One of the key elements of slurry pump is the size and nature of the solids conveyed by the water and the nature of the abrasive wear it causes. Since wear is a function of speed, pumps typically operate at speeds of 1200 rpm or less.
Centrifugal pumps used for slurry handling are essentially conventional pumps modified in various ways to handle specific solids. While some of these modifications are minimal, some of them are quite extensive. The differences depend on the size and nature of the solids being handled.
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Ceramic Slurry Pump
In general industry, water runoff from a plant may be discharged to a central catch basin and then pumped out to a collection tank where the solids in the water typically represent plant debris and are often very small. Since they also represent a very low percentage of the total volume, slurries can usually be handled by conventional centrifugal effluent pumps. Specific pump designs in these services can vary considerably, but both conventional vertical submersible sewage pumps and submersible pumps are widely used.
For specific industrial applications, a variety of pump designs have been developed. A popular alternative to large enclosed impellers in some industries is the open impeller, which maintains close clearance to a housing fitted with a sacrificial wear plate.
In municipal waste management applications, solids handling pumps are designed to have the ability to handle a specific spherical diameter. Some models of this type of pump will have open impellers, while many will be designed with closed impellers that have the necessary clearance between the impeller's vanes and between the shrouds.
For example, a 4-inch pump will allow a 4-inch sphere to pass through the impeller. The same pump has at least a 4-inch diameter suction nozzle and a 4-inch diameter discharge outlet. This type of pump goes against the normal design convention for centrifugal pumps, which is that the discharge is one size smaller than the suction port.
Despite the concern about solids sizing when specifying and purchasing a municipal waste pump, the main problem in these pumping applications is often viscous material. This material can invade the orifice of the impeller, wrapping itself around the shaft nut and eventually clogging the pump.
The small fibers in paper pulp require a pump that can handle small particles that can clog the impeller at high densities. While the physical size of the individual fibers is not an issue, they do have a tendency to float in the water. This requires constant agitation of the slurry to minimize the possibility of delamination. Unfortunately, agitation introduces air, which, in addition to being harmful to the product, can cause considerable pumping difficulties.
The dry fiber content of the raw material is called consistency and is expressed as a percentage by weight. The consistency can reach about 20%, but only at a level of 3% does it start to become a pumping problem. Beyond this level, pump performance will begin to degrade to the point where even special impeller designs are no longer feasible. In these high-density applications, centrifugal pumps are replaced by positive displacement pumps that have double-mesh pump screws driven by external timing gears to maintain effective clearance between the screws.