The first pumps to feature extremely hard-wearing polymer impellers were produced for a flue gas desulphurisation system in South Africa.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

  • New generation of standardised chemical pumps for the global market
  • Higher levels of efficiency for flue gas desulphurisation pumps
  • Energy-efficient solar and wind power applications

Innovations are one of the key driving forces behind the growth of our company. We used 2011 as a further opportunity to apply our expertise in the fields of hydraulics, materials technology and automation so that we could develop new pumps, valves and control systems while also making improvements to our existing products. 462 members of staff from across the Group were involved in research and development activities (previous year: 422), and we spent € 42 million (previous year: € 41 million) on R&D. Our development staff also worked on customised designs, which are geared to the specific requirements of our customers.

STANDARDISED CHEMICAL PUMPS FOR THE GLOBAL MARKET

At ACHEMA 2012, the world’s largest process industry trade fair, we will be presenting a new generation of standardised chemical pumps. By the end of 2011, the development phase for these pumps had largely been completed. The new MegaCPK is the natural progression from our internationally successful CPK®, CPKN and Megachem® type series. Thanks to the technical innovations we have introduced, this new pump generation achieves what we consider to be exemplary levels of energy efficiency and operating reliability. These enhancements were largely down to improvements in terms of the hydraulic and structural design. In part, these were achieved by applying finite element analysis, a modern calculation method for structural simulation.

PROTECTING IMPELLERS AGAINST CAVITATION

Every year, the physical effect of cavitation causes considerable damage to pumps all around the world. Although casing and impeller design measures can be used to reduce this cause of wear, they cannot eliminate it completely. That is why we are working hard to explore metallic coatings that will make our impellers cope even better with the destructive forces of vapour bubble implosion . In the year under review, we have extended our cavitation research facilities by adding an ultrasonic test stand. The new testing facility allows us to expose specimens made from various materials to extremely high levels of stress. In this way, we can quickly determine whether it would make sense to subject a material to further tests, thereby speeding up the process of selecting materials for new developments.

POLYMER INSTEAD OF METAL

Coal is still one of the most important primary energy sources across the world. However, today’s power plant operators are increasingly having to rely on coal that contains higher levels of impurities. As a result, there is a higher proportion of problematic pollutants in the flue gases produced during burning, particularly sulphur dioxide. What this means for both new power stations and older facilities alike is that they need efficient flue gas desulphurisation systems that feature special pumps for pumping the lime milk suspensions.

To remain successful within the extremely competitive flue gas scrubber pump market, we have to stay one step ahead in terms of technology. It was for this reason that we developed our highly wear-resistant impellers for the KWP® type series during the year under review. Apart from one metallic turned part, these are made entirely from a ceramic / polymer composite. To ensure the necessary strength, this material requires that the shrouds and vanes be considerably more substantial. Our flow dynamics experts and designers took up the challenge and used computer-based simulations to create impellers that demonstrated an efficiency level of more than 91 % during hydraulic testing. The first 24 pumps featuring these new components are destined for a power plant in South Africa.

MATERIALS KNOWLEDGE FOR DEVELOPERS AND DESIGNERS

The composition of materials for pumps and valves is stipulated at both a regional and national level in the form of various codes and standards. As a manufacturer with a global presence, we are required to take account of whichever of these are applicable. To ensure that our designers and developers are kept constantly up to date, we have put together a database during the year under review. In addition to the applicable codes, regulations and standards, this contains all the details concerning the chemical, physical and mechanical properties of our pump and valve materials. This means that we can make the materials knowledge we have accumulated over decades available to KSB staff all around the world. They can use it to develop pumps or valves that are suitable for the specific application concerned or to provide their customers with the best advice about materials when the products are put to practical use.

NEW PNEUMATIC ACTUATOR FOR VALVES

In various sectors of industry, there is growing demand for an automatic control valve that is both robust and easy to maintain. We are able to accommodate these requirements with our renowned BOA-CVE type series, which we expanded in 2011 by introducing a pneumatic actuator variant plus associated accessories. Nowadays, operators of modern plants tend to use automation options even for valves that used to be actuated manually. Given that most industrial plants have access to an extensive supply of compressed air, it makes sense to use this for actuation. The new unit rounds off our range of control valves and is primarily intended for shutting off pipes that carry water and steam.

START-UP PROJECTS AND COOPERATION WITH UNIVERSITIES

To cater to conventional applications, we focus on the further development of existing type series or bring new products to market. Alongside these activities, we work on forward-looking solutions that allow us to open up new market sectors. To do so, we sometimes go beyond our core areas of pump and valve technology. The work is done by small start-up teams made up of various nationalities. We are constantly adding new blood to these teams by recruiting from universities. The project teams are tasked with taking innovative products and services from the initial idea right through to the point where they are ready to be launched on the market. We currently have 6 of our employees and 20 external members from universities working in these teams. The main focus of their work is on renewable energies as well as water treatment and process engineering.

Aside from these start-up projects, we are also committed to cooperating with leading universities, public research institutions and partner companies. Within this context, we are involved in joint projects focusing on hydraulics, materials technology and automation. The 100 or so of these cooperative projects that are running across the globe are helping us to expand our specialist knowledge and to turn our business ideas into successful products on the basis of new technologies.

CONTROL SYSTEMS FOR SOLAR AND WIND POWER PLANTS

In 2011, we dedicated some of our development activities in the field of automation technology to finding ways of making solar and wind energy applications more efficient. We are introducing special switching and control systems to supplement our range of technical pump and valve components for plants that convert regenerative energy into electricity.

This means that we can now offer our customers control electronics for solar power plants that are able to increase the electrical energy yield by at least 5 %. The automation equipment solves the problem of electricity generation being impeded by the fact that some parts of a solar panel are in the shade and the control system always has to set the pace according to these “weakest links in the chain”. By using appropriate electronics, it is now possible to control each solar panel group separately. As a result, each individual group is always able to function at the optimum operating point independently of all the others. In this way, the negative effects of being in the shade can be minimised and the energy yield of the entire plant can be increased.

A similar problem is encountered in wind power applications. The power electronics of many plants have to shut down if the grid voltage fluctuates so as to avoid damage. This is primarily the case at locations where there is no powerful and stable power grid to serve as the basic supply. Consequently, even if the wind conditions are adequate, entire wind farms may have to shut down in the event of grid stability problems. That is why we have started to develop some control software and switching circuitry that will allow wind power plant operators to feed their electricity even into weak grids. Using these products should lead to a significant reduction in the payback period for wind power plants in the near future. We have scheduled initial tests to take place in China in 2012.