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R. G. Patton, BSc(Eng), PhD (Graduate)*

The conventional, theoretical method for estimating impeller stresses combined with large factors of safety
is unsatisfactory for the design of the high-pressure fans being demanded today.
For economic design, a more precise knowledge of the stresses involved in high-speed impellers is essential
and this has been made possible by the considerable developments which have taken place over recent years
in the field of strain measurement.
This paper describes an experimental programme of stress analysis using brittle-lacquer and strain-gauge
techniques, carried out on a range of centrifugal fan impellers. T h e actual stresses in the various components
of these impellers are compared with those predicted by elementary theory.

1 INTRODUCTION ately, allowing for the blade loading as added radial stress
TODAY the performance demands on centrifugal fans are at various radii. Changing thicknesses of section are
increasing to such an extent that the conventional methods catered for in discrete steps, but the method falls down
of estimating impeller stresses are becoming more and in that no account is taken of any asymmetry or conical
more inadequate. With this in mind, the authors Com- nature of the disc profiles or of the discontinuous nature
pany embarked on a comprehensive programme of ex- of the blade loading. These effects crFate, as will be seen
perimental and theoretical stress analysis on a representa- later, bending and local stresses of the same order as the
tive selection of its centrifugal fans. The programme disc stresses, and thus the rising demands required of fans
consisted mainly of strain gauging the impellers but this are making safety factors, such as 0.625 times the yield
was backed up with the use of brittle lacquer and lately stress, to cover these effects, either wasteful or even, in
a finite-element study of the impellers, each treated as a some cases, dangerous.
three-dimensional and integral assembly, has been started.
This paper reports on three designs of backward aero-
foil-bladed impellers which have been examined experi-
mentally. Fig. 1 is a photograph of these three impellers. Strain gauging of rotating parts presents several problems.
Those shown are, in fact, the actual impellers on which The major one, in bringing the leads from the rotating
the strain-gauge and brittle-lacquer tests were carried assembly to the measuring instrument, has now been
out. They are representative models of a complete series overcome with modern slip-ring units, in which electrical
of fans in commercial production whose diameters range noise is not only small but also, and what is perhaps more
from 760 to 4500 mm. important, constant in each channel. The latter means
Each impeller is constructed in steel. The blades are that it can be compensated for by arranging the electrical
continuously welded to both the backsheet and conesheet. bridge in the appropriate way. With temperature com-
The diameter of each model i s 841.4 mm and the blade pensated gauges, it is now possible to dispense with the
widths increase progressively from the high pressure im- dummy gauge near the impeller, which never could be
peller 1 to impeller 3. The necessary details of each im- relied upon to be at the same temperature as the active
peller are included in Figs 4-11 and it is sufficient to gauge. The gauge leads must be attached to the impeller
state here that they differ also in that impellers 1 and 3 surface securely so that they do not fly off at speed and
have reinforced conesheets (i.e. the inner portion is of do not apply any strain to the gauges themselves. This
thicker section than the outer) and impeller 1 has an was done by cementing them with a plastic adhesive, but
integral profiled hub while impellers 2 and 3 have plain care had to be taken to keep this to a minimum so as not
backsheets which are bolted to the hubs. to affect the stresses in the relatively thin parts of the
The conventional method used to stress fan-impeller impellers. All the strain-gauge tests were carried out in
discs is that suggested by Donath (I)$ or by Haerle (2). a spin pit under a vacuum of approximately 700 mmHg.
This involves treating the backsheet and conesheet separ- This had the effect of reducing the power required
to drive the impellers and it thus enabled a much better
This paper is published for written discussion. The M S . was received control of speed. Fig. 2 shows a view of the spin-pit
on 20th July 1972 and accepted for publication bn 22nd December cover with the shaft and slip-ring assembly above and
1972. 33
* InduszriaZ Liaison OBcer, The Ulster College, The Northern impeller 3 attached below. During tests this cover was
Ireland Polytechnic, Jordanstown, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. bolted to the top of the pit. The pressure gauge is to
Formerly of the Research Department, Davidson and Company control compressed air fed to the 24 channel slip-ring
Limited, Sirocco Engineering Works, Belfast.
t References are given in the Appendix. unit for cooling purposes.

