by The Hydraulic Institute

Q. What information is available regarding bearing minimum loads for pumps?

A. All rolling element bearings require a minimum applied load. This ensures that normal elasto-hydrodynamic operation occurs. If too small a load is applied, then the bearing rolling elements (balls or rollers) can skid as opposed to rolling. When skidding occurs, wiping of the lubrication film typically results because of the less favorable surface motion. This can cause metal-to-metal contact and reduction of bearing life.

The minimum load requirements vary depending on the bearing design. As a general rule, the larger the contact area between the rolling element and the raceway, the greater the minimum load required. Therefore, a cylindrical roller bearing (which has a line contact) has a higher minimum load requirement than a deep-groove ball bearing (which has a point contact).

Variations in bearing internal geometry, tolerances and surface finish can also affect the minimum load requirements to a lesser extent. Rolling element bearing manufacturers normally provide data tables or equations to allow the designer to calculate the minimum load required.

The practical consequence of bearing minimum load requirements is that if the result of the L10 life calculation of a bearing is very high, the bearing may fail prematurely because of insufficient bearing load to prevent skidding. This stands in contradiction to the tendency of users to specify high L10 life requirements. As a general guide, it is recommended that bearing life requirements not be set higher than 100,000 hours under the worst-case combination of loading.

Pumps with single volutes have a large variation between the hydraulic radial thrust at minimum flow compared to BEP flow. There is a considerable risk that in designing for a high L10 life at minimum flow, the minimum load requirements are not met at BEP. These pumps should always be checked against the minimum bearing load requirements.

If the bearing minimum load requirement cannot be met, the designer can either select a bearing with a lower minimum load requirement or determine a way to increase the load on the bearing. For example, the bearing load can be increased by changing the pump hydraulic design (increased hydraulic load) or by applying mechanical loading (often using springs to generate preload).

For more information on applications for rotodynamic pumps, see ANSI/HI 1.3 Rotodynamic Centrifugal Pumps for Design and Application.

Q. As an alternative to mechanical seals, what kinds of stuffing box configurations are available for rotodynamic vertical pumps?

A. The two most common packed stuffing box configurations for vertical pumps are those with and without lantern rings. Both arrangements have a bushing below the packing. The two figures show these two constructions:

The construction in Figure is used when the pump discharge pressure is not high and when pumped fluid is clean and its leakage to atmosphere is acceptable.

Stuffing box for low to intermediate pressure serviceFigure Stuffing box for low to intermediate pressure service

The type of stuffing box in Figure is used to provide water injection to the shaft-enclosing tube (inner column). A provision for grease injection to the lantern ring near the lower end of the packing ring stack is optional.

Stuffing box with injectionFigure Stuffing box with injection

Other special-purpose packed stuffing boxes provide cooling, throat bushings, quench glands and other special features for the particular application conditions. Packed stuffing boxes are normally limited to moderate pressures and temperatures and require a slight leakage for packing lubrication and cooling.

Care is required to adjust the packing gland to avoid shaft sleeve and packing damage. The number of packing rings in the stuffing box, together with the size and type of packing vary by manufacturer. In most cases, it is recommended that specifications leave open the exact details about the number of rings or the size or type of packing and allow the pump manufacturer to make recommendations based on application experience.

For more information on this topic, see ANSI/HI 2.3 Rotodynamic Vertical Pumps of Radial, Mixed, and Axial Flow Types for Design and Application.

Q. What factors influence rotary pump operating temperature?

A. The maximum allowable temperature is determined by the materials of construction or elastomers. Rotary pump performance is a function of the viscosity of the pumped liquid. If the viscosity and temperature of the pumped liquid and the maximum temperature capability of the pump are known, the temperature of the pumped liquid at suction and discharge can monitor these potentially harmful conditions: