The first pumps were invented around 4000 years ago. The Egyptians needed to get water from a well. They attached a bucket to a stick with a weight on the end and Voila! the pump was born.
The Shadoof – widely believed to be the first pump, designed by Ancient Egyptians.
Since then, pumps have changed, a lot. And as Michelle Segrest says in this article, “whether the liquid is water, peanut butter or oil—today there is a pump that will move it.”
The way in which that material is moved varies greatly and as demand for the ability to pump more and more unusual materials in even greater quantities, technology has evolved accordingly. Today we’re in a world of pumps being more hi -tech than they’ve ever been.
The world has also got significantly smaller. We’re now operating in a global marketplace where pump manufacturers are members of trade associations like Europump or the US Hydraulic Institute, who then collaborate on global projects, making connectivity another integral feature of the modern pumping solution.
The fundamental change in the last decade has been to make pumps ‘smart’. From cars to drink dispensers to mobile phones, industries are becoming ‘smarter’ and pumps are no exception. Pumps are now highly complex technological devices which can monitor, adjust and respond to the materials that are being pumped. They’ve gone from being a component of the manufacturing process to an active participant.
The intelligent pump market is predicted to be worth $880M by 2021, so it’s no surprise that pump manufacturers are clamouring to be a part of it and get their slice of the profits by being the first to break in a new technology, or new application of an existing technology, to the market.
Water specialist Grundfos have created iSolutions, a whole system of connected smart pumps. The technology works through installing a series of intelligent pumps which are autonomous in operation but have the ability to communicate and collaborate with each other. According to Grundfos, this “enables real time monitoring, remote control, fault prediction and system optimisation”.
This leads to a reduction in downtime and an increase in preventative maintenance so problems can be solved before they arise. The data collection and constant feedback from the system means that the operator is able to monitor the exact status of every pump 24/7 and immediately be notified if there is a fault in the system.
ITT have also taken the leap into intelligent solutions with the creation of the i-ALERT sensor. This small sensor can be attached to any rotating equipment, giving the user access to remote monitoring capabilities. The companion app means that the data is accessible from anywhere for the operator. Furthermore, the sensors can be purchased relatively inexpensively, even from Amazon, and utilise artificial intelligence to collate, interpret and advise based on the data provided.
So, Grundfos have integrated smart technology into a whole-system solutions and ITT are trying to bring remote monitoring. Allweiler, a Circor brand specialising in pumping chemicals, including hazardous and flammable materials, have found that remote monitoring and smart pumps can have huge safety, as well as efficiency benefits. Their IN-1000 condition and operation monitoring system is certified to work in EX zones (areas with a flammable or explosive atmosphere) where safety is paramount, keeping a check on the equipment in these areas. This means that time spent in these hazardous areas is reduced for engineers and maintenance specialists.
Wilo have taken a different approach. Instead of focusing on making their pumps smarter, they’ve equipped the human operators with more information making them smarter, with the Wilo Assistant App. Through the app, which works in collaboration with their pumps, an engineer is able to access all the information he or she needs about any Wilo product, including accessing instructions on how to perform replacements. The app can also be used to help with hydronic balancing and even integrates augmented reality to show, in real time, the step by step processes to follow when maintaining Wilo products.
So that’s 4 pumps companies using the latest tech to improve their service offering. Grundfos are improving efficiency, ITT are bringing remote monitoring to the masses, Allweiler are improving safety standards and Wilo are making it easier than ever to install and use their products.
What will the future of pumps look like? With the overall goal being to increase uptime and reduce operating costs, the continuous improvement of data analysis, cloud solutions and WiFi coverage will ultimately translate to less man-hours spent on evaluating and servicing pumps.
I’ve barely scratched the surface here and would love to hear of other interesting applications for new tech in this field. If there’s a new tech or application exciting you in rotating equipment, let me know in the comments!