The Backbone of Industry: A Guide to Industrial Pumps

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Types of Industrial Pumps & Where They Are Used

Essentially, there are two main categories of industrial pumps: dynamic and positive displacement pumps. Dynamic pumps transport fluids through centrifugal force, the velocity of which is then converted into pressure that can be altered to regulate the flow of liquids through the pump. Positive displacement pumps use diaphragms, pistons, or plungers to produce a reciprocating motion to pump fluids. Though industrial pumps can come in various sizes, shapes, and configurations, most include five fundamental components.

The five fundamental elements most industrial pumps have in common are: 

  • Bearings: These support industrial pumps mechanically to allow continuous rotation and movement, reducing friction and supporting the loads on other pump parts.
  • Casing: A housing or external shell surrounding the pump can be made from various materials, depending on system requirements and the type of liquid being pumped. For example, a pump used in a facility that processes chemicals normally has a casing or shell made from chemical-resistant materials.
  • Hub: The wheel's midsection is attached to the bearing assembly, which acts as a power source to rotate the impeller in centrifugal pumps. Though not all positive displacement pumps feature a hub, they are often integral components in these industrial pumps, where they keep the pump properly aligned, among other reasons.
  • Mechanical seal: Protecting the bearing assembly, mechanical seals safeguard industrial pumps against contamination or excessive loss of lubricant. Seals also keep the pumped liquid from leaking while the shaft spins or reciprocates, depending on the variety of industrial pumps.
  • Mechanism for fluid displacement: This piece of machinery is where industrial pumps will differ most. Dynamic pumps use impellers with attached fins or vanes, which spin rapidly to accelerate liquids centrifugally toward the discharge point. Positive displacement pumps instead use gears, lobes, pistons, or screws to transport fluids.

Most industrial pumps, whether dynamic or positive displacement types vary in applications and operations. Dynamic pumps rely on centrifugal force, while positive displacement pumps primarily use pressure. With dynamic pumps, flow rates, and efficiency fluctuate with pressure changes, whereas positive displacement pumps maintain constant flow rates with less impact on efficiency from pressure variations. Positive displacement pumps are better suited for handling viscous liquids, while dynamic pumps are typically used for thinner fluids.

Dynamic Industrial Pumps

Sometimes, this category of industrial pumps is referred to as rotodynamic due to the importance of the rotor (often referred to as an impeller) in its operation. Dynamic pumps are often simply called centrifugal pumps, as all of these industrial pumps rely on centrifugal force to work. These industrial pumps are used for fluids with lower viscosity for applications that require higher flowrates and lower pressures, so tend to be used for transferring large amounts of liquid. With dynamic pumps, an impeller is a key component that creates a vacuum to draw fluid into the pump’s housing. These types of industrial pumps can operate continuously while also having fewer moving parts, which in turn makes them generally more reliable.

Centrifugal Pumps

Centrifugal pumps are the most common dynamic pumps used in industries. They work by rotating impellers powered by electric motors to move liquids through centrifugal force. While not suitable for thick liquids, they can handle fluids with solids. These pumps are popular globally due to their durability, efficiency, low cost, and simple design, making maintenance easy. The pressure difference between the inlet and outlet drives fluid through the system. They are used in chemical processing, wastewater treatment, and water supply for municipalities, among other applications.

Submersible Pumps

These industrial pumps are meant to be submerged in the liquids they pump. Also known as septic, sewage, and stormwater pumps, submersible pumps are mainly used for moving stormwater and sewage, with additional applications. They can operate under tough conditions, making them suitable for transporting chemicals, gray water, liquid food ingredients, underground water, and mining. Submersible pumps are compact and low-maintenance.

Fire Hydrant Systems

Fire hydrant systems, also known as fire pumps, fire water pumps, and hydrant boosters, are categorized as industrial pumping systems rather than industrial pumps. These systems comprise a centrifugal pump linked to a motor powered by diesel or electricity and other components. They are designed to provide water at high pressures and velocities, commonly found in industrial settings for firefighting purposes. Typically, these pumping systems are connected to a municipal water source to extinguish fires in industrial facilities.

Positive Displacement Industrial Pumps

Slurries, sewage, oils, and other thick liquids are commonly moved using positive displacement pumps. These pumps can handle high pressures with lower flowrates typical of thick fluids, maintaining good efficiency. They work well in conditions where dynamic pumps struggle. Positive displacement pumps discharge fluids in pulses rather than continuously. While more intricate in design than dynamic pumps, they can better manage varying pressures and flowrates. There are two types within this category: reciprocating and rotary pumps. Reciprocating pumps use diaphragms, pistons, or plungers that move back and forth, while rotary pumps use gears to pump liquids by rotating rather than moving back and forth.

Diaphragm Pumps

Also known as diaphragm pumps, membrane pumps are simpler based on positive displacement theory. These industrial pumps use flexible diaphragms operated mechanically, pneumatically, or hydraulically. They are commonly employed in industries dealing with abrasive, corrosive, or hazardous fluids like chemical processing, mining, and pharmaceuticals.

Mechanically operated diaphragm pumps utilize a mechanism like a crankshaft to move liquids. Some are electrically powered. Pneumatically operated pumps use compressed air, while hydraulically powered ones use water. They are suitable for tasks requiring precise metering or handling viscous liquids or solids in applications like chemical transfer or food processing.

Gear Pumps

These industrial pumps use gears to transport oils, and liquids, creating a smooth flow compared to pulsing actions seen in other pumps. They're designed to handle high pressures efficiently by rotating gears to move viscous fluids. The rotating mechanism draws in the fluid while preventing leaks with a liquid seal against the casing.

