What is in this article?:
- Fundamentals of hydraulic pumps
- Measuring pump performance
A hydraulic pump is a mechanical device that converts mechanical power into hydraulic energy. It generates flow with enough power to overcome pressure induced by the load.
| Figure 1. Reciprocating pump. |
| Figure 2. Spur gear pump. |
| Figure 3. Lobe pump. |
| Figure 4. Internal-gear pumps - gerotor and crescent. |
| Figure 5. Basic (unbalanced) vane pump. |
| Figure 6. Balanced vane pump. |
| Figure 7. Variable-displacement, pressure-compensated vane pump. |
When a hydraulic pump operates, it performs two functions. First, its mechanical action creates a vacuum at the pump inlet which allows atmospheric pressure to force liquid from the reservoir into the inlet line to the pump. Second, its mechanical action delivers this liquid to the pump outlet and forces it into the hydraulic system.
A pump produces liquid movement or flow: it does not generate pressure. It produces the flow necessary for the development of pressure which is a function of resistance to fluid flow in the system. For example, the pressure of the fluid at the pump outlet is zero for a pump not connected to a system (load). Further, for a pump delivering into a system, the pressure will rise only to the level necessary to overcome the resistance of the load.
Classification of pumps
All pumps may be classified as either positive-displacement or non-positive-displacement. Most pumps used in hydraulic systems are positive-displacement.
A non-positive-displacement pump produces a continuous flow. However, because it does not provide a positive internal seal against slippage, its output varies considerably as pressure varies. Centrifugal and propeller pumps are examples of non-positive-displacement pumps.
If the output port of a non-positive-displacement pump were blocked off, the pressure would rise, and output would decrease to zero. Although the pumping element would continue moving, flow would stop because of slippage inside the pump.
In a positive-displacement pump, slippage is negligible compared to the pump's volumetric output flow. If the output port were plugged, pressure would increase instantaneously to the point that the pump's pumping element or its case would fail (probably explode, if the drive shaft did not break first), or the pump's prime mover would stall.
A positive-displacement pump is one that displaces (delivers) the same amount of liquid for each rotating cycle of the pumping element. Constant delivery during each cycle is possible because of the close-tolerance fit between the pumping element and the pump case. That is, the amount of liquid that slips past the pumping element in a positive-displacement pump is minimal and negligible compared to the theoretical maximum possible delivery. The delivery per cycle remains almost constant, regardless of changes in pressure against which the pump is working. Note that if fluid slippage is substantial, the pump is not operating properly and should be repaired or replaced.
Positive-displacement pumps can be of either fixed or variable displacement. The output of a fixed displacement pump remains constant during each pumping cycle and at a given pump speed. The output of a variable displacement pump can be changed by altering the geometry of the displacement chamber.
Other names to describe these pumps are hydrostatic for positive-displacement and hydrodynamic pumps for non-positive-displacement. Hydrostatic means that the pump converts mechanical energy to hydraulic energy with comparatively small quantity and velocity of liquid. In a hydrodynamic pump, liquid velocity and movement are large; output pressure actually depends on the velocity at which the liquid is made to flow.
The positive-displacement principle is well illustrated in the reciprocating-type pump, the most elementary positive-displacement pump, Figure 1. As the piston extends, the partial vacuum created in the pump chamber draws liquid from the reservoir through the inlet check valve into the chamber. The partial vacuum helps seat firmly the outlet check valve. The volume of liquid drawn into the chamber is known because of the geometry of the pump case, in this example, a cylinder.
As the piston retracts, the inlet check valve reseats, closing the valve, and the force of the piston unseats the outlet check valve, forcing liquid out of the pump and into the system. The same amount of liquid is forced out of the pump during each reciprocating cycle.
All positive-displacement pumps deliver the same volume of liquid each cycle (regardless of whether they are reciprocating or rotating). It is a physical characteristic of the pump and does not depend on driving speed. However, the faster a pump is driven, the more total volume of liquid it will deliver.
In a rotary-type pump, rotary motion carries the liquid from the pump inlet to the pump outlet. Rotary pumps are usually classified according to the type of element that transmits the liquid, so that we speak of a gear-, lobe-, vane-, or piston-type rotary pump.
External-gear pumps can be divided into external and internal-gear types. A typical external-gear pump is shown in Figure 2. These pumps come with a straight spur, helical, or herringbone gears. Straight spur gears are easiest to cut and are the most widely used. Helical and herringbone gears run more quietly, but cost more.
A gear pump produces flow by carrying fluid in between the teeth of two meshing gears. One gear is driven by the drive shaft and turns the idler gear. The chambers formed between adjacent gear teeth are enclosed by the pump housing and side plates (also called wear or pressure plates).
A partial vacuum is created at the pump inlet as the gear teeth unmesh. Fluid flows in to fill the space and is carried around the outside of the gears. As the teeth mesh again at the outlet end, the fluid is forced out.
Volumetric efficiencies of gear pumps run as high as 93% under optimum conditions. Running clearances between gear faces, gear tooth crests and the housing create an almost constant loss in any pumped volume at a fixed pressure. This means that volumetric efficiency at low speeds and flows is poor, so that gear pumps should be run close to their maximum rated speeds.
Although the loss through the running clearances, or "slip," increases with pressure, this loss is nearly constant as speed and output change. For one pump the loss increases by about 1.5 gpm from zero to 2,000 psi regardless of speed. Change in slip with pressure change has little effect on performance when operated at higher speeds and outputs. External-gear pumps are comparatively immune to contaminants in the oil, which will increase wear rates and lower efficiency, but sudden seizure and failure are not likely to occur.
