KSB places great value in research and development. We examine the customer requests, requirements and trends encountered in the day-to-day business of transporting fluids. The insight gained finds consistent implementation in the development of products optimised for their applications. Our goal is to offer customers products and solutions which deliver exceptional quality at a fair price whether custom-engineered or supplied off-the-shelf. This aspiration defines the guiding principle behind our portfolio of technologies and core competencies. The know-how of our staff in the fields of hydraulics, electronics and materials technology is a critical factor in ensuring the market success of our pumps and valves. At year end 2014, 588 KSB employees worked in research and development worldwide (previous year: 531). The most important development locations are Frankenthal and Pegnitz in Germany, followed by Gradignan in France, Grovetown in the USA and Pune in India. We are also engaged in global cooperations with renowned research institutes and universities. Our development work principally revolves around improving and expanding existing type series and developing new markets and fields of application.
A selection of our current research and development projects is given below:
Global demand is rising for cost-effective boiler feed pumps as employed by customers in combined-cycle, solar and biomass power plant circuits. We are therefore working on a multistage high-pressure ring-section pump for such applications. This promises outstanding levels of energy efficiency at a price acceptable to customers in important markets such as China and India.
As these pumps will be manufactured with cast rather than forged materials, they can be produced at low cost with resources locally available in Asia. And thanks to improved flow profiles developed via computer simulations, the pumps will also benefit from optimum efficiency levels. The first size is scheduled to be released for sale in the middle of 2015.
Following an acquisition in 2012, we are currently in the process of completing our range of circulators. In this market segment, a comprehensive programme of products is essential in order to be competitive. To this end, we extended our Calio range in early September 2014 to include models with 350- and 800-watt motors and will continue to expand our portfolio.
Pump sets from the Amarex KRT and Sewatec type series represent the backbone of our product portfolio for waste water. 2013 and 2014 saw us make technical revisions to these pumps and their electric motors. We designed impellers which allow non-clogging operation while maintaining high levels of hydraulic efficiency. Improvements to the impeller vane profile have increased the pumps’ reliability in raw waste water applications, and the new design requires smaller motors than the previous generation.
We manufacture specialised submersible motors for the Amarex KRT range in Halle, Germany. In order to ensure that these pumps fulfil future energy efficiency provisions laid down by the European Union, we have begun the process of adapting our asynchronous motors to meet the requirements of efficiency class IE3 .
We have worked intensively throughout the year under review on developing a system for cleaning ballast water. Today, ships transport almost 90 % of all globally traded goods, and this proportion is rising. Ballast tanks filled with seawater, fresh water or brackish water keep ships stable and enable them to sail at the right depth for minimised fuel consumption. Every year, ballast water totalling some twelve billion tonnes is taken on board, bringing with it a variety of aquatic organisms. In an effort to prevent the spread of non-local flora and fauna, many countries have passed strict regulations for handling ballast water. For example: in the future, US ports will no longer accept ships that do not use a certified ballast water treatment system. A convention from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO ) will soon enforce similar rules internationally. The system we have developed to serve this growth market successfully completed its first land-based test for seawater and brackish water in accordance with the requirements of the US Coast Guard (USCG ) at the start of November 2014. Sea-based testing will be performed in 2015. This work has received support from Rhineland-Palatinate’s Ministry of Economics as part of its InnoTop programme.
Since 2011, we have been working on a project supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research to develop the technical basis for an oil-free compressor for carbon dioxide (CO²) featuring an integrated, fluid-cooled electric motor. The compressor is intended for use with large heat pumps. As a coolant, carbon dioxide has an advantage over the haloalkanes used today in that it contributes far less significantly to the greenhouse effect. The use of CO² as a coolant in large heat pumps has up until now been hampered by the fact that shaft bearings have to be lubricated with oil, dramatically reducing efficiency. Working in collaboration with the Kaiserslautern University, Stuttgart University and the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences, KSB is using prototypes to investigate the effect CO² has on the fluid mechanics properties of the rotating bearings. This year will see us continue this research with the support of the Federal Ministry; an oil-free CO² compressor should be available by 2017.
A further focus of multiple research projects is the trend dubbed Industry 4.0, and the demands it will place on our products. This vision for the future sees intelligent pumps and valves joining the established world of automation to become interconnected via internet-based communication technologies. These pumps and valves and their data will thus be able to assist customers with installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance. The technology promises to be especially beneficial to operators of complex machinery, assisting them in identifying error patterns and avoiding technical problems.
In a first for KSB, the year under review saw us fit one of Europe’s largest and most state-of-the-art computer centres with interfaces designed such that the customer can monitor the operating status of its pumps – and thus the essential cooling of the servers – via a so-called cloud application .
The ongoing automation of technical systems seeks to reduce life cycle costs. This involves sensors and actuators handling more and more application-specific functions at the interface between technical processes and system control. In performing these functions, they operate in a decentralised fashion as networked intelligent field devices. As part of the ELSY project supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, we are working to establish a model-based development process for our hydromechatronic products and create the tools such a process will require. This entails developing an online diagnosis system through which potential damage to a pump’s mechanical seal or bearings can be identified at an early stage. KSB produced a functional requirements brief with a set of specifications and interface definitions for the project partners in 2014.
The year under review saw KSB invest in a system which will allow the company to develop its knowledge of selective laser melting. In essence, this technology can print out complex components in three dimensions. As opposed to conventional methods such as casting and forging, the laser melting process eliminates the need for tools such as moulds or dies. It affords design engineers a substantial degree of creative freedom when producing components with internal geometric forms, hollow spaces and open porous structures. This means that lightweight parts can be created without compromising strength.
During the selective laser melting processes, the metallic material to be processed is sprayed onto a base plate as a thin layer in powder form before a laser melts it layer by layer according to the component geometry required. In order to prevent the material becoming contaminated with oxygen, the process takes place in a controlled inert gas atmosphere composed of argon or nitrogen. This ensures that the mechanical properties of the component generated largely correspond with those of the base material. The substances used in laser melting are generally series materials which do not contain binders. An important future application could be the high-speed production of spare parts on site during servicing.
We wish to continue actively shaping the pump and valve technology of the future with trend-setting innovations. To this end, 2014 saw us invest € 49 million (€ 47 million in the previous year) in research and development. This equates to an unchanged 2 % of our sales revenue and continues to represent a substantial commitment to research and development in comparisons across the sector.