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310 R. G. PATTON

these tests in the open laboratory and not in the vacuum

spin pit. Even under a vacuum of 700 mmHg the
rise in temperature was excessive. Unfortunately this
meant that the maximum speed that could be achieved
was limited to approximately 2200 rev/min due to the
drive units that were available. It thus proved impossible
to use brittle lacquer on the high-pressure impeller 1
which would have required a speed of almost 3000 rev/min
to obtain a satisfactory crack pattern. Because of tempera-
ture drops in the laboratory at night, to prevent crazing
of the lacquer, the runners were enclosed in a polythene
tent with a thermostatically controlled heater. This was
removed just prior to testing.
Fig. 1. Impellers 1, 2 and 3
Fig. 3 shows a photograph of the crack patterns ob-
tained on the outer surface of the backsheet of impeller 2,
at just under 2200 rev/min. Two lacquers of different
sensitivity were used and the photograph is of the more
sensitive. It proved impossible to assess quantitatively the
results as it was very difficult to ensure that the tempera-
ture of the calibration bar was the same as that of the
impeller and also because, in general, the stress field is
biaxial and the minor principal strain is not detected.
However, the great importance of the brittle lacquer is
that, with the more sensitive of the lacquers, the general
strain pattern and hence the directions of the principal
stresses are clearly shown and with the less sensitive
lacquer the areas of high-tensile strain are discovered on
their own. As regards the directions of the principal
stresses, it can be seen in Fig. 3 that, in general, these
remain reasonably radial and tangential except in the
vicinity of the blades where a marked leaning back of the
cracks is evident. For both impellers 2 and 3, areas of
high stress that showed up on the backsheets were on the
outer surfaces just above the noses of the blades and on
the inner surfaces just below the tails. For impeller 2 the
same points appeared on the conesheet, but on impeller 3,
with the reinforced conesheet, the point of high stress was
on the outer surface just outside the reinforcement and
above the blade. No really reliable results were obtained
on the blades themselves partly due to difficulty in spray-
ing areas of interest and also because of the large areas of
compressive stress. Cracks did appear in the expected
places, however, namely on the top surfaces towards the
centre of the span and on the under surfaces close to the
welds and over internal transverse stiffeners.
Fig. 2. Spin-pit cover and slip-ring assembly

The use of brittle lacquer for the experimental stress
analysis of rotating machinery also presents certain diffi-
culties and drawbacks not usually encountered in more
normal applications. First, because the lacquer must be
sprayed on when the component is stationary, it is not
possible to use the technique of spraying the component
under stressed conditions and unloading in order to
measure compressive strains. This would have been use-
ful in the present case for certain areas on the blades.
When a fan is run, especially in an enclosed space, the
metal temperature quickly rises and reduces drastically
the strain sensitivity of the brittle lacquer. The lacquer
used in this investigation has a loss of sensitivity of ap-
proximately 30 microstrain for every 1 degF rise in tem-
perature. For this reason, it was found necessary to run Fig. 3. Brittle-lacquer cracks on backsheet of impeller 2
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4 STRAIN-GAUGE TESTS to be separated from direct stresses. This was done with
Each of the three fan impellers was extensively strain the exception of two points at the reinforcement on the
gauged. Space does not permit inclusion of all the results conesheet of impeller 1 where physical dimensions pre-
obtained; therefore only the important measurements are vented access to the inner surface. A further series of
reported. In the main, 45" rectangular rosette gauges positions was chosen round the blade profiles at points
were used on backsheets and conesheets in order to con- of high stress as indicated by the brittle lacquer.
firm the directions of principal stress indicated by the The results obtained at the mean positions for the back-
brittle lacquer. On each impeller, on both backsheet and sheets of impellers 1, 2 and 3 at 3000, 2250 and 1500
conesheet, a series of gauge positions was chosen at various rev/min respectively are plotted in Figs 4-6, while those
radii midway between blades. As far as possible each for the conesheets are plotted in Figs 7-9. The full lines
position on the outer surface of a sheet had a correspond- on each graph show the theoretical stresses obtained by
ing position on the inside surface to enable bending stresses the Haerle method.

