indicates that the pump produces fewer friction losses through the inlet (i.e. while specific speed compares impeller geometry. Q = flow at BEP and full impeller diameter (gpm) NPSHR = the Required NPSH (ft). The suction specific speed is similar to the pump specific speed in that it also is an index. Within certain limits. The suction specific speed is calculated in a manner similar to the pump specific speed (NS): S = N Q NPSHR 3 / 4 (2) where N = pump rotative speed (rpm).. has a low Required NPSH) making cavitation less likely. 31 .

The manner in which these signs relate to the various malfunctions will be outlined in more detail in each of the following sections. (Caution: some pumps may suffer damage from dry running. A pump operated “dry” (no process liquid surrounding the impeller) may experience a different (often lower) balance resonance than when run “wet” (impeller fully immersed) [4]. those readers familiar with compressors will recognize their similarity with centrifugal pumps. These fluid forces have a couple of effects. In addition. resonances. These are “high” vibration. Then. subsynchronous vibrations. experience the malfunctions common to rotating equipment. Dry runs should only be performed under certain conditions by those fully knowledgeable with the pump and its requirements for safe operation. Those papers that have been written will be noted and referenced in each section. each section will provide a brief explanation of the general mechanism underlying the malfunction. The heavy damping of liquids acts to suppress shaft relative vibration amplitudes and in particular. they often modify the balance pumps (e. the fact that pumps handle liquids while compressors handle gases must not be overlooked. they are responsible for a few malfunctions that exist only in centrifugal Secondly. Some of the following malfunctions are discussed in depth in the Machine Library Malfunction Diagnosis articles. This causes the symptoms of pump malfunctions to manifest themselves somewhat differently than compressor malfunctions.g. Hydraulic Unbalance). each malfunction will be related to those things in centrifugal pumps that may act as root causes. Liquids are much more dense and viscous than gases and essentially non-compressible. First. and poor performance (higher than normal power consumption or lower than normal output). high bearing temperatures. the high density of liquids creates fluid forces that are not found in compressors and turbines. The reader who desires more detail can refer to them. 32 . However. excessive noise. reduced bearing and/or seal life. like other rotating machines. Otherwise. In fact.) Pump malfunctions are often accompanied by some general signs.. MALFUNCTIONS OF CENTRIFUGAL PUMPS GENERAL CONCEPTS Centrifugal pumps. Both add kinetic energy using the same principles described earlier and both share some general similarities in construction and design.f= 3.

circular object (like a dinner plate) on the tip of your finger. However. The heavier side causes the mass center to be offset in the same Geometric Center direction. Rr. shaft sleeves. or deposits. to a much lesser extent. hydraulic unbalance is unique to centrifugal pumps. High 1X due to Mass Unbalance Definition of Mass Unbalance Rotors inherently contain some mass unbalance that causes a 1X vibration. Whereas both types of unbalance produce high 1X vibration. its driver. A rotor is supported by condition in a rotor system referred to as bearings and. The resulting vibration varies directly with the amount of unbalance. between the two centers is directly responsible for the Figure 3. We are Geometric Centers of Rotor) generally accustomed to thinking of the rotor mass and geometric centers as one in Unbalance the same.f= PUMP MALFUNCTIONS High 1X Vibration due to Unbalance Centrifugal pumps are susceptible to two types of unbalance: mass unbalance and hydraulic unbalance. (The rotor includes shaft. The offset. mass unbalance (Figure 3. their symptoms will be discussed together. The mass center can be thought of as the balance point. this is never true in the Force real world.) This type of unbalance is known as mass unbalance because it originates from the mass of the rotor. since they produce similar behavior. a rotor is slightly + heavier on one side because of + Mass manufacturing tolerances. the causes and corrective actions of each type of unbalance will be discussed separately. These supports cause a rotor to turn about its The offset is a problem because. The geometric center is different. rotors turn about their pointing centrifugal force. they are caused by different phenomena and are corrected by different means. at geometric center. you are supporting it directly under the mass center. it is the point within the rotor about which the geometry (or shape) is Rr (Offset between Mass and equally distributed or symmetric. Center pitting.1). the mass center is the point about which all the mass is equally distributed. Mass unbalance in centrifugal pumps is the same malfunction that we experience with other types of rotating machines. then damage to the pump. If you balance a flat. or unbalance force. Mass unbalance is caused by the fact that the mass center and the geometric center of the rotor do not lie at the same point. and couplings – anything that is locked to and moving in unison with the shaft. the offset between the rotative speeds below balance resonance mass and geometric centers creates an outward (or critical speed). however. impeller. Therefore. 33 . etc. or attached structures can occur. If we consider a single cross section anywhere along the rotor axis. If the vibration exceeds a prescribed level. However. Typically. However. by seals.1 Unbalance Force.

anything that adds or removes mass or shifts the center of mass may have an adverse affect on a pump’s balance state. the outward direction of the unbalance force explains why it causes vibration to increase. Unbalance can occur 34 . large. A few items about the unbalance force are worth noting. The second three examples illustrate an increase in unbalance due to the addition or removal of mass. Non-OEM parts may be manufactured to looser tolerances. First. or unbalance force. 1. Loose fit impellers are those which mount to the pump shaft with a clearance fit. Replacing OEM parts with more loosely toleranced non-OEM parts. Thus. This force is identical to that felt when twirling a string with a rock tied to the end of it. For example. the angular direction of the unbalance force will shift only if the mass center shifts. They are typically locked against rotation to the shaft with a key. Since these changes are the exception rather than the norm. While some examples of such changes are given below. Since the location of the mass center is generally stable. the mass center shifts simply because parts on the rotor shift relative to each other. so is the direction of the unbalance force. the balance state can worsen if changes occur in the pump over time or due to maintenance. The offset between the two centers creates an outward pointing centrifugal force. Thirdly. replacement of the coupling with a non-OEM part during maintenance may increase the unbalance. deposits. Causes of Mass Unbalance Pumps usually come from the OEM in a well balanced state. the unbalance force rotates at the same speed (or synchronously) as the rotor. Though this is fairly obvious.f= geometric center and not their mass center. pitting. Loose fit impellers. The first three examples illustrate increase in unbalance without the addition or removal of mass. any apparent shift in the direction of the mass center should prompt us to look for the reason why the shift occurred. The reader who desires more information on this topic may wish to refer to that source. Parts with looser tolerances may shift the mass center because they do not sit on the shaft as concentrically as an OEM part. it helps us to visualize the effect of the unbalance force upon vibration when we consider the fact that it is literally pushing the rotor outward. Mass unbalance is discussed in greater depth in the corresponding Machine Library Malfunction Diagnosis article [11]. or a loose rotating part. [5] 2. the unbalance force points outward from the geometric center in the same angular direction as the mass center. Rr (the rotor Smass to geometric center offset). Secondly. The mass center can change only if there are changes in the rotor assembly such as changing shaft bow. 1) From this equation we see that the unbalance force depends upon Mr (the mass of rotor). custom pumps such as boiler feedpumps and the attached OEM couplings are typically well balanced by the factory. However. and Ω 2 (the square of the rotative speed). The unbalance force is defined by the equation for a centrifugal force: Unbalance Force = M r Rr Ω 2 (Eq. This last point is notable because it explains the 1X nature of the vibration response to mass unbalance. However.

clogs can still occur. deposits tend to collect or break off in irregular patterns that upset the balance state of the rotor. Hydraulic unbalance originates in the fluid forces acting on the impeller. 6. mass will also be removed if they break off. Shrink fit impellers. If the liquid does not flow evenly through all of the impeller vane passages.g. however. then removed and remounted back on the pump shaft. The references sited in this paper do not describe the exact unbalance mechanism. Deposits will add mass as they collect. The impeller and shaft experience residual stress in the region of the fit. This is especially true for closed impellers. a different corrective procedure. Deposits. then these reaction forces will be unbalanced. there is one possible explanation consistent with pump theory that does stand 35 . the pumped liquid may be so corrosive or abrasive that it erodes the impeller and. Impellers can lose material through pitting. it should also include diagnosis and correction of any underlying root cause. Just as the impeller acts on the liquid to increase its angular momentum (see “Impellers” above). Clogs. impellers can cock or bow the shaft causing the mass center to shift. pitting can occur even in harmless liquids for another reason: cavitation. sewage pumps). While the corrective action will probably include rebalancing the pump. First. the highly exposed vanes. it has a different underlying cause and. so too the liquid acts against the impeller in an equal and opposite reaction (recall Newton’s third law). However. Corrective Actions for Mass Unbalance It should be evident from these examples that mass unbalance is often a symptom of another underlying root cause. suffice it to say here that cavitation can cause very severe damage. hence. Pitting (impeller erosion). As residual stress relaxes. shaft vibration and flexing. However. High 1X due to Hydraulic Unbalance Definition and Cause of Hydraulic Unbalance Centrifugal pumps are subject to another source of high 1X vibration known as hydraulic unbalance.f= when a loose fit impeller is removed from the pump shaft and balanced on an expanding mandrel (which is tight fitted). Pitting may occur for a couple of reasons. Cavitation is discussed in greater detail below in “Cavitation”.. Many pumps handle liquids that contain solid objects in the process stream (e. [5] 5. [1] 4. especially. [1] 3. In either case. The residual stress can relax over time due to temperature cycling. Shrink fit impellers are locked to the shaft by an interference fit. The effect on unbalance due to the slight shift in mass center between the expanding mandrel and the looser pump shaft becomes increasingly pronounced with larger impellers. While such pumps are usually designed to freely pass objects of a certain size. While hydraulic unbalance is similar to mass unbalance in its vibration signature. Many pumps process liquids containing substances that can deposit on the impeller. Secondly. even eating holes clear through impeller vanes.

Therefore. investment cast) may have values of .e. Values of KH for a sand-cast impeller are as high as . Recall from the earlier discussion of velocity triangles (“Impellers”) that the total velocity head added to the liquid depends on two parameters: U and VT where U represents the flow velocity due to angular speed at a given radius and VT represents the tangential flow velocity due to flow along the vane surface.005 to .. The high 1X will be especially noticeable when its frequency is close to a balance or structural resonance. In fact. there is fixed amount of unbalance that will have to be tolerated. If the impeller radius varies excessively around the periphery. A recommendation to switch to a more precisely manufactured impeller was the corrective action suggested in one Bently Nevada Machinery Diagnostic Services case history involving a vertical slurry pump. Both parameters depend upon the impeller geometry and its tolerances. The amount of hydraulic unbalance associated with a manufacturing method is described by one reference as KH. then VT will also vary excessively. vibration may increase due to reduced system stiffness while the unbalance force remains constant. This mechanism points to unacceptably high geometric tolerances as being the underlying root cause of hydraulic unbalance. Effects of High 1X Vibration There are several tight clearances in pumps that are vulnerable to high vibration. then U will vary excessively. Also.0025. it seems to be well established that for a particular manufacturing method. if vane angles are not symmetrical within a specified tolerance. bearings. Other Sources of High 1X Vibration Many other malfunctions also exhibit increasing 1X vibration. high 1X (shaft relative or casing vibration) is the predominant vibration component that accompanies mass unbalance or hydraulic unbalance. couplings all contain these clearances and can be damaged when forced to operate beyond design limits.. Seals.10 while precision-cast impellers (i. packing. Some examples of this are: “softfoot” (i. Either one of these or the combination of the two may cause the fluid forces surrounding the impeller to be asymmetrical. The only way hydraulic unbalance can be remedied is by switching to a more precisely manufactured impeller.025 and machined impellers can values as low as .e. where KH is the normalized hydraulic unbalance force (lb) [4].f= out. The MDS engineer diagnosed a hydraulic unbalance due to errors in the impeller geometry as the root cause of the high 1X amplitudes observed. From our understanding of rotor dynamics (see Machine Library Dynamic Stiffness and Rotor Response) we know that vibration (or rotor response) is the ratio of unbalance force to dynamic stiffness. Likewise. wear rings. Corrective Action for Hydraulic Unbalance The corrective actions stated in the references are also in agreement with the mechanism just described. high 1X can excite resonances in adjacent structures and cause their stress levels to exceed design limits (see “Structural Resonances” below). The hydraulic unbalance was confirmed when the high 1X amplitudes disappeared during a dry run of the impeller. 36 . Vibration Characteristics of Unbalance (Mass and Hydraulic) As noted above.

f= loose bolts. shaft crack. such as a shaft crack. degraded foundation). These examples help to illustrate why it is so important to verify the source of the 1X behavior before balancing. Balancing a machine will not address a problem whose root cause is due to some other malfunction. 37 . alignment changes. quadrature stiffness changes due to different pumped fluid or lube oil characteristics. bearing or seal wear.

