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Let’s Get Practical

Ross Mackay, Contributing Editor

The Function of Process Pump Bearings

Contributing Editor The Function of Process Pump Bearings B earings in a centrifugal pump serve three

B earings in a centrifugal pump serve three main purposes:

They absorb the radial and thrust loads trans- mitted through the shaft.

They keep the rotating element in position and in correct alignment with the stationary parts of the pump.

They permit the shaft to rotate with the least amount of friction.

In the horizontal end-suction pump, both bear- ings locate on one side of the impeller so that the im- peller mounts on a cantilevered extension of the shaft. Most multistage pumps have one bearing on each end of the shaft with the impellers located between them. The radial bearing in these pumps is normally situated at the coupling end of the shaft, with the thrust bearing at the outer end. The same is also true of the double-suction pump, though this style is considered in axial hydraulic balance because its inlet flow impacts both sides of the impeller. But, let’s get practical. This balance can be detri- mentally affected by unequal wear on the wear rings. Or, the flow of liquid into the two suction eyes may differ due to an improper suction piping arrangement. Consequently, a thrust bearing is still required to accommodate any possible loads on the double-suction pump.

Bearing Loads

Bearing life depends upon the loads being car- ried and the rotation speed of the pump. In addi- tion to the physical forces involved, major loads result from the hydraulic forces acting in the pump casing at the impeller. The axial thrust created in a horizontal end- suction process pump is predominantly from the hydraulic forces acting on the front and back of the impeller. The magnitude and direction of the resul- tant axial thrust depends on the impeller design and flow conditions.

thrust depends on the impeller design and flow conditions. Figure 1. Drawing of shaft and impeller

Figure 1. Drawing of shaft and impeller with thrust loads indicated.

In most instances, the resultant axial thrust is towards the pump suction and results from pressure on the back shroud overcoming the pressure on the front side. Closed impeller pump designs often employ back wear rings to reduce the axial thrust. They may also use axial balance holes to connect the high pressure at the rear of the impeller with the suction pressure at the eye of the impeller. This reduces the axial thrust towards the suction. The resultant axial thrust can be reversed with high suc- tion pressures.

axial thrust can be reversed with high suc- tion pressures. Figure 2. Closed impeller with back

Figure 2. Closed impeller with back rings and balance holes and thrusts.

Open impellers often include pump-out vanes on the reverse side of the impeller to reduce the pressure behind the impeller. This reduces the resul- tant axial thrust towards the suction.

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Figure 3. Open impeller with pump out vanes and thrusts. The radial force from the

Figure 3. Open impeller with pump out vanes and thrusts.

The radial force from the impeller acts at right angles to the shaft and creates a radial loading on both bearings, but primarily on the radial bearing. Other factors also affect the radial loads, such as rotor imbalance, shaft misalignment and the weight of the rotating element.

The Anti-friction Ball Bearings

The modern centrifugal pump depends pri- marily on using anti-friction ball bearings which comprise inner and outer hardened steel rings sepa- rated by a number of steel balls. The inner ring mounts on the pump shaft while the outer ring fits in the housing. A separator spaces the balls around the bearing and helps reduce the amount of fric- tion. These components are manufactured to extremely tight tolerances. It is essential to hold the shaft and housing to the same degree of machining tolerances during repair and overhaul. A typical end-suction process pump permits the outer ring of the radial bearing to slide slightly in the housing to accommodate any expansion or contraction of the shaft length. The thrust bearing is fixed in the housing and accommodates the axial thrust acting along the centerline of the shaft from the impeller. The single row, deep-groove bearing is the most widely-used bearing on centrifugal pumps. Besides its ability to handle the radial load, this bearing type is designed with a close contact between the balls and the deep continuous groove in each ring, mak- ing it capable of handling an axial thrust load in either direction. In typical process pumps such as the ANSI or API designs, it serves as the radial bear- ing, while the thrust bearing design most frequent- ly used is the duplex arrangement of the angular contact bearing.

Angular Contact Bearings

A single angular contact bearing is designed to support a heavy thrust load in one direction only. Typically used in the duplex arrangement, three alternative arrangements are possible and the bear- ings must be properly arranged for the anticipated thrust loads.

must be properly arranged for the anticipated thrust loads. Left: Figure 4. ‘Face to Face’ angular

Left: Figure 4. ‘Face to Face’ angular contact ball bearing.

Below: Figure 5. ‘Back to Back’ angular con- tact ball bearing.

In the Tandem duplex arrangement the load lines are par- allel and the pair accommodate axial loads in one direction only, with the loading being evenly divided between the two bearings. This arrangement is only used when the pump design guarantees the resul- tant thrust in one direction only. It is rarely used in a single-stage process pump. In the “Face to Face” arrangement the load lines converge as they approach the bearing center- line. This arrangement accommodates axial loads in both directions, but by only one bearing at a time. It is interesting to note that, in this arrange- ment, the second bearing transfers the load from the inner race, through the ball to the outer race, and ultimately onto the bearing housing. With the “Back to Back” arrangement the load lines diverge as they approach the bearing center- line. This one also accommodates axial loads in both directions. Here, the first bearing transfers the load from the inner race, through the ball, to the outer race. This arrangement is normally used in process pumps to provide greater angular rigidity. It is bet- ter for accepting tilting moments that may result from shaft misalignment difficulties. So, let’s get practical. When purchasing a replacement bearing, it is extremely important to receive the exact bearing as was selected for the orig- inal pump design. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as it might appear. Within the “same” 7000-series of angular contact bearings, there are a number of optional series and preloads. Other variables within the same-size bearing include cage style, materials, and the contact angle. Though numerical suffixes can be cross-referenced from one bearing manufacturer to another, the alphabetical prefixes and suffixes fre- quently differ. The buyer may order with a different bearing with unfortunate results. P&S

a different bearing with unfortunate results. P & S Ross Mackay is the author of “The

Ross Mackay is the author of “The Practical Pumping Handbook” and specializes in helping companies increase their pump reliability and reduce operating and maintenance costs. He can be reached at 800- 465-6260 or through www.practicalpumping.com.

and reduce operating and maintenance costs. He can be reached at 800- 465-6260 or through www.practicalpumping.com.

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