Experimental and numerical studies are presented on the steady and unsteady radial forces produced in a single volute vaneless centrifugal pump. Experimentally, the unsteady pressure distributions were obtained using fast response pressure transducers. These measurements were compared with equivalent numerical results from a URANS calculation, using the commercial code FLUENT. Two impellers with different outlet diameters were tested for the same volute, with radial gaps between the blade and tongue of 10.0% and 15.8% of the impeller radius, for the bigger and smaller impeller diameters, respectively. Very often, pump manufacturers apply the similarity laws to this situation, but the measured specific speeds in this case were found to be slightly different. The steady radial forces for the two impellers were calculated from both the measured average pressure field and the model over a wide range of flow rates in order to fully characterize the pump behavior. Again, a deviation from the expected values applying the similarity laws was found. The data from the pressure fluctuation measurements were processed to obtain the dynamic forces at the blade passing frequency, also over a wide range of flow rates. Afterwards, these results were used to check the predictions from the numerical simulations. For some flow rates, the bigger diameter produced higher radial forces, but this was not to be a general rule for all the operating points. This paper describes the work carried out and summarizes the experimental and the numerical results, for both radial gaps. The steady and unsteady forces at the blade passing frequency were calculated by radial integration of the pressure distributions on the shroud side of the pump volute. For the unsteady forces, the numerical model allowed a separate analysis of the terms due to the pressure pulsations and terms related to the momentum exchange in the impeller. In this way, the whole operating range of the pump was studied and analyzed to account for the static and dynamic flow effects. The unsteady forces are very important when designing the pump shaft as they can produce a fatigue collapse if they are not kept under a proper working value.

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