This project for Australian company Granite Power, which is funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), required that Archer manufacture highly complex stainless steel and titanium components with very fine tolerances - including making multiple versions which were fractions of a millimetre different in order to simulate their changing dimensional behaviour under extreme operating temperatures.
Granite Power Research Project Manager, Sean McCracken, worked closely with Archer throughout the design and manufacturing stages,
"We sent our CAD data to Archer and they converted it into three dimensional TopSolid7 files. Archer helped us with the design phase and was then responsible for making the front end assembly for the impulse turbine for our Granex Waste Heat Recovery demonstration model.”
Granex technology captures waste heat from a power generator and re-uses it through a Granex Heat Conversion System. Sean says the waste heat moves at more than Mach 1.7 through the front nozzle, it hits the turbine blades and drives them at 70,000RPM. Pressure is as high as 60 bar and internal temperatures can reach 260 degrees Celsius.
He adds that Australia is not renowned for turbine development which makes this project by Archer a first for 'Down Under',
"It was always a fairly ambitious thing to take on. The overseas technology that we wanted was so expensive and for us to make it a commercial application we needed to find a way of reducing the cost. Having Archer make the assembly has been the most economical way for us to do it. We found that there were far greater cost efficiencies to develop it here.
"Archer had to make complex parts like the impeller. I've been told that the machining of the impeller alone took two hours. They also made multiple versions of one part that were fractions of a millimetre apart to mimic the changes that the component will undergo due to the extreme temperature changes in the turbine. If the impeller was too tight we'd suffer friction when it made contact with the shroud. We really appreciate all the extra effort involved. We didn't ask them to do that, they just went and did it. I think their enthusiasm has driven us along. I've dealt with a lot of people and you feel you have to push therm along but with Archer it's been so easy."
Chief Executive Officer Stephen de Belle echoes Sean's comments,
"Granite Power has enjoyed a very productive relationship with Archer. Their mastery of design and process for this type of product and application has been fantastic. They also made us aware of certain issues which we hadn't appreciated the significance of and then they were able to help us resolve them. Brad, Russell and the team are very enthusiastic about their work and it has been good to work with people who are proud of what they do."
Stephen says their breakthrough Granex technology has attracted the attention of countries around the world,
"Our exclusive technology which has been developed in conjunction with the University of Newcastle power had already led to enquiries from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh and Africa. We are having discussions with various international agencies and will be inviting them to come to our facility and see the turbine in action. This is a real case of Australian technology to the world."