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Industry Headlines

Energy Sector Construction Employment Expected to Rise

Monday, 23 January 2017  |  Chris Guy

The Department of Energy released the agency’s second annual analysis, the U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER). The report found several e...

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Industry Headlines

Eastern Controls to Distribute ITT & PBM Valves

2 DAYS AGO

Eastern Controls, Inc. (ECI) is now an ITT & PBM factory authorized distributor for New York and northern New Jersey. ECI is the distributor for a variety of sanitary process valves and instrumentation which serve the life sciences industry.

ECI has been awarded factory authorization to sell both I...

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Cameron Signs Two Long-Term Transocean Service Agreements

3 DAYS AGO

Cameron, a Schlumberger company, has signed two 10-year pressure control equipment management service contracts on behalf of Transocean valued at greater than $350 million.

The first contract calls for Schlumberger to manage Transocean’s Cameron risers in the Gulf of Mexico. This comprehensive ag...

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Energy Sector Construction Employment Expected to Rise

-1 DAYS AGO

The Department of Energy released the agency’s second annual analysis, the U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER). The report found several energy industries with projected increases in new jobs. Responding to the USEER survey of employers, the energy efficiency sector predicted hiring rates ...

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U.S. Energy Companies Add Most Oil Rigs in Four Years

1 HOUR AGO

According to Baker Hughes, U.S. energy companies “added the most oil rigs in nearly four years” this week, as OPEC’s production cut “boosted prices over $50 a barrel since early December.” A total of 29 rigs were added, “bringing the total count up to 551,” R...

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Philly Fed: Mid-Atlantic Business Activity Hits Two-Year High

3 DAYS AGO

Economic conditions continued to improve in January, according to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey. The index for current manufacturing activity in the region increased from a revised reading of 19.7 in December to 23.6 this month. Approximately 40% of t...

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Industrial Production Sees Largest Rise in More Than Two Years

5 DAYS AGO

Industrial production rose 0.8% in December, the largest increase since November 2014, after falling 0.7% the previous month. For the fourth quarter as a whole, the index slipped 0.6% at an annual rate.

Manufacturing output moved up 0.2% in December, as an increase in durable manufacturing outweighed d...

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A Primer On Worm Gear Operators

vmsum12_worm_gears_1A remote gas pipeline installation in Pinedale, WyomingManual gear operators continue to provide a viable, age-old solution with a few 21st century twists. Understanding how these products work, as well as the tradeoffs and costs associated with manual operators, can help end users select the right technology for the application.

Over the past 30 years, valve automation has dominated the flow control industry. But even though power actuation captivates the attention, imagination and the lion’s share of growth in the market, manual valve actuation also continues to expand, receiving its own innovations. In this article, we provide an introduction to the basic principles behind these workhorse operators and discuss current trends in the market. We also consider the benefits and associated costs that come with manual worm gear designs. Please note that for ease of reference, a glossary of terms has been added; the definitions provided are industry specific and only intended to cover the depth and scope of this article (click here).


THE RANGE

Manual worm gear operators can be found in nearly every valve application throughout the world. Manual operators have no power requirements, no hydraulic or pneumatic pressure unit to maintain and can be used in the most remote locations. From submarine duty to mining, water works to oil and gas pipelines, if torque is required, manual worm gear operators are there.

To begin, it may help to view the world through the eyes of the application engineer. We push up our stylish horn rim glasses, open our 20-tab spreadsheet product selector and ask: “Torque or thrust?” The first consideration in selecting an actuator is the type of force required. Torque, that rotational or twisting force necessary to position ball valves, plug valves, butterfly valves, etc., will be the focus of this article.

Let’s look at the fundamental challenge our application engineer faces, which is: “How do we provide a means to safely and effectively position the valve?”

vmsum12_worm_gears_2Figure 1. A simple lever can work when just a small amount of torque is needed.If the valve torque is small enough, a wrench or lever of adequate length or a handwheel of the appropriate diameter provide simple solutions to our dilemma (Figure 1). Both the handwheel and the lever increase mechanical advantage by applying principles explained by Archimedes more than 2,000 years ago. Levers, while efficient and cost-effective, remain impractical or undesirable for many applications, however. At some point, the force required to position the valve exceeds the feasibility of a simple lever; this is where worm gear operators enter the picture.

We have used gears for thousands of years to harness energy from wind, water and beasts. Think of gear mechanisms as a series of interacting levers and screws. In our application, gears are used to amplify torque. In short, we use gears to convert force to work.


THE MECHANISM

vmsum12_worm_gears_3Figure 2. A simple cylindrical single-start worm and worm gear set.Worm gear operators are used for actuation because they offer high torque multiplication and load-carrying capability in a small, low-cost package. Figure 2 presents an example of a typical worm gear set found in a manual worm gear operator.

Following conventional American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA) (www.agma.org) gear design standards, if a single-start worm is the drive and an 80-tooth worm gear is the driven, the ratio would be expressed as 1:80 (the formula is available in the glossary). That’s a lot of ratio in a small package. But these numbers only tell us that it takes 80 worm revolutions (drive) to complete one revolution of the worm gear (driven). The ratio tells us about the mechanism’s effect on speed but little about torque. To understand the effect on torque, we need to know the mechanical advantage (MA). In a perfect machine, a 1:80 ratio would net an MA of 1:80 (expressed as 80), meaning that for 1 unit of force applied, 80 units of force are generated.

Does this mean free torque? Unfortunately, no. The energy of the universe is constant and as with everything, there is an associated cost.


THE COSTS

What are the costs associated with amplifying force through our manual actuator? The first cost is hard cash—the worm gear actuator will cost more than a lever or handwheel.

Second, machines are not perfect, which is demonstrated in efficiency losses through heat and wear. As it turns out, standard single-start metal worm gear sets are less than 35% efficient by design. Also, worm gear sets with a worm thread angle and design, which net an efficiency of approximately 35% and greater, are not typically self-locking, and without self-locking characteristics are not suitable for a number of applications. Based on a website sample of the top manufacturers, 32% is the approximate average efficiency for manual worm gear operators. This simple formula explains what happens to mechanical advantage in a 32% efficient gear train:

80 x .32 = 25.6 MA

The MA would be approximately 25, not 80. That is nearly 55 points of mechanical advantage lost to ­inefficiency.

Third, and not captured in manufacturer’s data sheets, is the cost in the exchange of force for distance. We increase force by simply making more trips, or more specifically, more turns on the handwheel to cycle the valve.

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