The reader who desires more discussion on the topic of misalignment can refer to the corresponding Machine Library Malfunction Diagnosis article [12]. Therefore. Since these two types of radial loads have different root causes. Perfect internal alignment exists when the centers of all of a machine’s bearings. since misalignment and sideload manifest similar behavior. Rotating radial loads have different symptoms and produce different effects from (relatively) constant radial loads. we only include those loads whose direction and magnitude are constant or vary gradually over time with process changes. is explained above in “The Best Efficiency Point”). when discussing radial load as a malfunction. or BEP. to keep the rotor from operating in the bearing center. interstage diaphragms. that rotate with the rotor. there is no single contributor of poor mechanical performance more significant than poor alignment. One reference [1] even stated that “Outside of serious unbalance of pump components.f= Radial Loads (Misalignment and Sideload) The term radial load refers to any load that acts on the rotor in a unidirectional radial direction. Radial loads act to push the rotor to one side of the bearing. In contrast.2 Perfect internal alignment exists in a would be in perfect external alignment if machine when the centers of all of the internal parts are collinear. sleeve bearings are usually designed to take advantage of normally existing radial loads. However. Two machines Figure 3.2).” In order to understand how misalignment creates radial loads. Radial loads in excess of design limits can lead to serious pump damage if not detected and rectified in their early stages. and seals are located on the same line and that line is the centerline of the machine (Figure 3. such as unbalance. we are referring to loads that exceed the design of the machine. This effect is not entirely unwanted. sleeve bearings are less prone to fluid-induced instability when the rotor does not ride in the center of the bearing. We are not including radial loads. their underlying mechanisms and their corrective actions will be explained separately. we must first understand the broader concept of alignment. their symptoms and effects will be discussed together. Two common sources of excessive radial load in pumps will be discussed here: 1) misalignment and 2) the radial load on an impeller (or sideload) that occurs when operating a pump too far away from its Best Efficiency Point (the Best Efficiency Point. Radial Load due to Misalignment Definition of Misalignment Misalignment is a very important source of radial load because it is responsible for so many pump failures. like gravity. the centerlines of their shafts were on the 38 . For instance. When discussing radial loads.

f= same line (Figure 3. twodimensional problems.3.4). some degree of internal and external misalignment always exists. projected on two perpendicular planes (Figure 3. With angular misalignment (bottom). the shafts are oriented at different angular have correct parallel and angular alignment orientations in space. gravity loaded coupling that is used. but still small tolerance for error. the three. the alignment problem can be treated as two. the machines are said to be misaligned. the shafts are shown machines will depend on the type of centered in the bearings. In the figure.3. Angular misalignment occurs when the centerlines of two machines have Figure 3. involves a combination of parallel and angular The tolerance for axial position for two misalignment. and the centerline of an adjacent Side View machine will have a different orientation and position. Each machine has a centerline that exists at some orientation and position in space. Rigid couplings have shafts would rest in the bottom of the bearings ith th hi ff a very low tolerance for axial position Top View errors. In practice. Then.3. external alignment (top) when their shaft bottom). Parallel Misalignment There are two basic types of external misalignment. Misalignment usually but still suffer incorrect axial alignment. while disk pack and diaphragm couplings have somewhat more.4 The 3-dimensional misalignment problems easier to solve.problem is usually broken down into two 2dimensional centerlines of the machines are dimensional problems. top). and that Aligned amount will depend on the type of coupling being used. When the misalignment exceeds the allowable tolerances for the coupling in use. To make external alignment Figure 3. Parallel misalignment occurs Angular Misalignment when the centerlines of two machines have the same angular orientation. middle). but coupled together. Gear couplings have a higher tolerance for axial position errors. 39 . With parallel misalignment involves the axial position of two machines (middle) the shaft centerlines are offset.3 Two machines are in perfect different angular orientations (Figure 3. Flexible couplings are designed to accommodate a certain amount of misalignment. separate. Misalignment is a three-dimensional problem. Coupled machines can parallel. In reality. centerlines are collinear within an allowable An additional type of “misalignment” tolerance zone (red). but are separated from each other (Figure 3.

machines are deliberately misaligned in the cold condition. When discussing these causes. 1. or a foot not parallel to the soleplate. which can produce a springy support. with the hot parts growing more than the cooler parts. improper machining of feet or the soleplate. 40 . Foundation problems.5). broken. if we re-align the pump without diagnosing and correcting the underlying cause. Pipe strain can result from loose piping hangers or bent. 4. we must not forget that the misalignment itself usually results from an even lower level of root causes. Poor piping fit can put tremendous loads on the machine casing. Dimensional changes in the machine supports and casing can cause the machine to rise or fall and/or change angular orientation as it Hot Aligned heats up. Because the temperature of a machine can vary with load. Soft foot is a condition where one or more machine feet are not coplanar after tightening hold down bolts.f= Causes of Misalignment The condition of misalignment can result from any one or a combination of several causes. Piping strain can warp a machine casing and cause misalignment by moving the bearing supports. Piping strain. Piping should never be forced to mate with the machine through the use of force. when they reach hot follow a different pattern. As the temperature changes during a Cold Misaligned startup. and that change will most likely misaligned cold so that. Oil soaked concrete can lead to deterioration of the foundation and a loss of support strength. Thus. they would become misaligned in a hot condition. it is important to distinguish them from the condition of misalignment. an improperly installed soleplate. Soft foot can also be caused by a warped or bowed soleplate. 3. and the cold misalignment is carefully calculated to produce correct alignment in the hot condition (Figure 3. There should be no more than 3 to 4 shims under a foot.5 Machines are deliberately change. the machines. A warped or bowed machine casing can also cause soft foot. alignment can also change with load. When one foot is not properly supported (the soft foot). then misalignment may reappear as the situation worsens. This is important to keep in mind because. For this reason. 2. and it may be difficult to set a cold alignment that produces acceptable hot alignment for all anticipated operating load conditions. Soft Foot. if the two operating temperature. the linear dimensions of a machine can change in complicated ways. or missing piping supports. a loose soleplate. tightening down the soft foot will warp the machine casing. thermal growth will align machines were aligned in a cold condition. Foundation problems can cause a shift in machine position over time. Softfoot can be caused by inadequate shimming or by an excessive number of shims. and loose anchor bolts. While the condition of misalignment may cause undesirable effects in a pump. Foundation problems can include cracked grouting. Any adjacent machine will also Figure 3. Thermal growth.

usually oil. These forces combine to create a resultant force known as a sideload. The high radial load can cause high shearing stresses in the lubricating fluid of an overloaded bearing. If other root causes have been carefully considered and ruled out. The extra work done in overcoming these higher than normal fluid stresses produces extra heating of the fluid. First. The are two reasons for this. However. Second. It is best used for plant heat load calculations or oil temperature regulation. While high bearing temperatures indicate overloading. In fact. Ideally. cause rubs or do other serious damage. in short. High Bearing Temperature. Sideloads are explained in greater detail above in “Casing”. at that point. the RTDs should be installed at several different circumferential positions in the bearing. The magnitude and direction of sideload can undergo extreme variations. if a machine becomes misaligned. Improper alignment. The fluid. they meet the basic criteria for radial load in that they are relatively constant and only change gradually when compared to rotative speed. it is always possible that the current alignment is not sufficient and therefore needs to be redone. and it can be difficult to predict where the maximum load occurs in a bearing. one bearing may show an unusually high 41 . but it only provides a vague picture of the machine condition. the direction of the radial load on a bearing can vary with operating conditions. high sideloads occur when centrifugal pumps are operated off of their Best Efficiency Point (BEP). Oil drain temperature is not a very useful indicator of the temperature in the bearing. It is limited because.high enough to break pump shafts. High fluid-film bearing temperature is often the first warning of a possible high radial load condition. Resistive Temperature Devices (RTDs) or thermocouples that are imbedded in the bearing babbitt can provide better warning.f= 5. While not often the case. Radial Load due to Pump Sideload Definition of Sideloading The hydraulic forces that act radially on the impeller cause the second common source of radial load in centrifugal pumps. Sideloads can reach very high magnitudes . Single volute pumps are especially vulnerable to sideload. then it is possible that the pump and its driver simply need to be re-aligned. load shifting can produce radial loads that act in unpredictable and unexpected directions. an abnormally low bearing temperature indicates that the load in that bearing may be below normal. Vibration and Temperature Characteristics of Radial Load Excessive radial load can be suggested by one or more of the following measurements: 1. the sideload at shutoff (no flow) can be as high as 10 to 15 times greater than at BEP and that direction can change by almost as much as 180 degrees [1]. transfers this excess heat to the bearing babbitt. Given the load shifting that takes place with radial loading. While the magnitude and direction of sideloads vary with flow. the oil exiting the bearing is a mixture of oil that has passed through the load zone of the bearing and oil that has bypassed the load zone. in some machines.

That way.6. Normally. Average shaft centerline plots are most useful when clearance circles are known and included on the plot. Shaft centerline plots should be compared to previously archived Assumed Radial Load Abnormal Running Position Normal Running Position Misalignment Load Slow Roll Figure 3. When misalignment forces are present. fluid-film bearings. 2. (Note that rotors operating in tilt-pad bearings normally tend to move straight up toward the radial load with increasing speed. and the direction and amount of the misalignment load can change as the machines heat up. Note that. such as near the top of a bearing (Figure 3. The machine is rotating X to Y (CCW). bearing temperatures should be monitored and compared along the machine train. Differences in operating position can be most apparent across a coupling between two machines. Average shaft centerline plots should be examined at every axial position and compared for signs of abnormality.7 The misaligned machine train is shown with the operating average shaft centerline positions for each bearing. cylindrical. For example. Average Shaft Centerline Position. where the rotor may operate in opposite quadrants of the bearings (Figure 3. red). the average shaft centerline position will change during a startup or shutdown in a typical way (Figure 3. shaft operating positions may move to unusual locations. For a horizontal. and the normal rotor moves up and slightly away from the bearing wall (green). Heavily loaded bearings will have operating eccentricity ratios that are higher than normal. fluid-film bearing machine train which is perfectly aligned. and the rotor can end up operating in an unusual quadrant in the bearing. indicating a possible misalignment condition. green). and in which gravity is the primary radial load. the shaft position angle will be somewhere between 0° and 45° from the direction of the applied load. adjacent bearing may show an unusually low temperature. operation in an abnormal quadrant can be more easily detected.6). the rotor positions in bearings 1 and 4 are approximately normal.6. horizontal. 42 .6 Comparison of normal and abnormal shaft centerline behavior during a startup of a typical. The dashed circle defines the bearing clearance.) 1 2 3 4 Figure 3. while another.f= temperature. while the rotor positions in bearings 2 and 3 are in opposite quadrants. for this example. the behavior can be quite different (red). the hydrodynamic oil wedge becomes stronger.7). then load shifting will cause changes in the behavior of shaft centerline plots (Figure 3. If the machine train experiences abnormal radial load. the radial load due to misalignment can be in a different direction. As speed increases. For this reason. Here. If the misalignment becomes severe enough. the radial load is assumed to be vertically downward. gravity loaded machine with plain. while lightly loaded bearings will have operating eccentricity ratios that are lower than normal.