t Outside surface tangential stress

0 Inside surface tangential stress
o Outside surface radial stress
o Inside surface radial stress

Mean experimental curves

0 t

I I I I 1 I I
- 20 20 40 60 80 100 I20
STRESS M N / m 2

Fig. 4. Stresses in backsheet (impeller 1 at 3000 rev/min)

/ 'Theoretical
+ Outside surface tangential stress
Inside surface tangential stress
0 Mean tangential stress

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312 R. G. PATTON

XO .\ +

I I I 1
10 20 30 40 50
STRESS M N / m 2
For key see Fig. 5.
Fig. 6. Stresses in backsheet (impeller 3 at 1500 rev/min)

.20 20 40 60 80 100 120

For key see Fig. 5.

Fig. 7. Stresses in conesheet (impeller 1 at 3000 revlmin)

Experience has shown that the critical parts of the aero- on both sides of the backsheets at mid-positions, in all
foil blades are the nose and tail. Pairs of gauges were cases, agrees very well with the predicted values. The direc-
mounted across the blades of the three impellers at these tions of the principal stresses at these points were found,
points. The important stresses in each case are the ones in general, to be approximately radial and tangential. For
in the transverse direction. These are plotted for impellers the three impellers the shapes of the theoretical curves
1, 2 and 3 for the blade noses in Fig. 10 and for the blade vary according to the different constructions.
tails in Fig. 11. Bending is considerable in places. I n impeller 1, bend-
ing at the outer radii is relatively slight but this increases
4.1 Backsheets towards the hub, the radial bending being especially
Reference to Figs 4-6 shows that the average of the stresses severe. This is no doubt due to the asymmetrical nature

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I I I I I _I

tangential stress


For key see Fig. 5.

Fig. 9. Stresses in conesheet (impeller 3 at 1500 rev/min)

of the profile. I n both radial and tangential directions the the Haerle method. The directions are given such that
sense of bending reverses from outside to inside radii. the angle is measured positive clockwise from the radial
Impellers 2 and 3 differed from impeller 1 in that they direction viewed from the outer surface. It is interesting
did not have the integral hub, and also in that the blade to note that the percentage increase of measured maximum
loadings were progressively greater. This loading is on stress over predicted increases as blade loading increases.
one side only of the sheet and results in larger tangential
bending at the outer radii. I n impeller 2 at 2250 rev/min
it was f21.72 MN/m2 as opposed to 30.34 MN/m2direct, 4.2 Conesheets
and in impeller 3 at 1500 rev/min was k23.44 MN/m2 as Radial stresses are in general of little significance in cone-
opposed to 12.07 MN/m2. sheets. As the width of a centrifugal impeller increases
The strain gauges confirmed the brittle lacquer results the conesheet angle and the blade loading also increase,
for areas of high tensile stress in the backsheets. The thus making the simple Haerle theory more and more an
point of maximum stress in all three cases proved to be approximation. This is evidenced by the stresses measured
just over the nose of the blades on the outer surfaces. at the points midway between the blades as shown in
Table 1 shows the values recorded at these points and Figs 7-9.
compares them with the maximum predicted stress by Impeller 1 had relatively narrow blades and the cone

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314 R. G . PATTON

3 the effect is much more marked. On this conesheet, the

160 Pp b
presence of the reinforcement induces very large radial
bending in the thinner portion close to the reinforcement.
However, the values do not significantly exceed the maxi-
mum tangential stress predicted by conventional theory
G l m p e l l e r l a t 3 0 0 0 rev/min b = 6 4 m m for the three conesheets.
A lmpeller2at2250 rev/min b=165mm The maximum measured stresses for the three cone-
x Impeller 3 ot1500 r e v j m i n b = 3 1 5 m m sheets are given in Table 2. For impellers 2 and 3 these

t 1I
Fig. 10. Transverse stress profiles along underside
of blade noses

Table 1

Impeller Speed, Maximum Angle, Maximum Percentage

rev/min stress over degrees predicted
itgy. i!
1 G

Impeller I at3000rev/min o=28mm
Impeller2 a t 2 2 5 0 rev/min o=114mm
x Impeller3 a t 1500rev/mln o-216mm
--__ __- _-___ ~- --__-_ ___-- Fig. 11. Transverse stress profiles a t blade tails
1 71.71 1 54

