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Valve Basics Training Helps Fill Industry Skills Gap

Valve Basics Training Helps Fill Industry Skills Gap

One of the most keenly felt needs in tod...

An End-User’s Perspective on Valve Selection and Risk

An End-User’s Perspective on Valve Selection and Risk

I am not a valve expert, although I ofte...

New Test Stamp and More Updates on Pressure Vessel Codes

New Test Stamp and More Updates on Pressure Vessel Codes

A new test organization program and stam...

The Role of Valves in HAZOP Studies

The Role of Valves in HAZOP Studies

Process hazard analysis (PHA) is require...

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ValvTechnologies Successfully Completes NUPIC Audit

3 DAYS AGO

ValvTechnologies, Inc. recently achieved NUPIC-approved suppliers list status, upon successful completion of the Nuclear Procurement Issues Committee (NUPIC) audit conducted at the Houston facility. NUPIC members include all domestic U.S. nuclear utilities as well as several international members.

Form...

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GE Oil & Gas Supporting ONGC’s Exploratory Drilling Campaign in India

4 DAYS AGO

GE Oil & Gas has been awarded a multi-million-dollar frame agreement by Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC), India’s largest exploration and production company. Under the agreement , GE will provide an estimated 55 subsea wellheads (SG5) over next three years for the operator&rsqu...

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Chemical Activity Barometer Suggests Accelerated Business Activity

4 DAYS AGO

The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB) expanded 0.4% in August following an upward revision for July. This marks the barometer’s sixth consecutive monthly gain. Accounting for adjustments, the CAB is up 3.2% over this time last year, the strongest year over year growth since January 2015. All d...

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Innovation Could Lead to Significant Cuts in Chemical Manufacturing Energy Use

4 DAYS AGO

Scientists from ExxonMobil and Georgia Tech have developed a new technology that could significantly reduce the amount of energy and emissions associated with manufacturing plastics. If brought to industrial scale, this breakthrough could reduce industry’s global annual carbon dioxide emissions ...

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Manufacturing Productivity in U.S. Higher Than Other Nations

2 DAYS AGO

“U.S. productivity unexpectedly declined for a third straight quarter in the three months through June, Labor Department figures showed. On a year-over-year basis, it fell for the first time since 2013,” Bloomberg reports .

But on a more positive note, “the U.S. still blows other natio...

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Durable Goods Orders Up 4.4%, a Six-Month High

3 DAYS AGO

New orders for manufactured durable goods in July increased $9.7 billion or 4.4% to $228.9 billion, the U.S. Commerce Department announced. This increase, up following two consecutive monthly decreases, followed a 4.2% June decrease. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 1.5%. Excluding def...

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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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