) 43 . misalignment-induced radial load. which suggests that the shaft may be following the geometry of the bearing boundary. The orbit shows evidence of constraint along the lower edge. suggesting a misalignment problem.8). Normally-loaded. 3. (Note that line orbits can occur for other reasons. orbits can vary in size and shape with load. healthy rotors that operating in plain. Orbits. Orbit C is from the exciter bearing on a 500 MW steam turbine generator set. banana shape. Also. (Note that elliptical and lemon bore bearings tend to normally produce more elliptical orbits than would occur with plain cylindrical bearings. In extreme cases of radial load. a database of normal operating orbits for a particular machine should be archived for later reference. Also. For these bearings. Elliptical and lemon-bore bearings tend to normally produce orbits that are more elliptical than those produced by plain cylindrical or tilt-pad bearings. Each orbit shows eight shaft revolutions.) The orbit may also become banana shaped. the orientation of these elliptical orbits tends to be more aligned with the bearing geometry. As the radial load is increased. 2X components can be amplified if the rotor operates at half of a resonance speed. may shrink to nearly a point.8 Unfiltered orbits. The banana shape will produce a 2X vibration component which would be strongest in the horizontal direction. and the attitude angle and eccentricity ratio A B C D Figure 3. Because radial loads can change magnitude and direction with load. any resonances will affect the size and appearance of the orbit. Because of the many possibilities. cylindrical fluid-film bearings tend to produce direct. the details of the orbit behavior will depend on the degree of radial load. and part of the orbit path may partially follow the curvature of the bearing. the orbit will become more flattened. suggesting a high. The orbit is highly flattened. Note the highly elliptical. containing a 2X vibration component that is visible on spectrum plots (Figure 3. Orbit B is from a Frame 6 gas turbine bearing. Orbits can be very helpful for diagnosis of radial load. Note the curvature of the right side of the orbit. orbits that are elliptical in shape and where the frequency is predominately 1X (Figure 3. the amount of unbalance forcing in the rotor. Orbit A is a normal orbit from a generator bearing on a small steam turbine generator set. The shape of a direct orbit is sensitive to the amount of the radial load that acts on the rotor. Orbit D is from a HP steam turbine bearing. Assuming that unbalance is the primary source of rotor vibration.8C). the rotor may become so constrained that the orbit follows a line that matches the curvature of the bearing (Figure 3.8D) or. The orbit is mildly elliptical and predominately 1X. the major axis of the ellipse in elliptical and lemon-bore bearings tends to be aligned with the bearing geometry. The ellipticity of such orbits can fall into a wide range and still be considered normal. or unfiltered.f= data and examined for changes. if unbalance is small.

If. which is a function of eccentricity ratio. the rotor may become more decoupled from the casing (transmissibility will decrease) at that location. Remember that casing vibration can increase if the machine support structure weakens or loosens. The bearing 2 orbit partially follows the contour of the bearing. originates in the rotor (for example. Thus. The vibration may transmit to the casing. Parallel misalignment at the coupling can produce “cranking” of the rotor shafts. because of radial load.9 The misaligned rotor of Figure 5 is multiple orbits should be examined over the shown with possible orbits. Multiple orbits should be displayed for every axial position in the machine train and compared with each other (Figure 3. a circular orbit suggests 2 1 an unusually low radial load that could be due 4 3 to misalignment or sideload. Under this circumstance. in a radial loaded machine. tightening loose foundation bolts will reduce casing vibration back to normal levels. shaft relative rotor vibration may increase as the rotor support Dynamic Stiffness decreases.9). due to unbalance). either increases or decreases in casing vibration could be an indication of a misalignment or sideload condition. A rotor that is unloaded in a bearing because of misalignment or sideload may operate at a low eccentricity ratio and have an orbit that is nearly circular. the amount of casing vibration will depend on the transmissibility of rotor vibration through the bearings and into the casing. The orbits (which contain size (vibration amplitude) is partially controlled dynamic position information) should be by the bearing stiffness. All orbits entire speed range of the machine for evidence correspond to the same operating speed. Vibration. Sometimes. Rotor shaft relative vibration. Thus. An increase in casing vibration coupled with a decrease in rotor shaft relative vibration (and vice versa) suggests either condition. This will usually produce a 1X and 2X shaft relative vibration component that exists over the entire speed range of the machine. may decrease as more of the vibration energy is transmitted to the casing. Assuming that the source of vibration loaded. The 2X 44 .f= in the bearing. or if the machine develops a soft foot. these Figure 3. and the casing vibration there may decrease. Because elliptical orbits are the norm. The reduced stiffness of the machine support allows vibration to increase. a particular bearing is unloaded. but only shaft relative measurements will reveal the cranking action at slow roll speeds. Bearings 1 and 4 are approximately normally 4. over the length of the machine train. Thus. the rotor may transmit more vibration to the casing. and the machine may experience higher than normal casing vibration. (Casing vibration will also depend upon how well the machine is mounted to the foundation. If startup or shutdown data is available.) The very high fluid-film bearing stiffness that exists at high eccentricity ratios acts to more effectively couple the rotor to the casing. while the lightly loaded (which contain average position information) bearing 3 orbit is relatively large. the heavily loaded correlated with average shaft centerline plots bearing 2 orbit is small. because of the increased constraint on the rotor (increased Dynamic Stiffness). The orbit of high radial loads.

radial loads for which the machine is designed (preloads) can be beneficial because they suppress fluid-induced instability in sleeve bearings by positioning the rotor at higher eccentricity. Cracked Shafts.f= component occurs because of opposed high spots reacting in different bearings. radial load can wreak havoc with many critical parts of a centrifugal pump and be the primary cause of pump failure. 4. drastically reduce the useful life of a rolling element bearing. The effect is similar to the 2X generated in a bicycle crank. A rub at fluid-film bearing can result in metal to metal contact and wiping of the bearing babbit.) Aside from the positive effect of suppressing fluid-induced instability. Misaligned disk and diaphragm couplings can produce an axial “pumping” action that results in axial vibration. Rolling element bearings have finite lifetimes that are a strong function of radial load. These stresses can fatigue the shaft and cause it to break. Mechanical seals and packing are designed to operate within certain limits of shaft deflection and position. The L10 life (the time that 90% of similar bearings will survive) for a point contact ball bearing goes down as the third power of the applied load. The adverse effects of radial load most commonly include: 1. Bearing babbitt will start to creep at 240°F (115°C) and melt at 260°F (125°C). Normally loaded fluid-film bearings have a babbitt temperature of 160°F to 180°F (70°C to 80°C). resulting in higher oil and babbitt temperatures. 3. Shortened Bearing Life. by increasing the load. Radial load can deflect shafts and push seals and packing outside of their design limits. Extreme radial load can cause the rotor to wipe bearings and seals or to rub at wear rings (see “Rub” below). load shifting due to misalignment or sideloading can. showing up in radial vibration measurements. 45 . Radial load is cited by more than one reference as a common reason for broken pump shafts [1. (This effect is discussed in greater detail in the section entitled “Fluid-Induced Instability” and in the corresponding Machine Library Malfunction Diagnosis article [15]. Rub. 2. Thus. resulting in higher leakage flows and a loss of efficiency. Overloading of a fluid-film bearing will produce higher shear forces in the oil. Damaged Seals or Packing. A rub at seals or wear rings can open up clearances. Rolling element bearings are also highly sensitive to radial load. Radial loads that deflect shafts beyond their design limits can create high reversal stresses. Bearings can be damaged by high radial load even in the absence of a rub. Re-occurring failure of mechanical seals or packing may indicate excessive shaft deflection due to radial load. Effects of Radial Load As mentioned above. This axial forcing is available to excite any rotor system axial resonant frequencies. leading to bearing failure. It is also possible for the axial vibration to couple into lateral vibration. Properly functioning gear couplings are much more axially compliant and less likely produce axial vibration. 2].

f= 5. gear couplings can experience extreme wear and dry element couplings can experience high fatigue. Shortened Coupling Life. Also. Incorrect alignment can shorten coupling life by producing extreme heat in elastomer couplings. 46 .

10). though. Also noted will be the pump components that are especially vulnerable to damage by rub. the parts “rub” on each other. The subsynchronous vibration that can accompany rub in other types of rotating machines is seldom. Aside from this key difference the discussion of pump rubs basically mirrors the general topic. The reader who desires more discussion on the topic of rub can refer to the corresponding Machine Library Malfunction Diagnosis article [13]. there is a key difference. This section will be concerned primarily with Radial Rub radial rub.12 Full Annular Rub (1X. seen in pumps. if ever. bearings serve the purpose of separating the rotating part of a machine from the Combination Rub Axial Rub stationary part.11 Partial Rub. 47 Figure 3. Beyond the similarities.10 Rub can occur in the radial direction. Definition of Rub Rub is an undesired contact between a rotating and stationary part. The dynamic motion of the shaft centerline (orbit) is added to the average shaft centerline position.f= Rub Centrifugal pumps are susceptible to rubs in much the same way as other types of rotating machines. Normally. rotor and stator that lasts for just a fraction of the total time required to complete a full vibration cycle or it can force contact that Clearance Boundary Dynamic Position (Orbit) Average Position Clearance Center Circular Orbit Rub Figure 3. forward). When the total displacement exceeds the allowable clearance. or a combination of both. Rubs can force contact between the the axial direction. rub occurs. or in a combination of both (Figure 3. hence its name. The main points concerning rub will be summarized below and particulars about pumps will be noted. The rotor maintains contact with the clearance surface of the stator throughout the entire vibration cycle. . Figure 3. When machine parts move to a position where contact can occur at places other than the bearings. Rub contact can occur in the radial direction or in the axial direction. Machines with rub can suffer serious damage because the rubs create stresses for which the machine was not designed.

For this reason. Causes of Rub Machines are designed from the outset to prevent unwanted contact from taking place. high vibration can be caused by hydraulic or mass unbalance. which is described by an orbit. an out of position seal or diaphragm could cause this. Sideloads can have effects similar to misalignment. Axial Thrust The normal flow of liquid through a centrifugal pump creates high axial thrust forces. These effects and their symptoms will be described below. 2.11). we must first lay the groundwork by discussing the causes of rub. However. There is usually another malfunction that is the root cause of the rub. Recall from the preceding “Unbalance” section that. Internal misalignment affects the position of the internal parts relative to the rotating shaft. a 90° piping elbow situated too close to the inlet of a double suction pump can upset flow to the suction and cause one suction eye to receive more 48 . External misalignment can produce unwanted loads on the rotor system and cause the rotor to move out of normal operating positions inside either or both machines. the axial thrust balancing within a pump can fail for any number of reasons or external factors may create axial thrust for which the machine was not designed. A heavy sideload can deflect a shaft sufficiently to force a rub where clearances are tight (seals. For example. The combination of these forces with the different type of rubs tend to produce unique patterns of vibration characteristics. hydraulic unbalance was the root cause of a rub between the impeller vane tips and casing of a vertical slurry pump [6]. Misalignment can be either internal or external. External misalignment affects the position of machines relative to each other.f= lasts for the entire duration of the vibration cycle. This dynamic motion. By observing these patterns. Rub will occur when the instantaneous position of the rotor exceeds the allowable clearance. Rubs that force contact between rotor and stator throughout the entire vibration cycle are referred to as full annular rubs (Figure 3. High Vibration High vibration produces a large amount of dynamic motion of the rotor inside the machine. wear rings) or to create high fatigue stresses which lead to a shaft crack. Radial Load Rub can be caused by radial loads such misalignment or sideload (see “Radial Loads” above). rub is almost always a secondary malfunction.12). Thus the duration. 3. In one case history. something else in the machine must have moved out of the design position (or allowable position range) to some position that results in contact. is in addition to the operating average shaft centerline position (Figure 3. Rubs produce significant forces that act on the rotor. For example. or dwell time. 1.11). Thus. Centrifugal pump designs include a wide variety of features and devices to accommodate these forces [1]. for a rub to occur. packing. However. Rubs that force contact between rotor and stator for only part of the vibration cycle are referred to as partial rubs (Figure 3. we can identify rub as the malfunction at hand and hopefully identify its source as well. among other sources. Partial rubs can be further separated into NormalTight and Normal-Loose while full annular rubs can be separated into forward and reverse. of the rub contact can vary significantly. These subgroups are explained in reference [13].

the rotor may rub on the seal.14). 1X Bode plot comparisons of experimental startup and shutdown data for no rub.0 mil pp Full Scale Figure 3. Changes in 1X Vibration Steady State: At steady state. If the rotor system is operating near a balance resonance. 4. causing an increase of 1X vibration on the casing. the 1X vibration amplitude can increase or decrease depending on which side of the resonance the machine is operating at. The uneven flow between the two suction eyes will create uneven pressure on the two sides of the impeller with a resulting axial thrust force. However. a floating seal may lock up. light radial rub during startup.f= flow than the other. Rub Shutdown Phase No Rub Rub Startup Amp Speed Figure 3. 49 . rub-induced changes of the balance resonance speed can produce changes in observed behavior through the resonance (Figure 3. and light radial rub during shutdown. The reader who wishes greater depth of discussion can refer to that article.13 Steady synchronous rub at an oil seal in a thrust bearing box. Locked Seals Sometimes. The 1X response changes continuously. If the seal locks up. the effects of rub upon the rotor system and the mechanisms by which these effects produce the vibrations characteristic of rub are fairly complicated. Startup and Shutdown: During startup and shutdown. These mechanisms and their effect on vibration are discussed at length in reference [13]. completing one revolution of the polar plot in about four minutes. Occasionally. it is always good to have reference startup and shutdown * * * * * * * * * * 03:30:08 ** * * * * 03:34:02 * ** * * * * * * * ** * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * ** * * ** * * * * * ** * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 0° 270° * * * * * * * * * * 90° 180° 3. A light rub is more likely to increase 1X vibration amplitude.14 Startup and shutdown partial (Normal-Tight) rub behavior. while heavy rub can severely constrain the rotor and reduce 1X vibration. Thermal bow effects due to rub can produce changes in the amplitude or phase of the 1X response vector. these changes can be continuous over time (Figure 3. For this reason. rub will produce changes in 1X vibration because of rotational energy transfer to lateral vibration energy and because of changes in stiffness.13). The resonance is moved to a different speed because of the rub-induced stiffness change. Heavy rub can also result in more energy transfer to the machine casing. Effects of Rub on the Rotor System The general concept that rub is an unintended contact between rotating and stationary parts is quite straightforward. Vibration Characteristics of Rub 1.

