The prediction of axial thrust for centrifugal pumps has been an important topic for many years. This is especially the case for multi-stage pumps with opposed or inline impellers, as the correct selection of balancing device(s) and bearings depends highly on the accuracy of the calculated thrust.
Up till now, many investigations regarding axial thrust have focused on fully analytical or (semi-)empirical relations while others have tried to predict the axial thrust using CFD simulations. Full analytical or empirical methods tend to give poor results or need tuning for each specific pump, while the full CFD methods are costly in both setup time and computer resources.
This paper presents a hybrid method to calculate the axial thrust of a multi-stage pump with an inline impeller design. The hybrid method combines analytical methods and CFD to reduce the required setup time and computation costs. The CFD calculation of the main flow is used as a boundary condition for the semi-empirical models for the side chambers and the inter-stage seals, such that these tight regions can be excluded from the CFD calculation.
To verify and validate the hybrid method, results are compared with measurements and with full CFD calculations that include the side chambers and seals. These results show that the hybrid method and the full CFD method give comparable results, but there is still some difference with the measurements.