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Pumping: Passion vs. Gravity

During devel­op­ment of an inno­v­a­tive upright unit for the Italian boiler manu­fac­turer BAXI S.p.A., ebm-papst had to go into some uncharted terri­tory

Some success stories begin with a misun­der­standing. Land­shut Managing Director Stefan Brandl was excited when he returned from his busi­ness trip to Italy in February. He had spoken with long-time client Baxi about the use of a special pump, which is currently being devel­oped in Land­shut.

Soon after in March, Lamberto Del Grosso, respon­sible for Strategic Product Devel­op­ment at BDR Thermea, came to Land­shut to discuss the topic in person. He showed keen interest in the presen­ta­tion that Dr. Roland Keber had prepared. But at one point, Del Grosso inter­rupted, “Very good, but the pump is far too large.” The confu­sion of those from Land­shut was quickly clar­i­fied; the Ital­ians had been consid­ering a completely different type of pump from the start. They had a conden­sate pump in mind.

In condensing boiler tech­nology, combus­tion results in water vapour which collects as conden­sate in the heat exchanger. If the drain for the conden­sate is higher than the boiler, a conden­sate pump must be used to span this differ­ence in height. Since such units are frequently installed in base­ments, the pump for the BAXI boiler has to be able to pump against gravity up to four meters. So far, only external pumps have been avail­able on the market with this capacity – but BAXI wanted the pump inte­grated. This was a show-stopper. But expec­ta­tions were high, based on twenty years of collab­o­ra­tion with Land­shut. “From the very begin­ning, ebm-papst has always main­tained an enthu­si­astic dialogue”, clar­i­fies Del Grosso, “and always under­stands our needs well.”

This was true, too, of the now legendary meeting which took place in March. Brandl and Keber imme­di­ately arrived at the idea of using a conden­sate pump intended for clothes dryers, which Land­shut had already been producing success­fully in large numbers. Del Grosso was so impressed by the smart solu­tion that he wanted to present the device at the upcoming Mostra Convegno trade fair – just two weeks away. “Then we did some­thing very unusual,” admitted Keber. He had spon­ta­neously said yes. Then he and his team put together the desired presen­ta­tion unit in very little time – just a dummy unit, however. “Some­times you have to go with your excite­ment for a project and be coura­geous.” The success proved him right. “Our boiler with its fake pump instantly gener­ated huge interest”, confirmed Del Grosso, “because this design solves several prob­lems related to boiler instal­la­tion.” Only then did the real work begin. After all, a clothes dryer is not a boiler, and the differ­ences in appli­ca­tion are consid­er­able. “In a clothes dryer, a delivery head of about two metres is suffi­cient,” explained Keber. “In this case, a signif­i­cantly higher flow rate is required.” But the biggest chal­lenge would be with the conden­sate itself. “In boilers it is substan­tially more aggres­sive because it contains, among other things, sulphur.” While most of the stan­dard compo­nents of the pump can handle that, the impeller cannot. The Land­shut devel­opers had to exper­i­ment with more resis­tant mate­rials.

Land­shut is devel­oping, building and measuring the pump. The colleagues from BAXI in Bassano del Grappa are defining the spec­i­fi­ca­tions and inspecting how the pump behaves in the boiler. Since the start of the project in March, the devel­opers have got together five times in person and by confer­ence call and, each time, have brought the product closer to the ideal oper­ating point. “Since we are designing the pump, we are sending CAD data to Bassano”, said Keber, “so that they can test there whether the pump will fit correctly into the unit.”

Field testing will begin in October, and the series produc­tion in January 2013. “We are far along in this project,” empha­sises the Land­shut Devel­op­ment Manager. “This is because the customer’s passion is as high as ours.”

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