The rub initiates at about 4400 rpm during the higher vibration associated with the second balance resonance (blue line). it will follow the rules laid out in reference [13]. Subsynchronous Vibration Subsynchronous vibration. Note that the rub vibration tracks the 1/2X order line and has significant reverse components. if present at all. The inset displays eight shaft revolutions of the direct orbit at 4400 rpm. will usually be small due to the heavy damping of the pumped liquid. more than 3 times the same rub-modified natural frequency for 1/3X and so forth for each subharmonic. the rotor speed is twice the rub-modified first balance resonance frequency at about 2200 cpm.15 shows subsynchronous behavior 50 . These subsynchronous frequency components will be pure integral fractions of running speed and they will follow the rules for Normal-Tight and NormalLoose partial rubs. Note the locked Keyphasor dots that indicate that the vibration frequency is a pure integer ratio (1/2X in this case). Subsynchronous vibration may not be present because the requirements for ½X are that running speed be more than 2 times the rub-modified natural frequency. 2. Also. If a rub does produce subsynchronous vibration. The full spectrum in Figure 3. then amplitudes are usually low because of the heavy damping provided by the pumped liquid.15 Full spectrum cascade plot showing a radial rub during startup. Rub Figure 3. Thus the rotative speed must be high relative to the critical speed (balance resonance) and this is not often the case. at the onset of 1/2X.f= Bode and polar plots available for reference. The first balance resonance occurs at about 1800 rpm (horizontal red line). If this requirement is met and subsynchronous vibration is present.

or steady state operation can be symptomatic of a rub. full exist for many of the harmonics. 3/2X. Changes in direct orbit shape should be noted. harmonics in the spectrum (Figure 3. Very importantly. For example. 3/2X. Note that significant reverse components forces in the reverse direction. 5/2X and so on. Average Shaft Centerline Position Changes Rub can produce a dramatic change in the trajectory. Because of the change. 3. shutdown. then it is possible to see 2X. or orbit of the rotor. The reverse frequency components are strong indicators of a partial rub. Supersynchronous and Reverse Precession Vibration Rubs. 5. particularly partial rubs. 4. 2X. spectrum plots with supersynchronous vibration will show significant reverse precession components at the supersynchronous frequency. Sharp changes in direction will produce harmonic frequencies on 2/3X spectrum plots.16 Full spectrum of rub showing of 1/2X). less so for heavy rub. the sharp changes in trajectory produced by rubs will be apparent in the orbit shape.16). only direct orbits with Keyphasor dots can be used to verify that subsynchronous vibration is a pure integer ratio. if the vibration frequency is predominately 1X. etc. If the frequency really is locked to an integer ratio. 5/3X.. 4/3X. with a Reverse components are also often harmonic at 2/3X. A direct (unfiltered) orbit with Keyphasor dot display should be used to verify the integer relationship. etc. 3X. the average shaft centerline position can change. Because the both 1X rotor and a harmonic of the 1/3X. On an orbit. etc. Note that it is not possible to absolutely verify that a vibration frequency is a pure integer ratio by using spectrum. can produce sharp changes in the rotor 1/3X trajectory as the rotor rebounds from the contact surface. In the unlikely event that the predominant rub-induced vibration frequency is 1/2X. two Keyphasor dots could indicate 1/2X. the number of displayed Keyphasor dots yields the denominator of a frequency ratio.f= typical of a partial rub. supersynchronous harmonics are also rub usually involves tangential friction visible. harmonics. it is possible to see 1X (as a mixture of normal 1X rotor response and the harmonic Figure 3. then the Keyphasor dots will remain locked in place through subsequent 51 . 5/2X. For example. Orbits Direct (unfiltered) orbits should be examined and correlated with any other unusual activity that may be taking place in the machine. Sudden changes in average shaft centerline position during startup. Rub is producing 1/3X. For example. There is always some uncertainty in the displayed frequency on a spectrum plot because of the limited resolution of the spectrum. The 1X line probably contains present in full spectrum plots. This can be a very pronounced effect for light rub.

Loss of Efficiency Rub can cause extreme wear of contacting parts. If they move in position steadily. 52 . because machine efficiency often depends on tight clearances. Look for discoloration of parts due to high temperature. and. Vibration that consists of a mixture of 1X and rub-induced 1/2X can produce orbits with complicated shapes (Figure 3. The two stationary sets of Keyphasor dots show the vibration to be pure 1/2X. or pump impellers. then the frequency is not a pure integer ratio. wear at these interfaces will usually result in degraded operating efficiency. 6. bearings and wear rings. Machines with a significant loss of efficiency should be carefully inspected for evidence of wipes at seals.15).f= vibration cycles. scratched or smeared bearing babbitt. and damaged turbine blades. This orbit shows the path of the shaft centerline for eight shaft revolutions. compressor blades. Seals and wear rings can be especially vulnerable.

Failures that occur via cyclical. or residual stresses from heat treatment. The sudden failure will release the large amount of energy that is stored in the rotating system. start at or near the outer surface. Further stress concentration can occur at the microstructure level where surface machining imperfections. Sometimes. welding.17 illustrates just one of these. Obviously. In addition. Shafts are subjected to large-scale stresses due to static or dynamic bending and torsional twisting. local stress concentrations. a crack (also called a fatigue crack) will grow over time until the remaining. chemical surface damage. and a microcrack will form in the material. When this happens. Shafts. Because shaft bending tends to produce the highest stresses at the outer surface. stresses and can fail even though the actual maximum stresses remain well below the yield strength of the shaft material. because of chemical or other processing problems in the rotor billet. stresses are referred to as fatigue failures. If undetected in an operating machine. because of their rotation. The consequences of a broken shaft can range from inconvenient and costly to catastrophic and dangerous depending on the circumstances under which the failure occurs. a microcrack may exist inside the shaft before it is put into service. are subject to periodically changing. if the rotor is offset from the axis of the rotor system (typically the case because of a radial process load or gravity). Shaft cracks begin in regions of high local stress. These largerscale stresses can be concentrated by geometric factors such as step changes in shaft diameter.e.. or other discontinuities. Damage due to this kind of failure is catastrophic and can cause serious injury or death to anyone unfortunate enough to be standing near the machine at the moment of failure. 5]. Figure 3. drilled holes. Shafts can encounter reversing stresses for a number of reasons. with shaft rotation). All of these stresses combine to produce a local stress field that changes with time (i. and machines that are suspected of having a crack must be treated with the utmost respect. the stress at any particular outer fiber will see no change in stress. or machining operations. a 1X elliptical orbit (which is also typical) 53 . or reversing. The end result can produce a small local region where stresses exceed the maximum that the material can withstand. However. If a rotor orbits about the center of the rotor system in pure 1X precession. shaft cracks usually. or cyclical. Shaft fractures have caused machine parts to penetrate the machine casing and even penetrate building walls. The problems created by cracked or totally broken pump shafts are not difficult to imagine. but not always.f= Shaft Crack Centrifugal pumps are vulnerable to cracked shafts for a variety of reasons. or material discontinuities (such as produced by slag inclusions or chemical impurities) can produce high. reduced cross section of the rotor is unable to withstand the static or dynamic loads that are applied to it. static radial loads. shaft crack detection is a very serious matter. shrink fits. keyways. and the rotor will fly apart. then rotor outer fibers will see a 1X variation in stress. Definition of Shaft Crack A shaft crack can be thought of as a slowly growing fracture of the rotor. the remaining rotor section will fail in a fast brittle fracture mode. The references cited below contained several examples of pumps that have failed due to cracked shafts [3.

When the tip. As the crack propagates. Most a mixture of and treatment. Elliptical Orbit Once initiated.or supersynchronous vibration that may be present will produce 0 1 2 an additional complicated pattern of cyclic Rotor Offset With stresses in the shaft. and the crack will propagate directly into and circumferentially across the rotor section (Figure 2). even under normal. At some point. Pure torsional stress will produce a crack that is oriented at 45° relative to the long axis. during the next load application. or alternating. the stress is constant. and the rotor will break in direction of the maximum local tensile stress. and the torsion stress. but the crack will tend to form a spiral on the shaft surface. Any sub. then the stress field will be variable stress with a mixture of 1X (from the oriented along the long axis of the rotor. and if sufficiently high 0 cyclic.f= produces 2X stress cycling. thus. Thus. the local stress intensity will Figure 3. half. The local stress field at the crack rate of loading of the shaft. less and less material is available to transmit loads in the rotor shaft. displacement) and 2X (from the ellipticity). the determines crack propagation direction. The fracture toughness is a stress in the shaft and propagates directly into the measure of the material’s resistance to fast shaft. the stress field usually contains a mixture of bending and torsional stress. the section will become so small that. the material temperature.17 An example of outer fiber stress crack tip. The orientation of this stress field variation for a rotor in simple bending. Comp Tension Tension 54 . and the local stress across the remaining shaft material becomes higher and higher. Bending stress is usually the dominant component. When a rotor is subjected only to simple bending the rotor is displaced from the system center in a 1X elliptical orbit (bottom). A crack resulting from pure torsional stress a spiral at 45° of the fracture and is a function of the alloy. other crack Crack geometries are possible. However. In rotor systems. 1X operation. real rotors live Rotor Centered in a complicated stress environment that contains a mixture of 1X and 2X stress 0 cycling. the crack will usually Torsion propagate into the rotor more or less as a Crack Transverse transverse crack. The crack will propagate into the rotor. the rotor sees stresses. which can be influenced by local geometry. exceed the fracture toughness of the A transverse crack results from pure bending material. The remaining section will undergo a fast crack tip propagates perpendicular to the brittle fracture. When the is affected by the type of stress (bending or rotor moves about the center of the system (top) torsional) and by any geometric factors. stresses are present. fracture toughness is exceeded.18 Transverse and Torsional Cracks. If in a 1X circular orbit. heat forms shafts contain to the long axisbendingshaft. the crack tip will slowly propagate in a 0 1 2 direction perpendicular to the orientation of Shaft Revolutions the local maximum tensile stress at the Figure 3.

If the ruler is rotating with a similar unidirectional load. 2. like other malfunctions. The effect of asymmetric rotor stiffness can be demonstrated with a simply supported ruler. the thinner shaft will bend more easily than the thicker one because it has less stiffness.20 2x snapping action of cracked shaft. This occurs in a relatively straightforward manner and can be visualized by comparing the stiffness of a thin shaft with that of a thicker shaft.. Asymmetric stiffness means that the shaft is stiffer in one direction than in another. identical downward loads (red arrows) are applied to a ruler in three positions. A crack has the same effect because it reduces the cross sectional area moment of inertia of the shaft.e. i. have their own unique effects upon a rotor system. the ruler has a perpendicular (quadrature) component of deflection. It is not an easy matter to determine crack size in a rotating machine. Reduction of Shaft Stiffness Shaft cracks. a snapping motion will be seen two times per revolution (2X). As a crack grows. This leads to a change in rotor bow and 1X behavior. This produces an asymmetric rotor shaft stiffness that rotates with the rotor. means that the shaft will now show greater deflection in response to the forces which act on the rotor. or stiffness. less cross sectional area moment of inertia. It has maximum stiffness and smallest deflection at position (b). Asymmetric Shaft Stiffness Another effect of cracks upon pump shafts is asymmetric stiffness. Figure 3. Given that all other things are equal. the remaining shaft section shape becomes asymmetric. The first of these is the overall reduction of shaft stiffness. Effects of Shaft Crack upon Rotor System 1.f= Rotor shafts are usually manufactured out of materials with high fracture toughness. The significance of crack-induced asymmetric stiffness is that it can produce a Remaining Shaft Section Crack Lower Stiffness Higher Stiffness a b c Figure 3.19 Asymmetric stiffness of a cracked shaft. and any machine suspected of having a shaft crack should be shut down as soon as possible. At intermediate position (c). Less cross sectional area moment of inertia.19). Rotor shaft cracks have exceeded 90% of the shaft cross sectional area before final fracture. stiffness will be reduced more in the direction of crack growth than in the direction perpendicular to crack growth (Figure 3. The responses are shown as blue arrows. Considering the fact that cracks generally start at the surface and work inward. 55 . although certainly one should not depend on this. In the figure. The ruler has minimum stiffness and largest deflection at position (a).