The lobe pump is a rotary, external-gear pump, Figure 3. It differs from the conventional external-gear pump in the way the "gears" are driven. In a gear pump, one gear drive the other; in a lobe pump, both lobes are driven through suitable drives gears outside of the pump casing chamber.
A screw pump is an axial-flow gear pump, similar in operation to a rotary screw compressor. Three types of screw pumps are the single-screw, two-screw, and three-screw. In the single-screw pump, a spiraled rotor rotates eccentrically in an internal stator. The two-screw pump consists of two parallel intermeshing rotors rotating in a housing machined to close tolerances. The three-screw pump consists of a central-drive rotor with two meshing idler rotors; the rotors turn inside of a housing machined to close tolerances.
Flow through a screw pump is axial and in the direction of the power rotor. The inlet hydraulic fluid that surrounds the rotors is trapped as the rotors rotate. This fluid is pushed uniformly with the rotation of the rotors along the axis and is forced out the other end.
The fluid delivered by a screw pump does not rotate, but moves linearly. The rotors work like endless pistons, which continuously move forward. There are no pulsations even at higher speed. The absence of pulsations and the fact that there is no metal-to-metal contact results in very quiet operation.
Larger pumps are used as low-pressure, large-volume prefill pumps on large presses. Other applications include hydraulic systems on submarines and other uses where noise must be controlled.
Internal-gear pumps, Figure 4, have an internal gear and an external gear. Because these pumps have one or two less teeth in the inner gear than the outer, relative speeds of the inner and outer gears in these designs are low. For example, if the number of teeth in the inner and outer gears were 10 and 11 respectively, the inner gear would turn 11 revolutions, while the outer would turn 10. This low relative speed means a low wear rate. These pumps are small, compact units.
The crescent seal internal-gear pump consists of an inner and outer gear separated by a crescent-shaped seal. The two gears rotate in the same direction, with the inner gear rotating faster than the outer. The hydraulic oil is drawn into the pump at the point where the gear teeth begin to separate and is carried to the outlet in the space between the crescent and the teeth of both tears. The contact point of the gear teeth forms a seal, as does the small tip clearance at the crescent. Although in the past this pump was generally used for low outputs, with pressures below 1,000 psi, a 2-stage, 4,000-psi model has recently become available.
The gerotor internal-gear pump consists of a pair of gears which are always in sliding contact. The internal gear has one more tooth than the gerotor gear. Both gears rotate in the same direction. Oil is drawn into the chamber where the teeth are separating, and is ejected when the teeth start to mesh again. The seal is provided by the sliding contact.
Generally, the internal-gear pump with toothcrest pressure sealing has higher volumetric efficiency at low speeds than the crescent type. Volumetric and overall efficiencies of these pumps are in the same general range as those of external-gear pumps. However, their sensitivity to dirt is somewhat higher.
In vane pumps, a number of vanes slide in slots in a rotor which rotates in a housing or ring. The housing may be eccentric with the center of the rotor, or its shape may be oval, Figure 5. In some designs, centrifugal force holds the vanes in contact with the housing, while the vanes are forced in and out of the slots by the eccentricity of the housing. In one vane pump, light springs hold the vanes against the housing; in another pump design, pressurized pins urge the vanes outward.
During rotation, as the space or chamber enclosed by vanes, rotor, and housing increases, a vacuum is created, and atmospheric pressure forces oil into this space, which is the inlet side of the pump. As the space or volume enclosed reduces, the liquid is forced out through the discharge ports.
Balanced and unbalanced vane pumps — The pump illustrated in Figure 5 is unbalanced, because all of the pumping action occurs in the chambers on one side of the rotor and shaft. This design imposes a side load on the rotor and drive shaft. This type vane pump has a circular inner casing. Unbalanced vane pumps can have fixed or variable displacements. Some vane pumps provide a balanced construction in which an elliptical casing forms two separate pumping areas on opposite sides of the rotor, so that the side loads cancel out, Figure 6. Balanced vane pumps come only in fixed displacement designs.
In a variable-volume unbalanced design, Figure 7, the displacement can be changed through an external control such as a handwheel or a pressure compensator. The control moves the cam ring to change the eccentricity between the ring and rotor, thereby changing the size of the pumping chamber and thus varying the displacement per revolution.
When pressure is high enough to overcome the compensator spring force, the cam ring shifts to decrease the eccentricity. Adjustment of the compensator spring determines the pressure at which the ring shifts.
Because centrifugal force is required to hold the vanes against the housing and maintain a tight seal at those points, these pumps are not suited for low-speed service. Operation at speeds below 600 rpm is not recommended. If springs or other means are used to hold vanes out against the ring, efficient operation at speeds of 100 to 200 rpm is possible.
Vane pumps maintain their high efficiency for a long time, because compensation for wear of the vane ends and the housing is automatic. As these surfaces wear, the vanes move further out in their slots to maintain contact with the housing.
Vane pumps, like other types, come in double units. A double pump consists of two pumping units in the same housing. They may be of the same or different sizes. Although they are mounted and driven like single pumps, hydraulically, they are independent. Another variation is the series unit: two pumps of equal capacity are connected in series, so that the output of one feeds the other. This arrangement gives twice the pressure normally available from this pump. Vane pumps have relatively high efficiencies. Their size is small relative to output. Dirt tolerance is relatively good.