3 1 1500 1 75.36 1 +52 1 46.19 1 63

Table 2


Impeller Maximum Angle, Position Maximum Percentage
No. measured degrees
.heoretical increase
angle was slight, hence the effects are minimal. This is
MN/m2 i
seen in Fig. 7. Bending is more marked on the outer,
unreinforced portion of the conesheet but at no point
85 Inside
99.28 1-41-
does the measured surface stress exceed by any significant blade
amount the maximum theoretical stress. The mean values
of the experimental points agree well with the Haerle
As the blade loading and cone angle increase the mean
2 1 13024 -80 Outside
103.42 26

values of the measured points deviate more and more

from the theoretical. Impeller 2 had no reinforcement on
the conesheet but the thickness of section was greater

137.62 +80

tail. 103.42 i1 31

3l - 14
than the outer portion of impeller 1 (4.06 mm as opposed 97.60 Outside ,73.77 32
to 2.64 mm) and bending stresses are thus relatively blade
smaller. The general slope of the mean values of the tan- at
gential stresses is rather steeper than the theoretical curve rein-
and it is significant that the mean value at the seal ring ment.
is lower than predicted in this critical region. For impeller - ~~

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again tie in with the brittle-lacquer results. This time 5 FURTHER ANALYSIS
impeller 1 shows the highest increase of stress over the The strain-gauge results reported illustrate clearly the
maximum predicted but this is due to the conesheet being need for more sophisticated means of predicting fan im-
of relatively lighter section than the other two at that peller stresses than those given by conventional theoretical
point. The angles are again measured as positive clock- methods, if the manufacturers are to keep abreast of the
wise from a radial line looking on the outside of the cone- rising demands. While strain gauging is extremely useful
sheet. and indeed in some cases, vitally necessary, it is very
expensive both in time and money. A conservative esti-
4.3 Blades mate for a complete investigation on one impeller at
The transverse stresses at the underside of the blade noses present day prices is about El000 and takes up to two
on the three impellers have been plotted in Fig. 10 by months. If any changes in design result from this investi-
non-dimensionalizing the span, and those at the blade gation, a similar amount of time and money could again
tails in Fig. 11. Attempts were made using plate theory be involved. It would therefore be extremely useful if a
(3) to predict the stresses in the blade panels but this reliable analytical technique could be adopted which would
met with very little success. This is due not only to the enable various designs to be studied quickly and at little
complexity of the geometries but also to the interaction extra cost. Several attempts have been made on similar
of backsheet and conesheet with the blades. This problems (4)-(6) but these considered the impeller as
strengthens the case for a more sophisticated means of essentially axisymmetrical and the blades as laminar and
analysing the entire structure. radial. The only technique which seems to be capable of
Several conclusions are nevertheless possible from the solving the problem is that of finite elements (7).
strain measurements on the blades. In every case, the The authors company is investigating the use of finite-
stresses are higher at the backsheet weld than at the cone- element stress analysis for centrifugal impeller design.
sheet weld. This is predictable as the backsheets are in- The structures are being treated as integral units with the