Thus. The snapping action produced by sideload acting on a cracked shaft occurs twice per shaft revolution and. At this point.21 Example 1X APHT plot showing possible 1X vibration changes due to a crack.21). 1X vibration is likely to be the dominant High source of vibration in the system. A change in rotor bow will change the effective location and magnitude of the heavy spot. The details of each machine’s behavior are different. Figure 3. some resonances (or move downward. And that bow is likely to change over time. and resonant speeds may location of the crack. These effects help explain the vibration characteristics that follow in the next section. The First Rule of Crack Detection (1X) The first rule has to do with 1X filtered Generator Outboard X 1X Uncomp 1800 RPM vibration: If a rotor is cracked. shows up as a 2X frequency component (Figure 3. it is very likely to be bowed. the changes in 1X amplitude and phase that could occur are shown modes) of a rotor could be affected more for four different operating speeds. steady increases in unfiltered peak-topeak vibration over time should be taken very seriously and investigated. Since sideloads are usually present in centrifugal pumps to one degree on another (refer to “Casing”). so overall Stiffness Low direct vibration will also increase rapidly. rotor shaft Depending on the mode shape and the stiffness will decrease. This increase in 1X vibration is not an absolute . to weeks to days as the rotor begins weakens the section (red arrow). months to weeks in the early stages of crack shaft stiffness will drop rapidly as the crack growth. hence. The or polar plot over time (Figure 3. 1X vibration amplitude will usually increase rapidly.f= snapping action of the rotor whenever a strong sideload is present. Amp Phase Amplitude Phase Lag 56 . 1X amplitude and phase will change in such a way as to produce a non-repeating pattern on a Bode Figure 3.22 As a crack propagates. continuous changes in 1X amplitude and/or phase are the best primary indicator 1 Mar 1 Apr 1 May 1 Jun 1 Jul 1 Aug of a shaft crack. 1 2 3 4 As a crack propagates across the shaft. Both of these effects are explained in more detail in the corresponding Machine Library Release 2 Malfunction Diagnosis article and the reader who desires fuller explanation of these effects can refer there. The machine runs at a constant speed. Vibration Characteristics of Shaft Crack 1. As the crack grows and the Time associated bow develops.20). so is the snapping effect associated with shaft crack. Near the end. rotor nears catastrophic failure. As failure nears. Here.22). which will produce a change in 1X rotor response. Speed reduced stiffness may shift balance resonances downward to a lower speed. and amplitude time scale of this change can range from and phase change slowly over time.it can also decrease (Figure 3. and to hours as the amplitude will increase rapidly. and vibration to seriously weaken. Stiffness Thus.

and it can provide significant early warning of a crack.23). Note that a pass through such a 2X reverse 2X component is also visible but is smaller than the forward component. 2. the amplitude and/or phase of the 1X filtered slow roll vector is also likely to change as the crack propagates. depending on the location of the crack and how it effects the stiffness distribution of the shaft. One then has to ask why this has happened. In addition. A weakening shaft due to a crack is a possibility. This forms a vertical relationship on a Figure 3. rotor mode shapes may change. If the root problem is a shaft crack.23 Full spectrum cascade startup data from a rotor with a half or full spectrum shaft cross-section asymmetry and a unidirectional radial load. Because these impulses occur twice per revolution. Changes in 1X rotor behavior in resonances are an indication that something has changed in the rotor system.f= than others. The 2X snapping action of the rotor produces lateral and torsional impulses in the system. Changing rotor bow due to growth of a shaft crack will change the location and magnitude of the effective heavy spot of the rotor. The Second Rule of Crack Detection (2X) The second rule has to do with 2X filtered vibration: If a rotor with a crack has a steady. If this happens. significant 2X component appears when the running speed (left axis) Note that a rotor could reaches ½ of the balance resonance speed near 3600 cpm. speed relationship during Rotor Speed (rpm) 57 . the rotor will respond at the 2X frequency. a diagnostician may encounter a machine with a “balance problem. Because of the changing bow of the rotor. A cascade plot (Figure 3. Slow roll vectors should be compared to historical slow roll data. the 2X component is forward and elliptical. Thus. Occasionally. and the 1X vibration will increase again. then the 2X vibration will be Precession Frequency (kcpm) amplified. Also. repeated attempts to balance the machine will not solve the problem. If a resonance exists at twice running speed. this 2X Vertical component is likely to be Frequency predominately forward Relationship (although it may be elliptical). A significant downward shift in a balance resonance speed is a clear indication that the stiffness of the rotor system has decreased. a previous balance correction may soon be rendered ineffective. unidirectional radial load. then a strong 2X response may appear when the rotor is turning at half of a balance resonance speed. 1X vibration is usually very sensitive to the presence of a shaft crack because of the relationship between crack growth and rotor bow.” Perhaps the machine had no history of such a problem before.

Startup and shutdown 2X Bode and polar plots should be examined for any evidence of change (Figure 3.0 0.0 1SEP SPEED: 1187 rpm Amplitude 25SEP 19OCT 12NOV 6DEC Figure 3. As the crack propagated. Also. Experience with other machines types has shown that 2X vibration does not appear when operating at design speed in about 75% of shaft cracks.0 4.24 2X filtered polar plots showing data from two startups of a machine with a rotor crack. and because of the additional requirement that a unidirectional radial load be present. In one case. leading phase behavior is visible. along with asymmetric shaft stiffness. Obviously.25 2X filtered APHT plot of a Reactor Coolant Pump with a crack.0 8. 2X vibration amplitude and/or phase can change as the crack propagates through the rotor shaft. or a rotor could normally operate at half of a resonance speed.0 2. Note that. On the later startup 2X amplitude is larger.0 6. Like 1X vibration. the reduced shaft spring stiffness caused a resonance that was originally above twice running speed to move down and pass through twice running speed. 2X vibration is about as common in centrifugal pumps as are changes in 1X vibration. and some unusual.f= startup or shutdown. 2X amplitude and phase should be trended during steady state operation. 58 . While 2X is not always present for 2X Filtered Data 90° RO TN Note Phase Change in Leading Direction 90° 19 June 5011 5541 * 1908 * * * 4840 6034 * * 3835 6998 * 4359 * * 3231 2667 * * * 2934 7101 7193 * * * 3031 7146 28 June 180° 0° 180° 270° 1853 * * 1756 525 * * 1715 425 * * 875 2170 * * 323 * 1676 6776 * * * 5008 4868 5961 * 0° * 6947 * 1657 * 6987 * 1039 * 1638 * 7029 * 1599 * 1059 7068 * 7194 * * 1200 * 1560 7171 * * 1257 * * * 7149 1440 * 7107 7127 270° 4 mils pp Full Scale Figure 3. a crack may or may not produce significant 2X vibration at running speed. For that reason. creates the twice per revolution snapping action that is responsible for 2X vibration.24). However. a reactor coolant pump developed a crack while the pump was operating at a constant speed. The startup on 28 June shows drastically different behavior than the earlier startup on 19 June. the rotor shaft stiffness dropped so much that a resonance that originally 2X Filtered Phase Lag 0 90 180 270 360 10. when the machine was shut down. the reasons given in the preceding paragraph. This is because centrifugal pumps usually experience sideloading which. this is one of the instances where a common machine malfunction can manifest itself differently in centrifugal pumps than in other types of machines. the 2X amplitude was decreasing. The pump operated at a constant speed of 1187 rpm. As the shaft weakened. it is less likely that such a relationship would exist at normal operating speed.

2. rub is not as likely to produce a steadily increasing 1X vibration level over a long period of time. Because it mimics the behavior of a shaft crack. This is the kind of malfunction that could develop over time with a slow increase in 1X vibration. an increase in casing vibration with little or no increase in shaft relative might suggest a soft foot problem. The key to crack identification is to realize that a developing crack is likely to produce a steady and accelerating increase in 1X vibration amplitude over time as the shaft stiffness decreases. Thermal growth and subsequent changes in alignment can affect the rotor bearing stiffness and produce changes in 1X vibration.f= existed above twice the operating speed moved down in frequency and passed completely through the 2X frequency before the pump was finally shut down (Figure 3. while an increase in shaft relative with little increase in casing might suggest a crack. A loose bearing support or soft foot can cause a change in 1X vibration. Rub can cause changes in both 1X and 2X vibration. While some malfunctions will produce periodic changes in 1X vibration amplitude and/or phase. These changes can be sudden. Or. These changes in vibration should stabilize once the machine reaches thermal equilibrium at steady speed and load. A loose part is not likely to produce a steady. and the 1X amplitude and/or phase will change accordingly. Nonlinear stiffness can be caused by high eccentricity ratios in fluid-film bearings or by rub impacting. If casing measurements are available. there are no firm rules here. A locked gear coupling can also produce a sudden step change in 1X vibration. 59 . as could an alignment change. 3X. This will produce corresponding changes in 1X vibration response and cause a machine to go out of balance. if the rub is severe. long-term increase in 1X vibration amplitude. this is manifested as an increase in 1X vibration amplitude. But. Other Malfunctions With Similar Symptoms 1. but not always. Loose parts can shift occasionally. A loose rotating part can produce changes in 1X response.) of running speed to appear in spectra. Rub can disappear if the part in contact wear away (this can happen in seals). 2X Behavior Nonlinearities in rotor system stiffness can cause harmonics (2X. producing a continuously changing response. occurring at operating speed. or the changes can show up as changes in transient behavior during startup or shutdown. Thermal bow of a rotor such as a generator can also produce a similar change. the resulting total unbalance of the rotor is likely to change. rub contact may be maintained for a considerable time. shaft cracks will tend to produce non-repeating patterns on polar and APHT trend plots. with the 1X amplitude trending to ever higher levels. or they can shift continuously. repeating behavior on a polar or APHT plot. Continuously moving parts will tend to produce a cyclic. coupling problems can produce 2X vibration. If a part moves to a different angular or axial position on the rotor. Usually. it can be very difficult to determine the root cause. However. producing stepwise changes in 1X response. 1X Behavior Many other malfunctions can produce a change in 1X rotor response. etc. Also.25). Clogged debris in an impeller can produce significant differences in heavy spot location in a machine.

f= If any source of 2X vibration exists in a machine. Causes of Shaft Crack in Pumps Recall that cracks occur in regions of high localized stress. it is quite 60 . For example. it will be available to excite a resonance at half of a balance resonance speed. subject to high fatigue stresses that result in fatigue failure. While not a foregone conclusion that the peening alone caused the shaft crack. if not more. In addition.” (Figure 3.. B Pt. no support. The shaft developed a crack over the course of about a year which became evident when the stuffing boxes began to leak excessively (as rotor bow increased – recall the first rule of shaft crack).) 2. These fatigue stresses are maximum at the shaft surface and are further concentrated (or multiplied) at the step changes in diameter at shoulders located at points B and C. actual operating conditions may present higher stresses those for which the pump shaft was designed. However. the presence of 2X at half a resonance. a highpressure boiler feedpump shaft that bent (for reasons not stated) was straightened by peening with a blunt nose chisel in order to return it to service. B and C). i. pump shafts are equally. Pts. one reference [7] saw “…several pumps break shafts at point C or B because the pump was designed to run with packing for support on long overhangs (large C & B dimension) and the pump was later changed to run with mechanical seals.26) Bearing Journals Pt. Overhung pump shafts often have shoulders situated in the region where the bending stress from sideloading is high (Figure 3. Residual Stress Residual stresses may be leftover from the manufacturing process or may be unwittingly created by well-intentioned maintenance practices. (After figure from reference [7].26. while suspicious. Some of the common sources of stress are listed below. High deflection causes the shaft to undergo one cycle of alternating tensile and compressive stress per each shaft rotation. Stress Concentrators Step changes in diameter such as shoulders will concentrate stress.e. The seal performance was poor also because of excessive deflection. For example.26 Typical Points of Shaft Crack on Overhung Pumps. 3. Shaft deflects under the heavy hydraulic sideload. C Impeller Pump Shaft B C Sideload Fig. 1. is not in and of itself confirmation of a crack. Pump designers will calculate the maximum stress expected in operation and try to minimize it with fillets and other good design practices. Cracks can initiate in these regions of high fatigue stress. Pump shafts are subject to all the same factors that create and concentrate stress in other machine types. Thus.

