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Pump System Fundamentals New Industry Professionals Should Know

Horizontal Centrifugal Pump Illustration
Excerpt from the September 2022 Pumps & Systems Article by Pete Gaydon, the Hydraulic Institute

Workforce challenges mean more veterans are retiring while newcomers learn the basics.

Like most industrial and manufacturing industries, the pumping and fluid handling industry is facing workforce challenges. This includes a challenge to attract young professionals to the manufacturing, construction and municipal industries. These industries have experienced workforces that are moving toward retirement and taking years of industry knowledge with them.

This challenge requires the industry to communicate the importance of fluid handling to everyday life and how a career provides an opportunity to work in a secure industry—while impacting society by providing equipment and services that are integral to so much of what we enjoy.

This is no small task, and it is only the first step. Once new talent is attracted, companies have the daunting task of educating and training employees on their processes, products they manufacture or services they deliver. However, first, the fundamentals must be covered. This article takes a first crack at fundamental knowledge topics that cut across the fluid handling industry, while understanding there will be differing specifics and knowledge levels needed for varying positions. The end goal is to design and build reliable and efficient systems that meet their intended purpose. To achieve this goal, the manufacturers, system designers, construction contractors and owners must have a common and fundamental understanding of the topics listed within this article.

Pump Systems

Understanding the type of pump system and its needs is important because it defines the hydraulic needs and the design of the pumping equipment. Systems could be open to atmospheric pressure or not, be friction or static head dominated, have variable or constant demand, be clean or contain solids, and could be water based or have some other physical properties. Each of these fundamental considerations will be important to the pump system design, installation, control and selection of the pump(s).

Pump Types, Design & Application Fundamentals 

Pumps come in many shapes and sizes to meet all different system and fluid demands. It is important to understand the commonality and differences in the technologies.

The most fundamental division is rotodynamic versus positive displacement. Rotodynamic pumps have a rotating impeller/propeller/rotor that rotates in a casing/collector. Positive displacement pumps can be rotary type, which have meshing components (for example gears and screws) or reciprocating types, which have pistons, plungers or diaphragms that displace the liquid. The rotodynamic types increase the velocity of the liquid from the inlet to the outlet of the impeller, and positive displacement pumps trap and move a specific volume of liquid with every rotation of the pump shaft. This technology difference results in rotodynamic pumps operating at some maximum pressure that is related to the rotational velocity and positive displacement pumps operating at almost any pressure to deliver the liquid (Image 1).

Potential new pump system illustrating the operating point is depending on the pump curve (blue) and system curve (red)

This fundamental difference needs to be understood because it will affect the applications where each is best suited. Beyond this broad technology difference, there are countless variations in design, orientation and installation that are applied to meet specific market and application needs. A basic understanding of the design variations, benefits and limitations of the design variation, as well as general application considerations, are important for all.

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A Complete Line of Pumps for Industry

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Vertiflo pumps are designed for nonresidential applications and currently over 20,000 are operating successfully worldwide. Vertiflo is recognized as a quality manufacturer of dependable pumps, and continues to grow and encompass new applications in the pump industry.

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