Helium compressor

This compressor is a design made for fast-flow, axial CO2, high-power, laser cutting machines. The compressor pumps hot helium plasma at high speed from near initial vacuum conditions into the optical circuit, where the laser beam is formed. The helium mixture is compressed and expanded with every passage through the circuit.

Due to the special properties of helium, three stages are needed to obtain the required pressure rise from an initial pressure of 12500Pa. The 30kW compressor runs at 30000rpm, accelerating the flow in the rotor channels to velocities near the speed of sound.

A Flemish machine builder turned to TURBOTEC to design, develop and prototype the helium compressor for their new laser cutting machine. We optimised the flow path for the helium circuit and designed the rotors, diffusor and return vanes for the compressor using advanced CFD methods. We also performed the structural, dynamic and thermal design of the impeller and machine axis. Finally, we made the CAD model and technical drawings for all components of the complete turbomachine.

After the prototype was assembled, TURBOTEC assisted in the field tests to assess the performance of the compressor, which was within 3% of the values predicted in our CFD simulations.

High speed fan

A high speed jet of air is well suited to clean, dry or cool any object that is moving continuously or if contact needs to be avoided, e.g.: conveyor belts. At TURBOTEC, we have designed and developed a small and low power air jet cleaning installation. It consists of a small radial high-speed fan that supplies air through a specially shaped nozzle.

The fan rotates at 30000rpm and has a power consumption below 4.5kW. The impeller, diffuser and nozzle were designed using CFD in a single CFD model to assess the interaction between the different components and to exactly quantify and minimize the different losses in the system.

Both the fan and the nozzle were extensively tested in laboratory conditions to assess the validity of the CFD simulations. Test results confirmed the design performance and allowed us to optimize the different components. A prototype was assembled to conduct field tests to assess robustness and wear tolerance of the design.

Vacuum pump

Not every project we handle is about turbomachines. The task was to design a vacuum pump for use in the laser industry. Because of the relatively large flow rate and high vacuum required, a piston-driven design was chosen as the optimal solution.

There are already manufacturers who provide pumps that deliver a high vacuum, but most of these require oil for lubrication. Our vacuum pump operates entirely oil-free. The final machine will be a 3-cylinder design capable of creating a vacuum of around 1 mbar. A 1-cylinder prototype has already been built and is now ready for extensive testing.

Dredging pump

Dredging pumps are used in challenging environments and suffer greatly from wear in the volute and occasional blockage in the impeller channels. This leads to early replacement and frequent operational downtime. Large dredging pumps such as these cost well over 100.000€ each, but for these highly expensive dredging ships, the real cost is the operational downtime.

The excessive wear and the possible blockage of the impeller channels makes the design a challenging task as performance is no longer the single most important objective. Wear can largely be reduced by ensuring a smooth flow from the entry through the impeller channels into the volute and by minimising the number of low energy vortices.

A Flemish manufacturer of large dredging pumps was interested in improving the wear characteristics of their current design. The task of simulating the flow inside the pump using CFD, in order to locate and assess the stability of these vortices and corresponding high shear zones in the volute and the impeller, was awarded to TURBOTEC.

Small scale hydroturbine

In Flanders and the Netherlands, as in other parts of Europe, special interest is given to small-scale hydropower turbines which are able to operate in relatively low water depth.

TURBOTEC was asked to validate a special open-rotor design to be used in a tidal river. The CFD simulations proved this initial design to be very promising. The virtual prototyping by the use of CFD showed several less than optimal flow characteristics in the rotor which would have been nearly impossible to evaluate by field testing. Using these results, TURBOTEC was commissioned to improve the power output of the turbine. Our final design resulted in a scale model, that was then tested in a research centre in the Netherlands. There, it proved that power output predicted in the CFD simulations was off by less than 2%.