Pumps are often operated further off of design capacity than designers originally intended.f= possible a main contributor since the resulting compressive stresses may have exceeded the maximum allowable [3]. Radial Loads Sideloads: As noted previously. 3. Misalignment: Misalignment is also a common of source of excessive radial load resulting in high fatigue stress [1]. This can subject pump shafts to very high levels of fatigue stress. 61 . centrifugal pumps are usually subjected to high sideloads which increase as the pump is operated further away from its BEP.

f= Fluid-Induced Instability Definition Fluid-induced instability is a large amplitude. we will talk primarily about fluidfilm bearings of basic cylindrical shape. the fluid is set into motion around Radial Load the gap (Figure 3. This reaction force can be separated into a tangential force (red) a rotor and a stator. exists that acts like a spring and points back toward the center of the bearing: Fs = K r (1) where K is the effective spring constant of the bearing at that eccentricity ratio. Cause of Fluid-Induced Instability When a fluid. concentric cylinders. is trapped in a gap between two. The When a rotor moves away from the and a spring force back toward spring force tries to move the rotor the center of the center of a bearing. and r is the distance from the center of the bearing. When a rotor operates in fluid-induced instability. Fs. The tangential force is The pressure profile creates a force that can ultimately responsible for destabilizing the rotor. and any Figure 3. left). subsynchronous vibration can cause rotor-to-stator rubs on seals.27. the converging fluid bearing. it should be understood that Spring Wedge Force everything written here about bearings also Force applies to seals. but the tangential force tries to move the forms a pressure wedge (Figure 3. and one is rotating relative to the other. This situation exists in fully lubricated (360° lubricated) fluidfilm bearings. in seals. be separated into two components. creating a fatigue environment that could result in a shaft crack. usually subsynchronous vibration of a rotor that is caused by rotor interaction with a surrounding fluid. In addition. Fluid-induced instability is a potentially damaging operating condition that should be avoided. around impellers in pumps. or other rotor parts.27. Pressure Tangential However. But the rotor is unstable in the sense that it is operating outside desired operational limits. The circulating fluid in a bearing other region in a machine where a liquid or or seal forms a pressure wedge when the rotor gas is trapped in a small clearance between is displaced from the center (left). impellers. The term “instability” is somewhat of a misnomer. bearings.27). either liquid or gas. (green). In this section. pump impellers. or when any part of a rotor is completely surrounded by fluid trapped between the rotor and the stator. the bearing surface is subject to alternating stresses that can lead to fatigue failure of the babbitt. A direct component or spring force. it is actually operating in a stable limit cycle of high vibration. The vibration can also produce large-amplitude alternating stresses in the rotor. 62 . rotor tangentially. The large amplitude.

impeller. acts to stabilize the rotor because it pushes the rotor back toward the center of the bearing. pump casing). When this occurs. the rotor is undergoing a fluid-induced instability (whirl or whip).27. acts to destabilize the rotor by pushing it at a right angle (i. or 360° lubricated). but also on the strength of fluid circulation around the rotor (λ). It turns out that this tangential force. as well as in bearings and seals. Ft. Ω (capital omega) is the angular velocity of the rotor (the speed of the rotor in radians/sec). for example because of misalignment. If conditions are right. For a plain cylindrical. Practically.or antiswirling that may exist in the fluid. seal. a quadrature component acts in a tangential direction in the same sense as rotor rotation.e. in the direction of rotor rotation (Figure 3. the tangential force will drive the rotor in a large amplitude. Properly loaded fluid-film bearings are normally only partially lubricated. At this point. It is defined as the ratio of the average angular velocity of the fluid to the angular velocity of the rotor. Ω.) What is λ? Put most simply.f= At the same time. bearing. Reference [15] explains these conditions in detail and describes the difference between whirl and whip.49 or so.. and distance from the equilibrium position: Ft = jDλΩ r (2) where D is the bearing (or seal. tangentially) to the bearing center. The spring force. forward. is a function of bearing damping. etc. the primary concept to note is that the “ingredients” for fluid-induced instability can exist in several regions of a centrifugal pump. and generate high tangential forces. It is much stronger (λ is much higher) when the rotor is surrounded with fluid (the fluid-film bearing is fully. Ft. fluid circulation. all that means is that the action occurs at 90° relative to the spring force. the eccentricity ratio of the rotor in the bearing. and λ is usually small. But the value of λ can be influenced by the geometry of the bearing. properly loaded bearings are unlikely to be a source of very large tangential forces unless the bearing becomes flooded with an excess of lubricant. This includes impellers. Thus.) damping.. Note that fluid-film bearings can become unloaded.g. the rotors in magnetic drive and canned motor pumps. The j is − 1 . fully lubricated (360° lubricated) bearing λ is typically a little under ½. λ (lambda) is the Fluid Circumferential Average Velocity Ratio. The reader who desires more detail is referred to that article. (See reference [16] for much more detail. Additional detail on this subject is beyond the scope of this paper. However. around 0. λ is a measure of the amount of fluid circulation in the bearing. Fs. Note that the strength of the tangential force depends not only on the rotation speed. Fs. and the presence of any pre. transition to fully lubricated operation. the rate of end leakage out of the bearing. circular orbit constrained only by the stiffness of the surrounding stationary cylinder (e. and r is the distance from the center of the bearing. right). rotor speed. 63 . the tangential force.

Subsynchronous Vibration The primary symptom of fluid-induced instability is forward. the whirl orbit becomes larger. The rotor system starts into fluidinduced instability (in whirl) at about 2400 rpm. the orbit diameter decreases. and the fluid-induced instability disappears. After the resonance. the high 1X rotor vibration associated with a balance resonance causes the rotor to operate at a high dynamic eccentricity ratio. The orbit inset shows the orbit of the rotor inside the bearing in whirl. the rotor shaft becomes the weakest spring in the system. The resulting higher bearing stiffness pushes the Threshold of Stability temporarily above running speed. thus the fluid-induced instability reappears. and the Threshold of Stability once again falls below running speed.29). For pumping whirl (whirl originating in the pumped liquid surrounding the impeller).28 and 3. As speed increases. When the rotor dynamic motion reaches high eccentricity. At this dynamic eccentricity ratio (about 0. and the instability frequency locks in to the high eccentricity natural frequency in whip. 64 . and the magenta circle shows the approximate bearing boundary. the bearings stiffness decreases. forward precession begins at a frequency near 0. which is the low eccentricity natural frequency of the rotor system.475X.28 Full spectrum cascade plot of a rotor system startup. the bearing becomes stiffer. and the rotor system natural frequency shifts to a higher frequency. Thus. The pair of Keyphasor dots are shifting slowly in a direction opposite to rotation. the Threshold of Stability.6). this frequency can occur in the range of 0.9X Rotor Speed (rpm) Whip Threshold of Stability Frequency (kcpm) Low Eccentricity Natural Frequency Wh irl High Eccentricity Natural Frequency Figure 3.f= Vibration Characteristics of Fluid-Induced Instability 1. the bearing controls the spring stiffness of the rotor system (see Figure 3). subsynchronous. The frequency of the subsynchronous vibration due to oil whirl is usually less than 0. the whirl tracks at a sub multiple of running speed. 1X vibration declines.5X (Figures 3. At this time. subsynchronous vibration. The initial whirl frequency is about 1300 cpm.7X to 0. This indicates that the frequency of vibration is a little less than 1/2X. At about 2900 rpm.

the rotor operates at a high eccentricity ratio within the bearing. Harmonics of the whip frequency are also visible. The subsynchronous vibration caused by fluid-induced instability is almost purely forward (Figures 3. Rub tends to produce significant reverse components at the subsynchronous frequency. However. Often the balance resonance associated with that mode will appear during startup as 1X vibration (Figure 3. and the bearing stiffness is the fluid circumferential much higher than the shaft stiffness. however. the natural almost never produces a frequency cannot be modified and the subsynchronous frequency pure integer ratio remains constant. if the lubricating film between rotor and stator breaks down or if the large amplitude instability vibration causes a rub elsewhere. etc. then fluidinduced instability can lock to an integer ratio.9. The subsynchronous whip Frequency (kcpm) frequency can range from 0.28 and 3.f= due to the increased fluid circumferential Whip average velocity generated by the impeller [4]. Fluid-induced instability is always associated with a natural frequency of the rotor system (usually the lowest mode). while whip tends to lock to a constant frequency (Figure 3. [9].29 A rotor system can enter fluid-induced instability whip higher depending upon directly without encountering whirl first. fluid. The whip orbit is the problem. During a startup or shutdown. Balance In whip.also shown inside the magenta bearing clearance. 1/3X. if the lowest mode of the rotor is supercritically (over) damped (as can happen with rigid body modes). The frequency of the subsynchronous whirl vibration is related to the fluid swirling rate.29). then the Rotor Speed (rpm) 65 . whirl due to fluid-induced instability will track running speed at some sub multiple (Figure 3. Instead. Note the jumble of Keyphasor dots and the very high dynamic eccentricity ratio of about induced instability 0.29). The (λ) of the fluid causing first balance resonance for this mode can be seen at approximately 2200 cpm. vibration frequency such as 1/2X. Shaft stiffness is the weak spring (Figure 3). As can be seen in the figure. 2/3X. thus. In this case.8X or Figure 3. Unlike rub. 1/4X. the Resonance frequency of vibration will lock to a rotor system bending mode (Figure 3. The rotor enters whip in a bending average velocity ratio mode that corresponds to the high eccentricity natural frequency.29). it is possible for whip to suddenly appear without any whirl.28).3X to 0. This is a very useful way to discriminate between rub and fluid-induced instability as a root cause. lambda (λ). fluid-induced instability produces irrational fraction frequencies. However.29). of the fluid First causing the instability.

unfiltered orbit will be predominately forward and circular (Figure 3. Whip orbits. Vibration near 1/3X will produce a set of three Keyphasor dots in the orbit that behave in a similar way. Vibration near 2/5X (0. because of the lower subsynchronous frequencies at which it usually occurs. Note that. two Keyphasor dots will be visible. are more likely to show chaotic Keyphasor dot behavior than Figure 3.f= rotor will not have a resonance on that mode. In general. This is the case for the machine in Figure 3. and the 1X vibration associated with the mode will not be visible during startup. revolutions. The behavior of the Keyphasor dots will depend on the relationship of the subsynchronous frequency to running speed (the Keyphasor trigger frequency). rub will produce subsynchronous vibration at a pure integer ratio with locked Keyphasor dots. while the subsynchronous vibration.30). 2. Keyphasor dots from a subsynchronous rub orbit will form a locked integer set. If the subsynchronous frequency is slightly above 1/2X.29).4X) will produce an orbit with 5 Keyphasor dots. then the direct. while the rub subsynchronous vibration will cause the orbit dots are locked in place orbit to continually change shape. Orbits that are filtered to the instability frequency will always be approximately circular and forward. The fluid-induced instability frequency If the vibration at the measurement is slightly less than 1/2X in whirl (the orbit is from a plane contains a mixture of 1X and location some distance from the source). Locked Keyphasor dots imply rub. This is a very powerful tool for discriminating between fluid-induced instability and rub. For subsynchronous frequencies near 1/2X. but the motion of the Keyphasor dots (for frequencies close to an integer multiple) will still tend to migrate in a small circle (Figure 3. Because rub produces integer ratio subsynchronous vibration Fluid Instability Rub frequencies (such as 1/2X). the Keyphasor dots will tend to form a chaotic pattern consisting of great many dots (Figure 3. then the Keyphasor dots will slowly drift in the same direction as rotation. When the subsynchronous vibration is not near an integer ratio. In the instability orbit will be more complex in shape. while moving Keyphasor dots imply fluid-induced instability. These dots will not drift around the orbit with time and will tend to stay in the same location. under the right circumstances. If the subsynchronous frequency is slightly below 1/2X.28). Orbits If the vibration at the measurement plane is dominated by fluid-induced instability.30 Direct orbits showing a mixture of 1X and subsynchronous vibration for eight shaft whirl orbits. 66 . then the orbit rub frequency is exactly 1/2X. then the Keyphasor dots will slowly drift in a direction opposite to rotation. The the Keyphasor dots slowly migrate against rotation (black arrows) in a circular path (red). the number of Keyphasor dots visible is related to the denominator of the nearest subsynchronous integer ratio.28.

