Closing the innovation cycle in lightweighting compressor pistons technology

Cyril Wentzel, A. Eijk, G. Groenewegen, Otto Bergsma

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientific

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What started out as an exercise in exploring the weight reduction potential of those allegedly “heavy recip crossheads”, turned out to be a fast leap towards implementation of a new hybrid material concept for very lightweight pistons. This was enabled by a next phase in the EFRC R&D group research project which has been subject of this conference before.The 2014 paper was technical in nature, addressing the context and requirements and defining the solid polymer concept (SPP) as an exciting solution, as well as the characterization of polymer composite materials in fatigue. Building on these foundations, the current paper focuses on the challenge of turning the obvious good idea into a readily available technology under the restrictions of pre-competitive research. Therefore it identifies the things that should be done, how to do it and also which things are best left until later. Bypassing the extensive volume of technical work that had to be done to demonstrate feasibility and develop key materials and testing technology, the results of the full scale validation experiments are presented as well. Following an earlier 1:10 scale piston fatigue test, a full scale test demonstrated a residual strength – after accelerated fatigue – of 400 kN. Comparing against commonly encountered designs based on steel and aluminium, a 30 – 70% mass reduction is found for typical larger size pistons. Enabled by the full scale validation of the concept, the technology readiness is enhanced to a level that by 2016, the technology seems ready for validation in an actual compressor. As a matter of fact, the results of the R&D project are industrially applied, witnessed by the emergence of a spin-off company and plans by major compressor manufacturers to design and/or launch new and significantly improved machines. The authors argue that the EFRC R&D project may be seen as a model case in efficacious creative innovation, where the time between idea generation and industrial application is less than 3 years. A brief discussion of why we believe this was possible is included. It explains what is required to achieve success – in spite of a rather odd idea introducing an unknown ‘plastic’ material into a self-declared conservative industry – to get a disruptive innovation like the solid polymer piston accepted so quickly.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication3rd International Rotating Equipment Conference (IREC)
Subtitle of host publicationDüsseldorf, Germany
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event3rd International Rotating Equipment Conference: Pumps, Compressors and Vacuum Technology - Düsseldorf, Germany
Duration: 14 Sep 201615 Sep 2016
Conference number: 3


Conference3rd International Rotating Equipment Conference
Abbreviated titleIREC 2016
Internet address


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