variably thicker in section than the conesheets. Hence, aerofoil blades represented in their actual shapes and this
they are capable of applying a greater restraining moment. has necessitated the problem being considered fully
For impeller 1 the results at the blade tail (see Fig. 11) three-dimensional and not simply axisymmetric. T h e first
indicate that the blade in this region is actually support- results are expected shortly and it is hoped to report on
ing the conesheet and not the reverse as would generally these at a future date.
be supposed. The blade stresses in this impeller are less
than the conesheet stresses and the blade cannot therefore 6 CONCLUSIONS
be regarded as the critical part of the structure. Local and bending stresses in centrifugal fan impellers
The stress profiles indicate that the maximum stresses can be of the same order as the average direct stresses
in the blades occur at the walls. The exact values are in predicted by conventional methods. Extensive experi-
some doubt as they are obtained by extrapolation but mental, or alternatively more sophisticated theoretical,
nevertheless for impellers 2 and 3 they are of such a techniques of stress analysis are necessary to meet the
magnitude as to suggest that the material would yield rising demands placed on these impellers.
in these areas at relatively low speeds. It has been shown,
however, that these types of impellers can safely withstand 7 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
much higher speeds. The explanation for this is that for
The author would like to express his thanks to Davidson
blade collapse, the structure requires a third plastic
and Company Limited for permission to publish this
hinge to occur somewhere near the mid-span. This has
work. Thanks are also due to Mr K. Planck who carried
been confirmed by overspeed tests, one of which was
out part of the experimental programme and who kindly
carried out on impeller 3. The impeller was taken up in
prepared the diagrams for this paper.
a series of increasing speeds until the strain readings at
the tail of the blade indicated yield. Until this time the
relationship between strain and the speed squared was a
straight line. After each increment of speed the impeller REFERENCES
was brought to rest and the blades checked manually (I) DONATH, M. D i e Berechnung rotierender Scheiben und Ringe
for any permanent set. It was found that the strain gauges 1912 (Berlin).
indicated yield at the mid-span at 2260 rev/min with a (2) HAERLE, H. The strength of rotating discs, Engineering,
Lond. 1918 106, 131-134.
stress of 248.21 MN/m2. The yield stress for the material (3) TIMOSHENKO, S . P. and WOINOWSKY-KRIEGER, S. Theory of
was 262.00 MN/m2. Permanent set at the tail of the blades plates and shells 1959 (McGraw-Hill Book Company Inc.,
was first detected at 2200 rev/min. Although these figures New York).
differ slightly, they are close enough to justify the hypo- (4) DEUTSCH, E. J. Method of stress analysis for shrouded discs,
thesis of the collapse mechanism. A possible explanation Aerospace Engng 1962 21 (No. 3), 24-30.
of the discrepancy is that the series of tests took quite (5) Ho, B. P. C . Procedure for calculating stresses in centri-
a long time to carry out as the spin pit had to be evacuated fugal impeller with cover disc, J. Engng Pwr, Trans. Am.
Soc. mech. Engrs 1966 88,395.
after each manual measurement and it is possible that a ( 6 ) THURGOOD, D. A. Stresses in asymmetric discs, 3. Strain
little plastic strain could have been lost in the strain- AnaZysis 1969 4 (No. l), 65-73.
gauge readings which was put down at the time to elec- (7) ZIENKIEWICZ, 0. C. The$nite element method 1967 (McGraw-
trical drift. Hill Ltd, London).

