The 3-spindle screw pump is a development of the ancient Archimedes Screw principle. The design is of rotary positive displacement and common to all of these pumps creates a partial vacuum by the opening and closing or sweeping of a series of voids or volumes.
The triple screw pump does this by having a central drive screw which meshes with two separate idler screws. The design can be compared with a helical gear pump in some ways where the teeth have been drawn axially to make true helical screw. As the meshing screws are relatively long they are extremely efficient and do not suffer the same ‘slip’ problems of gear pumps (see gear pumps).
Also the design is truly balanced with a small aspect ratio making it suitable for high speed running. Finally the design cleverly eliminates all radial loading making the pump very simple and reliable.
Screw Pump Advantages
- The intimate nature of the screws means volumetric efficiency is high versus other positive displacement pump designs
- A robust design and balanced nature enables very high pressures
- These pumps are intrinsically smooth and quiet
- The simplicity of design makes this pump relatively cheap to produce versus other rotary positive displacement pumps. They are also very much less effected by physical scale than say gear pumps and are often used for the bulk flow of oils for example over very long distances
- Viscous fluids that a centrifugal pump would be unable to handle are easily moved with a screw pump
- As the pumping action is quite finite, the output is very controllable. Doubling the size or speed, in theory simply doubles the output
- Unlike with a centrifugal pump, a screw pump’s output is loosely independent of discharge pressure altogether
- Not having to generate centrifugal forces to operate means that pump speeds can be low making them controllable, smooth and less disruptive
- The action makes screw pumps self-priming
- Subject to physical constraints such as motor power, casing strength, shaft sealing and to hydraulic factors such as volumetric efficiency the discharge pressure of a gear pump can be very high
- Centrifugal pumps have a Best Efficiency Point (BEP) which can be critical. This does not apply to screw pumps
- NPSHr for screw pumps is low versus centrifugal pump making them very useful where there is little net positive suction head available (NPSHa)
- Screw pumps are birotational
- Compared with other rotary positive displacement pumps they have no timing gears, are of ‘all metal’ construction and have only a single shaft to seal
Screw Pump Disadvantages
- As with all engineered equipment, screw pumps have a design envelope and when used outside of this will give a disappointing performance and/or a reduced life.
- Having long meshing screws makes this pump wholly unsuitable for solids or abrasive media and except in some very specific situations screw pumps are really only suitable for fluids with at least some inherent lubricity
- Screw pumps rely on precision clearances and have several rotating elements. This makes them more expensive to produce than a centrifugal pump
- Their ability to generate high pressure can also be a problem! If there is any risk of a ‘closed valve’ situation then a pressure relief valve and/or a pressure switch is essential to prevent a potentially hazardous situation from the pump causing excessive discharge pressures
- The mechanical design of screw pumps means that compared to centrifugal pumps less material options can exist
Screw Pump FAQs
Can a screw pump handle solids?
The mechanical design of a screw pump relies on precision clearances between the screws making them unsuitable for solids or abrasive fluids. Individual manufacturers will confirm the level of filtration required for screw pump protection.
Can a screw pump self-prime?
The mechanical action of a screw pump allows self-priming however the pump should always remain wet. Dry running the pump will cause damage and affect performance, ultimately damaging the pump beyond repair.
Can a screw pump handle viscous fluid?
Generally, an industrial screw pump can handle viscosities from 2 cSt up to 10,000 cSt.
What is the maximum running speed of a screw pump?
A screw pump can run from 500 rpm to 3,600 rpm depending on that fluid and its viscosity. A frequency inverter can be used to vary the shaft speed, allowing the user to control the flowrate as required.
Does a screw pump need an internal relief valve?
Industrial screw pumps can generate high pressures up to 80 bar g. A relief valve can prevent a potentially hazardous situation. This will protect the screw pump and prevent damage to the system downstream of the pump.
What is the maximum fluid temperature a screw pump can handle?
Depending on the materials of construction a screw pump is limited to 180° C with a standard seal. Using a magnetically sealed arrangement the maximum permissible fluid temperature increases to 300° C