Reverse Engineering: A Strategy for Solving Critical Part Shortages
The population of industrial pumps is aging. An article from Pumps & Systems’ August 2012 issue chronicled a repair done on an 82-year old pump still in service in a major refinery (click here to read that article). Like this refinery, many industrial operations are using pumps that have been in service 30 to 50 years or more. It is clear the infrastructure of industry is at risk due to the lack of planning by the pump owners and the more limited support from the companies that provided the pumps. To be fair to the pump OEMs, these pumps have been kept in service much longer than a pump OEM would have originally anticipated.
This article will present a case study of a recently refurbished vertical pump, show how the lack of a critical part was overcome through reverse engineering, and will share lessons learned for developing a strategy to overcome part shortages for old or obsolete pumping equipment.
Critical Part Shortage Identified
This single-stage vertical pump in a service water application was sent for repair by a nuclear power plant to Hydro Inc., a reliable independent pump service and engineering provider. A thorough inspection was performed, and although several important parts had to be reverse engineered and manufactured, all but one were machined parts for which raw material was available. One large cast part, a large aluminum bronze suction bowl weighing more than 500 pounds, was identified as the “critical delivery” issue.
Hydro has a highly-skilled in-house engineering team that utilizes process control procedures for reverse engineering under their NUPIC-Audited Quality Assurance Program. Hydro’s organization is one that understands that reverse engineering is NOT the same as “replicating”. Hydro’s engineering team evaluated the critical characteristics of the component, which is essential to developing a replacement part that will meet the same form, fit, and function as the original.