Saturday, June 21, 2014

Waterjetting 22c - More on shroud design

Lowering the pressure in a hose connected to a cutting head, by connecting it to a vacuum pump, will pull a certain amount of the water and debris released from a cutting/cleaning event into that hose. However to ensure that all of this material is captured, rather than just a fraction, requires a little more care and effort in the system design.

At the end of the last post on this subject, I began discussion of the use of shrouds to help to contain the ejecta and to direct it towards the suction line.

Figure 1. Schematic section through a shroud of a device, designed to mine high-level radioactive waste.

There are a number of different lessons that we learned as we developed this tool, and this piece will discuss a number of them. During the development and demonstration of the device we had to use a simulant, and a relatively weak cement was chosen, which would allow us to design the tool to operate it where we could see it, and easily interact with it.

Figure 2. Cutting test under way (no shrouds were used in this early test series)

The easiest way to drive the nozzle system was to run the high pressure tubing through a fixture that contained a hollow shaft electrical motor. This saved a lot of space, and allowed the high pressure tubing to feed into a distribution manifold under the motor, which fed the high-pressure water to a set of rotating nozzles.

Figure 3. Test rig without jets to show the design of the test head.

In figure 2 the jets issue from two self-rotating nozzle sets, themselves fed through a rotating feed tube, itself rotating around a central axis, and driven through a belt drive and gearing.

Various different patterns were cut into the simulant, as the different heads were moved over the surface, with the pattern controlled by the different rotation speeds relative to the overall head speed over the surface.

Figure 4. Computer image of the jet paths over the surface, in one combination of parameters for a head similar to that shown in Figure 3.

The design of the head was aimed at producing a set of jet passes (given that each jet was slightly inclined to the surface) which would produce pieces of simulant that were never larger than half-an-inch in size. Yet at the same time the goal was to remove 4 cu. ft. of waste each minute. The larger we could break out the particles, the less cutting we would have to make into the waste itself, saving energy and time, while at the same time increasing the overall volume we could release in that time.

Figure 5. Deeper cut into the simulant.

At the same time if the cut depth was too great, then several new problems would arise, apart from the initially obvious one of producing particles that would be bigger than the suction hose could easily handle. (Though we overcame that hurdle by running the particles through a high-pressure jet pump that effectively cut any oversize particles down to an acceptable size as part of its design).

The suction line needed more than just the water from the cut, to be able to pick up all the debris from the cutting operation. Air had to be drawn in around the sides of the shroud, yet at the same time the walls of the shroud had to come down to restrict the amount of that air and keep the suction strong enough at the surface to remove all loose material. This is done by fitting a rim of bristles (such as form the head of a paint brush) around the edge of the shroud that come down to brush over the outer edge of the cut, stopping a lot of the material from escaping out from the edge, while limiting the amount of air that feeds into the shroud, and in this way holding the suction pressure inside the shroud.

Figure 6. Early test showing a square shroud with bristles around the edge as it cuts into the waste. (Part of a previous pass has been filled with clay as part of the test). The shroud was larger to ensure that all ejecta was captured – as shown.

During the tests we found that the metal rim should, optimally, be no more than half-an inch from the surface of the material, after it had been cut, to pull all the material from the bottom of the crevices. But the edge of the head has also to pass over the surface in successive passes. So that high points left by deep cutting (Figure 5) will catch on the head, and can interfere with the rotation of the head on the next pass.

The aim of the cutting head design was, therefore, to leave a relatively smooth surface (of the sort shown in figure 3) over the waste after each pass, so that the head could be fed automatically down a fixed amount without any risk of it catching on large peaks left by the previous cut. This risk could also be lowered a little by slightly tilting the head backwards as it moves over the surface, since this allows slightly larger points to enter the head, where they are attacked by the jets before the driving mechanism has to pass over them. This tilting also makes it easier for the head to clean right up to the walls of the tank, where otherwise the edge of the shroud would hit the wall and stop the jets from removing that last rind of material from the edge. (Though it could be cleaned by a subsequent pass with the head turned up parallel to the wall and moved over it in that way – though this wouldn’t capture all the material as easily, due to wall curvature.)

Tilting the jets at a high angle so as to cut material at the edge of the shroud was also a possible problem, since it made it easier for the water to escape from the edge of the shroud, and out into the main body of the tank, which was undesirable. But I’ll talk about that in a later piece. Let me just note that, when these factors were all combined no material escaped from the edge of the shroud.

Figure 7. Test late in development, where a head similar to that shown in figure 1 is cutting over waste, without any material being ejected from around the shroud edges.

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