The Science of Chopper Pump Reliability

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The Science of Chopper Pump Reliability

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The design principles behind chopper pumps have evolved over almost 60 years. New ideas and enhanced design concepts have come to fruition from field experience in chopping and pumping an ever-widening variety of items. As a result, chopper pumps are able to pump whatever makes its way to the suction of the pump. In sewage treatment plants, these chopper pumps have been crucial assets for operators who rely on a solids handling pump in critical applications. In addition to being able to chop virtually everything that comes to them, chopper pumps also need to provide years of reliable service with minimal maintenance

Jim Vaughan developed his first chopper pump in 1960 when he recognized the need for better pumps in local dairy waste streams. The pumps of the time were not able handle the manure, twine and animal bedding that cluttered the waste streams in the dairy fields. To solve the issue, he designed a chopper pump to break down solids using a multiple blade rotating impeller chopping against fixed shear bars at the suction opening. While this basic design is the foundation of chopper pumps, Vaughan’s experience has proven that a number of additional chopping features increase the pump’s ability to eliminate clogging and binding while allowing pumps to work effectively with smaller motors. 

Ongoing engineering of chopper pumps is vital to keeping up with the demands of today’s sewage treatment plants. Kent Keeran, chief engineer of Vaughan Company, explains what his team does to improve the reliability of chopper pumps: “Vaughan chopper pumps chop materials inside the pump rather than in front of a typical non-clog impeller, like many other chopper and cutter pumps. We also employ a number of patented chopping features specifically designed to ensure that the entrance to the pump remains free of solids entering the pump, and to ensure that both the front and back of the impeller remain free of any material that could eventually cause clogging or binding between the impeller and volute.” 

To test the effectiveness of new design features, Vaughan Company uses scientific techniques to evaluate a pump’s ability to accommodate a range of rag slurries. This testing method, known as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), is conducted in actual sewage treatment plant applications. Manufacturing engineers have found that any other form of testing (i.e., in a test facility with fabricated slurries) is inadequate. To optimize new pump designs for best efficiency, CFD is utilized to create a virtual pump test bench that compares hundreds of combinations of impeller blade and volute geometry before settling on the best combination of chopping features and pump efficiency. CFD is a computer simulation program that divides the fluid into small volume elements and is capable of analyzing any type of fluid flow. Whether engineers are considering water flowing through pumps and valves, or jet nozzles mixing a tank filled with water or sludge, CFD provides essential design data. 

Chopper pumps have come a long way since their initial development. Modern engineering and technology have ensured that the improvements to each pump can handle the demand of any treatment plant and be a valuable and reliable tool for operators across the globe. 


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