Research and Development

  • Developing the “transparent” pump
  • Impeller tests by computer simulation
  • New materials for lowering costs

The achievements of our research and development are the basis for KSB’s technological leadership, which we put to good use in a wide range of applications for pumps, valves and related systems. In addition to the innovative capacity of our engineers and technicians, one of the keys to our success is our project-oriented collaboration with universities and institutions of higher education. In 2010, as in the past, we took advantage of partnerships like these for a number of technical projects.

Making pumps “transparent”

Unlike most modern machinery, pumps do not yet have electronic displays that give their users up-to-the-minute operating data. Without this information, it is not possible to check whether the units are operating within the desired performance range and with the minimum drive energy. To put an end to “working blindly” in this way, in 2010 we developed PumpMeter, a monitoring device that can be factory-mounted on any pump. It lets operators know whether their units are working efficiently and with minimum wear and tear. In addition, the device analyses the pump operating data to see whether it would make economic sense to use an energy-saving variable speed system. We successfully launched this innovative metering device in the market in 2010.

The use of high-efficiency motors, which we have been promoting for several years, aims at utilising drive energy more efficiently. In 2010 we transposed this technology to the drive system of our wet-installed waste water pumps. This step was a technical challenge, as water-tight electric motors need special sealing systems and combined motor / pump bearings, which suffer greater friction losses than the ball bearings of standard motors. This meant it was harder to meet the requirements of the highest efficiency class (IE3*) with a submersible motor. We succeeded in the year under review, however, by optimising the electrical and magnetic design of our KRT pump series up to a drive rating of 150 kW. The new motors we developed in-house are mechanically and electrically optimised for the requirements of the hydraulic components in waste water pumps.

Virtual test runs

When custom-designed engineered pumps are built, test runs are required to check whether the guaranteed operating data are actually met. Manufacturing tolerances occur more frequently with impellers that have very large diameters. These tolerances call for mechanical finishing of the impeller to ensure its energy-efficient operation. To date, this may have necessitated reassembling the pump and checking it on the test rig several times.

To eliminate the need for these steps in future, KSB specialists are currently developing a method of entering the three-dimensional data of the supplied pump components into a computer and simulating their contours. This should allow them to carry out virtual test runs on the computer instead of on the test rig.

Use in solar thermal applications

The power stations being built in the deserts of the world to convert solar energy into usable thermal energy place high demands on the design and the materials of the pumps used. Huge reflector panels collect the sunlight and heat a liquid which passes on its heat to a water circuit. Unlike conventional power plants, in which the liquid remains at a virtually constant temperature, even over a period of years, these power plants experience substantial temperature fluctuations ranging from sub-zero temperatures at night to 375 °C during the day when the sun’s power is at its highest. In order to provide the right pumps, based on proven product series, for such extreme operating conditions, we carried out intensive stress and strength analyses on our boiler recirculation pumps in 2010 and improved their design. The results show that we have pumps ideally suited to solar thermal energy applications*, which we have already been able to sell for a major project.

Ideal “working environment” for every pump

A significant contribution to a pump’s smooth and cost-effective operation is made by ensuring the pump environment is appropriate. This is where our hydraulic engineers can bring their technical expertise to bear and advise customers on the design of intake structures, for example. With computer-aided flow analysis and model testing, they help to find the best compromise between cost-saving design and the optimum layout of the structures from the hydraulic perspective. Customers took advantage of this service in 2010 for the large-scale waste water pumping station of “La Caldera” in Mexico City.

Shut-off valves for marine applications

Aiming to consolidate our position as manufacturers of marine valves, we developed a range of special shut-off butterfly valves for use in the transport of ballast water as well as hydrocarbons and liquefied gases. These applications impose very high design requirements on the valves, as the operating conditions onboard a ship are considerably tougher than those in comparable systems on land.

Iron instead of cobalt

As an alloy component, cobalt plays a part in increasing wear resistance and temperature stability in high-alloy metallic materials. In pumps and valves, such alloys are welded to critical wear points to make them more resistant. However, cobalt is in high demand because of its excellent properties and is one of the more costly metals. With the aim of avoiding bottlenecks in the procurement of this material, we examined the possibility of using cobalt-free substitute alloys based on iron. We tested characteristics such as resistance to wear and corrosion, which is of major importance for pumps and valves. The results of our research are highly promising and are set to be continued.

Expenditure on research and development

In 2010 we invested some € 41 million (previous year: some € 34 million) in research and development, which accounts for about 2.1 % of our sales revenue. In the year under review, 422 of our employees (previous year: 414) were involved in research and development activities in locations in Europe, Asia and the Americas.