As liquid enters a gear pump, it's trapped in the cavities of the rotating gears before being discharged. Gear pumps come with external or internal gears, differing in where the liquid is held. Due to their simplicity, gear pumps are preferred for moving viscous fluids in various processes. They're commonly used for lubricants, hydraulic systems, and fluid transport applications.

Peristaltic Pumps

Peristaltic pumps are versatile, providing steady flowrates for blending and dosing viscous fluids, even as thick as toothpaste. These industrial pumps work by drawing and propelling fluid through a flexible hose using compression and decompression. By keeping thicker fluids within the tubing, contamination risks are reduced. Peristaltic pumps are commonly used to transport sterilized fluids in chemical, food processing, and pharmaceutical industries.

Piston Pumps

Industrial pumps use a piston to create suction or pressure. The motor moves the piston back, creating a vacuum that pulls fluid into the pump. When the piston moves forward, pressure in the chamber increases, forcing the fluid out. A valve prevents backflows. Piston gears to move pumps efficiently transport consistent liquid amounts and are often used as boosters in complex pumping systems. Common in the oil and gas industry, they're also used in hydraulic systems and other industrial processes with high fluid pressures.

Rotary Pumps

Lobe or industrial pumps use rotating lobe-like mechanisms linked to the pump's rotor to move fluids. These rotary pumps work on positive displacement, with the lobes generating centrifugal force. They draw in fluids by trapping air and creating a vacuum in the chamber. Ideal for continuous flow applications, their design ensures smooth operation with minimal leakage, handling shear-sensitive fluids delicately. Rotary pumps excel at managing viscous fluids and high flowrates, commonly found in cosmetic, food and beverage, oil refining, and pharmaceutical industries.

Applications for Industrial Pumps 

Pumps play roles in various sectors of the economy, from the oil and gas industry to water treatment facilities. Today’s industrial pumps are crucial to many applications in the world as largely unseen yet versatile pillars of modern civilization.

Industrial pumps are used in applications and industries that include: 

  • Agriculture:
  • Irrigating crops efficiently often involves centrifugal pumps that ensure a consistent water supply.
  • Applying liquid fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other chemical agents used for agriculture is usually handled by diaphragm pumps to ensure precise measurement. 
  • Chemical processing:
  • Transferring chemicals within chemical processing plants or into tanker trucks often calls for centrifugal pumps, though positive displacement pumps are also used.
  • The precise metering of chemicals often involves diaphragm pumps, which are known for their accuracy. 
  • Construction:
  • Dewatering activities to remove excess water from construction sites often use submersible pumps.
  • Food and beverage:
  • Transferring fluids used in processing foods or beverages often involves various types of industrial pumps that help ensure efficient operation and acceptable product quality.
  • Conveying certain liquid ingredients within a food processing plant often requires great care, for which rotary pumps work well.
  • Manufacturing:
  • Cooling systems in factories and other manufacturing facilities for industrial machinery often use centrifugal pumps that assist with regulating temperatures and circulating coolants.
  • Mining:
  • Various industrial pumps are used to supply water to or dewater for mining operations, managing tailings, and separating out waste material.
  • Oil and gas: 
  • Transferring fluids is often the purview of positive displacement pumps, especially rotary pumps, used in pipelines and refineries for refined and unrefined products.
  • Drilling operations often use submersible pumps to aid dewatering activities, making these working environments drier and safer. 
  • Pharmaceutical:
  • Sensitive liquids used in pharmaceutical manufacturing are often handled by peristaltic pumps, which gently transport them while considerably lowering the risk of contamination. 
  • Water management and treatment
  • Municipalities often use centrifugal pumps to move large volumes of potable water through networks that supply customers.
  • Wastewater treatment facilities use submersible pumps to facilitate water treatment while properly disposing of contaminants from the water. 

These are just a small sampling of the uses of industrial pumps, which are used for a whole host of other applications.

Industrial Pumps from Hayes 

As the oldest and largest pump distributor in the Northeastern United States, Hayes Pump has the right industrial pumps and pump accessories to meet our customers’ needs. We can supply, install, maintain, and repair pumps for various applications, from pumps supplying potable water to municipalities to viscous liquid ingredients for the food processing industry.

Some of the manufacturers and types of industrial pumps we supply include: 

  • Abel Pump: Hayes can supply reciprocating positive displacement pumps like diaphragm and piston pumps for the cement, chemical processing, energy, food processing, mining, oil and gas, steel, and water management industries.
  • Chemineer: A maker of pump components like agitators, impellers, and mixers; Chemineer components are used in chemical processing, paper, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, plastics, water management, and other industries.
  • Fairbanks Nijhuis: A manufacturer of top-quality industrial pumps and systems, it offers pumping solutions for desalinization, dredging, fire-fighting, flood control, irrigation, sewage, water treatment plants, and other applications.
  • Flygt: A maker of dry and submersible industrial pumps, along with mixers and smart pump control systems, Hayes carries Flygt products for transporting water for food and beverage, pharmaceutical, water management, and other industries.
  • Fybroc: Hayes offers Fybroc’s line of fiberglass-reinforced industrial pumps that provide superior corrosion resistance for applications involving acids, bleaches, brines, seawater, solvents, and waste liquids.
  • Gorman-Rupp: We supply a number of Gorman-Rupp’s high-performance industrial pumps and pumping systems that are suitable for construction, fire-fighting, oil and gas, water management, and other industrial purposes.

To learn more about the industrial pumps and other related accessories we distribute, contact the pump experts at Hayes.  

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