Compare to Fig. then one or more bearings in the machine may become partially unloaded. the average eccentricity ratio in the bearing approaches zero. Thus. the average eccentricity ratio will begin to approach zero. is a measure of the strength of the fluid 67 .32). 7. That is. Machines with fluid-film bearings are usually designed to operate in a partially lubricated condition at a high eccentricity ratio position. The shaft centerline plot of a normal machine has a typical behavior (Figure 3.31 Average shaft centerline plot showing the transition from stable behavior (black) to fluid-induced instability whip (blue) inside the bearing for the data shown in Figure 6. Reduction of Fluid Circulation The fluid circulation is what creates the destabilizing tangential force. the Fluid Circumferential Average Velocity Ratio. The dashed circle shows the bearing boundary. the shaft centerline plot can provide a clue as to the root cause of the fluid-induced instability that is taking place in the machine. As the rotor orbit grows larger in whirl or whip and begins to move around the bearing clearance. During startup. the properly loaded shaft centerline would start at the 500 rpm point and move up to the right for X to Y (CCW) rotation. the average shaft centerline position will approach the bearing center (Figure 3. A related issue concerns a potential cause of fluid-induced instability. If a machine becomes misaligned.31). Radial Load Direction High Speed Radial Load Direction 3600 Whip 500 Low Speed Figure 3.32 Normal shaft centerline plot from a shutdown of a steam turbine generator. circular orbit. Corrective Actions for Fluid-Induced Instability 1. causing fluid-induced instability. When this happens. the journal will move about the center of the bearing at a subsynchronous frequency in a forward. Average Shaft Centerline Position In classic fluid-induced instability. the shaft centerline operating position will move to an abnormal position closer to the center of the bearing. Operation near the bearing center is more likely to result in full lubrication of the rotor journal. As the instability develops.f= 3. Thus. Figure 3. λ. it can be very useful to correlate the onset of subsynchronous vibration with movement of the shaft centerline toward the center of the bearing.

The lightly loaded bearing will tend to position the rotor closer to the center of the bearing. Control of λ can be difficult for an end user and can be most easily accomplished at the OEM level. 3. Antiswirl injection involves injecting working fluid tangentially into the bearing or seal in a direction opposite to rotation (Figure 3.f= Pressurized Fluid Pressurized Fluid Figure 3. and may eliminate the instability. Over designed bearings could result in a fluid-induced instability problem. Proper Loading of Hydrodynamic Bearings Fluid-induced instability often originates in hydrodynamic bearings that are insufficiently loaded. Adjustment of Supply Pressure Hydrostatic bearings normally operate in a fully lubricated (360° lubricated) condition. The injected fluid disrupts circulation and greatly reduces λ circulation. the spring stiffness of the bearing. fluid flow is disrupted in the bearing and stability is enhanced. The injected fluid acts to slow down the overall average fluid angular velocity and reduce λ. At the design level.34 Antiswirl injection involves injection of pressurized fluid tangentially into a bearing or seal in a direction opposite rotation. Thus. If a machine that once ran acceptably now exhibits fluid-induced instability. In these types of bearings. Correct alignment should result in properly loaded bearings. 68 . This is commonly done by utilizing bearing geometries that depart from simple cylindrical shapes (Figure 3. Misalignment can shift the load from one bearing to one or more other bearings in the machine. check the shaft centerline plot to see where the rotor is operating in the bearing clearance.34). If the rotor is found to be operating in a particular bearing at a low eccentricity ratio while adjacent bearings are highly loaded. Because the pads are not continuous.33 Bearing geometries that break up fluid circulation in the bearing reduce the value of λ and promote stability. This technique has been successfully applied in both bearings and seals and has proven to be very effective. then the external and internal alignment of the machine should be checked. Anything that acts to disrupt fluid flow around the clearance will help rotor stability. KB. fluid-film bearings in a machine should be designed with an adequate load. is strongly influenced by the lubricant delivery pressure in the bearing. Tilt pad bearings are an example of this. K. 2.33). increasing the bearing supply pressure will increase the rotor system stiffness. Figure 3.

Thus. Obviously.f= Seals act like hydrostatic bearings. KB. If a hydrodynamic bearing is suspected of being the source of the fluid-induced instability. Further explanation of the effect of lube oil temperature on fluid-induced instability can be found in Reference [15]. increasing the seal fluid supply pressure may increase the stiffness of the seal and. then reducing lubricant supply pressure may eliminate the flooded condition and stop the instability. normally operate in a partially lubricated condition at a relatively high eccentricity ratio. a change in oil supply temperature of only a few degrees has produced dramatic changes in the fluid-induced instability behavior of the machine. 4. and the bearing damping. changing the fluid viscosity may have a significant effect on the fluid-induced instability. eliminate the instability. This is likely to destabilize the rotor system. Increasing the lubricant supply pressure may actually flood the bearing. In some cases. Hydrodynamic bearings. Thus. D. It is difficult to predict ahead of time how changes in oil temperature will affect the speed at which fluid-induced instability occurs (called the Threshold of Stability). The rotor in the seal area is normally completely surrounded by the working fluid of the seal. if the seal is the source of the instability. 69 . care must be taken to avoid reducing the supply pressure to such a low level that causes damage to the bearing. on the other hand. Adjustment of Lube Oil Temperature Fluid viscosity affects both the bearing stiffness. causing it to operate in a fully lubricated condition.

but can also include subsynchronous and supersynchronous frequencies. it is not just machine parts that can resonate. Anyone who has heard a rattle in their car has experienced a structural resonance. The rattle is most pronounced when the frequency of the exciting forces are closest to the natural frequency of the loose part. floors. Vibration external to the pump can originate within adjacent machines and also from adjoining processes (process liquid flowing through a pipe can excite vibrations as well). Definition of Structural Resonance Resonance is the peaking of the amplitude of vibration that occurs when a periodic force excites an object at its natural frequency. The offending rattle occurs because some part is loose enough (that is.) match the natural frequency of the part. its stiffness is lowered) so that it vibrates when the frequency of the exciting forces (for example: engine. of an object is defined by the equation: ωn = K M (1) where K and M are object’s spring stiffness and mass respectively.f= Structural Resonances Rotors are not the only parts of a pump and its driver that can resonate. although this probably less likely since the pump will tend to be more sensitive to vibration than adjoining structures. the pump pedestal and other support structures. roofs. and other vulnerable pump components. Recall that the natural frequency. In either case. The frequencies of vibrations originating from within the pump typically include 1X.e. The stiffened part now has a natural frequency that is beyond the range of the frequency of the exciting forces and is thus unable to resonate. In fact. piping support brackets. any surrounding structure will resonate when excited at its natural frequency. denoted by ωn. Even though common sense tells us that vibrations do not stop at some artificial boundary surrounding the pump but rather will transmit in and out. seals. – in other words. hence the term structural resonance. Conversely. This simple relationship between stiffness and mass explains why stiffening the part by either tightening or reinforcing it silences the rattle. spring stiffness) and mass will resonate when excited at its natural frequency. The vibration of a structural resonance can transmit into a pump and damage bearings. couplings. it is important that structural resonances. etc. walls. be identified and corrected if believed to be problematic. vibration of tires on road surface. the interaction between a pump and its adjoining structures is sometimes overlooked. Vibrations of a wide range of frequencies originate from both inside and outside the pump. The piping. All of these vibrations of various frequency and amplitude combine to make up a complex source of excitation. This includes virtually every object found in the industrial environments that normally surround centrifugal pumps. etc.. Machines “live” in a complex vibration environment. That is why the rattle may appear and then disappear with changes in speed. The interactivity 70 . vibration can originate from within the pump and damage an adjoining structure. any object with properties of elasticity (i. other machine parts such as casings and brackets can resonate as well. if present.

lower stiffness) and thus able to resonate at a frequency that coincided with the pump speed. 2 steady state plots can also show an increase or decrease in 0 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 vibration amplitude and phase lag depending on how the Figure 3. 240 The deviation usually occurs 300 over a limited frequency range 360 relating to the structural 60 resonance.e. 6 Structural Steady State data: As with Resonance 4 startup and shutdown plots. The new pipe run had left them insufficiently supported (i. and coupling failures and to require monthly overhauls. two pumps that had operated for several years with only minor problems and annual maintenance began to experience multiple seal. bearing.35. The cause of the failures was traced to the pumps’ discharge piping which were found to resonate at 1X the pump running speed.. For example. and couplings are typically the parts most affected by high vibration. etc. shaft crack can also produce changes in 1X vibration amplitude and phase over time. Such changes could include a broken pipe support bracket. Vibration Characteristics of Structural Resonance Startup and Shutdown data: Structural resonance can cause vibration amplitude and phase lag curves on startup and Bode Plot.35). Effects of Structural Resonance Pump seals. Structural resonance on Startup and Shutdown vibrations combine. The plot may show a change in normally expectedthe curve show increasing amplitude and phase circled portions of vibration if something lag. The discharge piping had been rerouted about the same time that the pumps began to fail. bearings. The structural resonance appears as deviations from the ampitude and phase lag curve shapes. The deviation can 120 be either an increase or a decrease in vibration and phase 180 lag depending on the phase 10 relationship between the rotor 8 and structural vibrations (Figure 3. including those produced by structural resonance. change in an adjoining process. In one case history [5]. Amplitude (mils pp) Phase Lag (degrees) 71 . Other malfunctions can also cause change in vibration. One must make careful note of the fact that these changes are not unique to structural resonances. 1X Compensated shutdown plots to deviate from 180 the normally expected shape. the deviations could just as easily have been adjoining the pump undergoes decreases. a change.f= of a pump with its environment means that there are additional sources of vibration that need to be considered when attempting to solve problems of high vibration. Pump reliability was restored to original levels once vibration in the piping was reduced. A trend Plots. However.

that are expanding and collapsing along with the vapor bubbles. Applying this to centrifugal pumps. true cavitation refers to the vaporization and subsequent collapse of the pumped liquid itself. within the pumped liquid that subsequently collapse with tremendous force. water at sea level will boil at 100 °C (212 °F) versus 94 °C (202 °F) at 1524 meters (5000 feet) above sea level. Because the pressure inside a pump is a function of the Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH). such as air. While cavitation most often occurs because of the former.f= Cavitation Any discussion of centrifugal pump malfunction must include the important subject of cavitation. This natural phenomenon is straight out of standard thermodynamic principles that show that evaporation is dependent on both temperature and pressure. Consequently.) 72 . It is capable of causing severe performance loss and pump damage resulting in significant financial impacts to pump owners. if we understand the conditions for evaporation/condensation. One reference contained a photograph showing an impeller vane that had been eroded completely through by cavitation [2]. the lack of available NPSH is the primary cause of pump cavitation. There are two ways to evaporate. There may be gas bubbles of some other dissolved substance in the pumped liquid. Only liquid handling machines experience cavitation because liquids by nature will boil into vapor and then condense back into liquid given the right conditions. we see that cavitation will occur when either the pressure inside the pump drops below the liquid vapor pressure or the temperature of the liquid inside is raised above its boiling point. or 2) decrease the pressure acting upon the liquid to less than or equal to its vapor pressure. a liquid: 1) increase the temperature of the liquid to its “boiling” temperature. However. Anyone who has cooked boiled foods at high elevation has discovered that more time is required because boiling temperature lowers as the atmospheric pressure lowers. Compressors do not experience cavitation because the gas they handle already exists in a vapor state and remains so throughout the entire compression process. (See section “Net Positive Suction Head” for greater detail about NPSH. or boil. Thus. or 2) its pressure is raised above the vapor pressure. For example. Definition of Cavitation The term cavitation refers to the formation of tiny vapor bubbles. Cavitation is one the most common centrifugal pump malfunctions. then we will have defined the general physical conditions that cause cavitation. Mechanism of Cavitation The mechanism of cavitation is actually the process of liquid evaporation and condensation. or “cavities”. The vapor bubbles are capable of causing severe damage when they collapse against the metal surfaces inside the pump. it is also quite possible for increased temperature to cause cavitation. Since condensation is merely the opposite of evaporation. vapor will condense when 1) its temperature is lowered below the boiling point. cavitation is also the focus of much investigation on the part of researchers.

