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Development of a regenerative pump impeller using rapid manufacturing techniques

Quail, Francis J. and Scanlon, T.J. and Stickland, M.T. (2010) Development of a regenerative pump impeller using rapid manufacturing techniques. Rapid Prototyping Journal, 16 (5). pp. 337-344. ISSN 1355-2546

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This paper presents a method of rapid manufacture used in the development of a regenerative pump impeller. Rapid manufacturing technology was used to create complex impeller blade profiles for testing as part of a regenerative pump optimisation process. Regenerative pumps are the subject of increased interest in industry. Ten modified impeller blade profiles, relative to the standard radial configuration, were evaluated with the use of computational fluid dynamics and experimental testing. Prototype impellers were needed for experimental validation of the CFD results. The manufacture of the complex blade profiles, using conventional milling techniques, is a considerable challenge for skilled machinists. The complexity of the modified blade profiles would normally necessitate the use of expensive CNC machining with 5 asis capability. With an impeller less than 75mm in diameter and a maximum blade thickness of 1.3mm, a rapid manufacturing technique enabled production of complex blade profiles that were dimensionally accurate and structurally robust enough for testing. As more advanced rapid prototyping machines become available in the study in the future, e.g. 3D photopolymer jetting machine, the quality of the parts, particularly in terms of surface finish, will improve and the amount of post processing operations will reduce. This technique offers the possibility to produce components of increased complexity whilst ensuring quality, strength, performance and speed of manufacture. The ability to manufacture complex blade profiles that are robust enough for testing, in a rapid and cost effective manner is proving essential in the overall design optimisation process for the pump.