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R. J. Bertodo Member Operating failures were encountered, but these were due
Very extensive work was carried out in the early 1950s on to 10th engine order diffuser excitation of the vanes which
single-sided shrouded centrifugal compressors during the caused cracks at the shroud and backplate fillet radii. The
development of aircraft gas turbines. The investigations vane fillet radii were thus critically important, but it was
were sparked off by the hope of achieving a high adiabatic found by analysis that the high rotational stresses shown
efficiency, lower weight, easier production and assembly by the author in Figs 10 and 11 could be reduced to a
and reduced vulnerability to fatigue cracking. This work, value lower than the shroud mid-span stresses by ensuring
like the authors, also showed the inadequacies of the that the blend radius did not fall below the dimensions
Donath and Haerle methods. Good predictions of bursting shown in Fig. 12.
speeds (and hence running stresses) were obtained by In view of the apparent importance of ductility,
considering the impeller as an assemblage of sections, residual stresses, and blend-radius details, and the need to
easily dealt with separately by simple, but accurate provide some margin for vibratory stresses, the authors
expressions, and correcting the subsequent data for comments on the cost-effectiveness of the designs tested
structural continuity. It is doubtful whether better or would be of interest. Finally, &l,OOO and two months to
more accurate results can be economically obtained by establish a sound design principle does not appear
finite elements. excessive; perhaps rationalization of possible variants is
By means of such an approach a quite sophisticated the underlying problem to the authors company.
impeller design was evolved for an aircraft gas turbine.
This impeller had 34 vanes, a diameter of 910 mm, a
design tip speed of 488 m/s (10 250 revfmin) and a (8) BERTODO,
R. Grey cast irons for thermal-stress applications,
J. Strain Analysis 1970 5, 98-109.
10 per cent overspeed capability. The impeller was (9) idem. Design of diesel engines for operational reliability,
gravity die cast in D T D 300 and had a design weight of Proc. Instn mech. Engrs 1971 185 (Pt l), 425-33.
105 kg.
The geometry and calculated mean stresses are shown
R. G. Patton (Graduate) (Author)
in the attached illustrations. I n view of the relative
simplicity of the designs shown by the author, a much I agree largely with R. J. Bertodos comments on the
closer prediction should be possible than his comments design of impeller which he describes, but would point
suggest. out that there are three important differences in that design
Scatter of material properties, as discussed extensively from the impellers described in the paper. These are as
in published work (8) (g), indicated the need for a mean follows.
safety factor of about 1.4. For the design described this (1) The blading is purely radial. This means that the
implied that the shroud represented the most critical area problem of stress analysis remains a purely axisymmetric
(see Table 3). one and therefore a classical approach can be applied
The shroud stress at the critical section was made up accurately. Unfortunately, in my case, the blading is not
as follows: radially disposed and therefore the stress analysis must
be treated as fully three-dimensional.
Hoop stress 54 per cent. (2) The blades are solid and integrally cast in the
Bending stress (due to shroud c.f.) 28 per cent. impeller. In the impeller which I described the blades are
Bending stress (due to curvature) 18 per cent. of hollow fabricated section and this vastly complicates
No failures were encountered in the standard 60min the blade bending stresses which become critical for the
overspeed test on components with acceptable porosity wider impellers.
and segregation levels in which residual stresses had been (3) The number of blades is much greater. The loading,
minimized by heat treatment and ductility maintained. therefore, approaches more closely a uniform radially

Section Section
mean (actual)
I Section
mean 0-1%
1 Elongation,
per cent
safety factor

u.t.s., MN/ma
244 (253)
yield, MN/m2
stress, MN/m2
1.34 (1.39)

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150 100 50
Maximum stress


0 0

0 .


a Summary of impeller stresses at 10 250 rev/min.

6 Details of vane fillet for reduced local stress. x > 0.092 shroud
span and y > 1.41 shroud thickness.
Fig. 12 -40
- -20
80 100

applied pressure than the loading of the impellers de- Finite-element stresses.
scribed in the paper. + Outside surface radial.
The difficulties of carrying out a fully three-dimensional Inside surface radial.
finite-element analysis on a centrifugal-fan impeller
- - - Mean radial.
should not be underestimated, but nevertheless finite- Strain-gauge stresses.
element analysis of static stresses can give results which Outside surface radial.
0 Inside surface radial.
agree very closely with strain-gauge results and not only A Mean radial.
take less time but cost less. However, the big advantage Stresses according to simple theory.
comes when variations in construction are to be tried. I n ---Mean radial.
strain-gauge work this necessitates the making of a Impeller 1 at 3000 revlmin.
completely new impeller, whereas the finite-element
assembly can be readily altered and fresh results obtained Fig. 13. Radial stresses in backsheet
at a fraction of the initial run cost, and in a very short
time. To give some idea of the accuracy achieved with the with both the strain-gauge results and the results obtained
finite-element method Fig. 13 is included. In this presenta- from simple theory. It can be seen that the mean stresses
tion of some of the work that has been carried out since in all cases tie in closely and that the bending stresses
submission of the paper, the finite-element results for the obtained from finite-element analysis agree well with the
radial stresses in the back-sheet of impeller 1 are compared strain-gauge experimental results.

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