Denser liquids. liquids differ in the severity of cavitation damage they may cause. The presence of noise due to cavitation does not necessarily mean that it is causing damage to the pump.37). cavitation vapor bubbles do not form and then gently “pop”. This is along the trailing side of the impeller vanes. Cavitation occurs where pressure is lowest. like water. cause more damage when their vapor bubbles implode than do less dense liquids. Figure 3. Also. Figure 3.f= The location in Rotation the pump where cavitation will occur is the point where pressure is lowest.36 shows Bubbles that this point is adjacent the trailing (low pressure) side of the impeller vanes. All liquids have Formation of the potential to Vapor Bubbles cavitate since all liquids follow the principles of thermodynamics. they form and collapse in a few thousandths of a second. they implode with tremendous pressures estimated on the order of 104 atmospheres (Figure 3. Collapsing Vapor Figure 3. Effects of Cavitation As it was alluded to earlier. The effects of the local shock wave produced by these collapsing bubbles can range from inconsequential to extremely damaging.37 Collapse of Vapor Bubbles. As the bubbles collapse. such as hydrocarbons. liquids with larger differences between liquid and vapor specific volumes will create larger implosion forces when the vapor cavities collapse. Cavitation may be little more than an annoyance due to the severe noise produced (although cavitation can occur without noise). However. Cavitation produces vapor bubbles which can erode metal surfaces inside the pump when they collapse against those surfaces. Some pumps may noisily operate in cavitation for years 73 .36 Location of vapor bubbles. Rather.

f= without failure. the local shock wave from the implosion of the vapor bubbles can erode impeller vanes through the removal of material from metal surfaces. Thus. elbows or other fittings that might be reducing the pressure at the pump suction to unacceptably low levels. A three percent drop in head has traditionally been used as an indicator of cavitation. Noise As described above. This can occur in a matter of a few weeks. Characteristics of Cavitation 1. Reduction in Pump Head The loss of efficiency described above will be recognizable as a drop in the head produced. Drop in head will also occur if pump rotative speed is reduced. Required NPSH is a function of the friction loss experienced by the liquid as it flows from the suction flange to the point of lowest 74 . A cavitating pump has less liquid flowing through it because the lower density vapor cavities block flow. Reduction of hydraulic efficiency always accompanies cavitation. Corrective Actions 1. 2. Vibration Cavitation increases vibration amplitude over a broad frequency range. If the pump head has dropped because of cavitation. The tendency for cavitation to damage a pump depends on impeller material and design and operating conditions. The suction side piping should be evaluated for the presence of bends. the onset of cavitation starts before drop in head reaches three percent. Increase the Available NPSH Increasing the NPSH provided by the system will raise the pressure in the pump above the liquid vapor pressure. Whether or not cavitation will harm a pump depends on several factors including the impeller material and the nature of the pumped liquid. Of greater concern than noise is the loss of hydraulic efficiency. 2. The loss of material on the impeller upsets mass and hydraulic balance resulting in high vibration that can damage seals and bearings. However. 3. 4. At worst. cavitation may or may not be accompanied by noise. the noise tends to be a steady “crackling” noise [1]. The vibration increases can be high enough to damage seals and bearings. whether or not the losses are significant depends on the amount of cavitation present. Cavitation caused by recirculation will erode other areas of the vanes (this is described in more detail below in “Cavitation caused by Recirculation”). The severity of erosion can vary from surface pitting to holes clear through the vanes. that does not necessarily mean it is damaging the pump. Changes in speed should be verified before assuming cavitation is present. a pump might be cavitating even without a significant drop in head. Decrease the Required NPSH Another way to prevent pressure in the pump from falling below the liquid vapor pressure is to reduce the Required NPSH. Visual Indicators Erosion on the low pressure side of the impeller vanes is a sign that cavitation is caused by insufficient NPSH. This is in contrast to the noise of recirculation (another type of cavitation that is described below) which has been described as being a random crackling with high-intensity knocks [1]. If it is.

Cooling the suction Cavitation can also be prevented by lowering the liquid temperature on the suction side of the pump. The distinction between cavitation caused by insufficient NPSH and that caused by recirculation is important because they have different corrective actions. The term recirculation refers to a reversal of flow within the pump. double suction pumps generally require less NPSH than a comparable single suction pump because the double suction eyes provide a larger inlet passage with lower frictional losses.38).38 Suction and Discharge Recirculation. (“Boiling temperature” is pressure dependent just like vapor pressure is temperature dependent. Examples of changes that will reduce inlet friction losses are: Use a pump design with a lower Required NPSH. conditions liquid will reverse direction and flow toward the suction instead of continuing to discharge as intended. Use a pump that runs at lower rotative speed. However. Flow reversals create vortices and cavitation occurs at the center of the vortices. For example. The normal direction of flow through the pump is from suction to discharge. However.f= pressure in the impeller vane passages. Discharge recirculation occurs at the discharge tips of impeller vanes. Suction recirculation occurs in the impeller eye. 3. Temperature at the suction must be reduced to the point where the liquid stays below its boiling temperature when flowing through the impeller vanes.) Cavitation caused by Recirculation Definition The type of cavitation discussed in the preceding section results from insufficient NPSH. 75 . A lower speed pump will have to be larger in order to deliver the same head versus flow of a smaller pump with comparable performance. the boiling temperature of the liquid inside pump is not the same as the boiling temperature of the liquid at atmospheric pressure. under certain Suction Recirculation Discharge Recirculation Figure 3. a malfunction known as recirculation can also cause cavitation. The flow reversal and its associated cavitation occur in two main areas (Figure 3.

The mechanical work of the impeller upon the liquid flowing through it results in a slight temperature rise. one of which is the type of material used in its construction. Rerouting some of the pumped liquid from discharge back through the suction. an additional possibility exists. Vibration Recirculation cavitation can result in increased radial and axial vibration. The rerouted liquid can cause heat to accumulate in the pump thus raising the temperature unacceptably. 2. as if a loose bolt or nut where being rattled around inside the rotating impeller. It has been described as a random knocking sound. Pitting near impeller eye indicates suction recirculation while pitting near discharge end of vanes indicates discharge recirculation. One caution with rerouting liquid back through the pump is that temperature can rise to unacceptable levels. this flow must be increased. Two ways to accomplish this are: 1. Corrective Actions Since insufficient flow through the impeller causes recirculation.f= All impellers will recirculate if flow drops below a specific level. Visual Indicators Recirculation cavitation erodes the pressure side of vanes unlike low-NPSH cavitation which attacks the low pressure side of vanes. The flow at which recirculation occurs is impeller dependent and cannot be changed without modifying the design [1]. The susceptibility of an impeller to cavitation damage depends on several factors. It may be possible to distinguish whether the recirculation is occurring in the suction or discharge depending where the noise is of highest intensity. Increasing pump output. 2. recirculation can also produce noise. recirculation noise tends to be of greater intensity than the noise from low-NPSH. Noise Like the cavitation discussed in the preceding section. If cavitation cannot be eliminated. 3. Symptoms of Recirculation 1. 4. The location of erosion indicates whether the recirculation is suction or discharge. If neither of these is acceptable. However. then switching to an impeller of harder material presents an additional option. 76 . These pulsations are detectable using pressure transducers [1]. Suction recirculation noise will be most noticeable near the pump suction while discharge recirculation noise will be louder at the pump discharge. Pressure Pulsations Recirculation causes a sudden increase in the magnitude of pressure pulsations.

The most effective method for minimizing these vibrations is to maintain sufficient radial clearance between impeller and cutwater (or casing vane tips).e.6).f= Vane Pass Frequencies Definition of Vane Pass Frequency Vibrations which occur at a frequency related to the number of impeller vanes. the cutwater . Other than trimming. and pump rotative speed are known as vane pass frequencies. As these variations in flow pass the cutwater (or casing vane tips in the case of double volutes and vaned diffusers). The source of excitation for vane pass frequencies is the interaction between the cutwater of the pump casing and the nonuniform velocity and pressure distribution of the liquid exiting the impeller vane passages. An additional means suggested for reducing the vane passing forces is the sharpening of the trailing edges of the vane tips [4]. the number of casing vanes..Figure 2. In truth. 77 . These variations in velocity and pressure at each vane exit are repeated around the circumference of the impeller in a pattern that is evenly spaced with the vanes. In addition. this clearance must be correctly designed into the pump during its initial design. a hydraulic reaction force excites the rotor at the vane pass frequency. Corrective Actions Vibrations at vane pass frequency represent another source of excitation of structural resonances and also additional stress to the pump and driver. pumps do not come equipped with means to move the impeller further away from the cutwater. flow from each impeller vane is forced to make an abrupt change in direction as it passes the cutwater [1]. One reference recommended a clearance of not less than 5% of the impeller diameter [1]. vane pass frequencies are usually an integer multiple of rotative speed where the integer multiple is the same as the number of impeller vanes. The finite vane thickness and slower moving liquid adjacent to the vane surfaces (called a boundary layer) create variations in the velocity and pressure of the flow exiting the impeller periphery [4]. Because single volute pumps have only one vane (i.

H. [9] Ibrahim. [7] Jackson. and Fahy." MachineLibrary. NV. "Malfunction Diagnosis: Unbalance and 1X Vibration. 1. Bently [14] Hatch. Bently Nevada Corp.. W. A. NV.. & Sleeves" Issue Number 2. Inc. NY.Book 1." Marcel Dekker. Minden. CJ On Pumping. New York.. Texas.19. M. Charles T. Bently Nevada Corp." Nevada Corp. NY. “Horizontal Pumps”. Charles T.. Sr. S. Bearings.. J... NY. and Malanoski. John Wiley & Sons. “Vertical Pumps”. [10] Eisenmann. New Jersey. [11] Hatch.. Robert C. Inc. March 1998. I. [2] Volk.. Minden. Turbomachinery Laboratory. MachineLibrary. Inc. and Sace. "Malfunction Diagnosis: Rub." Hewlett-Packard Professional Books." Second Edition.A. Machine Diagnostics Case Histories.." Fourth Edition. [5] “Boiler Feed Pumps”. "Pump Handbook..... "ADRE for Windows – instrumental in solving a complex vibration problem on a boiler feedwater pump. Bently Nevada Corp.. REFERENCES [1] Karassik. "Pump Characteristics and Applications." MachineLibrary. E. NV. Robert C. Jr.J. [12] Hatch.C. R. "Machinery Malfunction Diagnosis and Correction.W... [4] Corbo.J.B.. Messina.. No. New York. NY. 78 . "Malfunction Diagnosis: Shaft Crack. Charles.W. Minden. Charles T. Krutzsch. Shafts. "Introduction to Fluid Mechanics.. [13] Hatch. College Station. v. New York." Marcel Dekker. Bently Nevada Corp. Bently Nevada Corp.. Fraser. Inc. Applied Diagnostics Workshop .T." MachineLibrary. M. and Eisenmann. Dave "Malfunction Diagnosis: Misalignment. MacDonald. I. NV." Proceedings of the 15th International Pump Users Symposium.. Charles T. "Centrifugal Pumps – Maintenance & Design. McGraw-Hill Book Co.. [8] Fox. New York.. NV. Minden. Minden. Prentice-Hall. [6] “Vertical Slurry Pump”. Bently Nevada Corp... Upper Saddle River. "Pump Rotordynamics Made Simple. Texas A&M University. "Centrifugal Pump Clinic. MachineLibrary.. NV. Minden. W.P.f= 4. A. [3] Karassik." Orbit. 7/8/70.

MachineLibrary.. 1991. "One Lateral Mode Isotropic Rotor Response to Nonsynchronous Excitation. 1-31. A. Minden. NV." [16] Muszynska.f= [15] Hatch. Charles T. NV. pp. Minden. 4... Instability. "Malfunction Diagnosis: Fluid-Induced MachineLibrary.. 79 . Bently Nevada Corp. Bently Nevada Corp." BRDRC Report No.

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