Author Archives: Jessica Boersma

Save Money on Your Next BB3 Pump Overhaul

How to re-use the worn wear rings for better performance

Axially split, between bearings multi-stage pumps (API Type BB3) are used for some of the most important services in the hydrocarbon processing industry–charge pumps, boiler feed pumps, and product shipping/pipeline pumps.

The repair of these pumps is a great opportunity to upgrade with Vespel® CR-6100 or Boulden B-Series composite wear rings. In many situations, this will also be the most cost-effective way to rebuild the pump.

Cost of Repair
The reason these pumps offer a great value upgrade is because the case rings in axially split pumps can generally be re-used as holders for composite “inserts” as shown in figure 1.

This method of repair saves the cost of purchasing new case rings, or machining full rings with milled features. All of the work can be done on a lathe at the time of repair. First, you machine the inside bores of the existing case rings, throttle bushing, and center bushing. Then, you make the Vespel® CR-6100 inserts, press them in, and then final machine the parts to reduced clearance. This will increase the Lomakin Effect and efficiency of the pump.

Complete the remaining elements of the overhaul as you normally would. When the pump goes back into service, it should be easier to operate, more efficient, and more reliable.

Final Thoughts

If you have a BB3 pump coming through your shop for overhaul, consider upgrading to composite wear parts. Boulden can help you engineer the upgrade to Vespel® CR-6100 or Boulden B-Series and the patented Boulden PERF-Seal® design to ensure long-term reliable success. Contact us today. We have the material you need in stock.

Helpful Links:

Boulden Installation Guide for Vespel® CR-6100

Standard Stock Sizes of Vespel® CR-6100

Vespel® CR-6100 Product Data Sheet

Vespel® CR-6100 Machining Guide

2MW Boiler Feed Pump Case Study

Amine Stripping Pump Case Study

Today’s Photo

A rainbow over rolling hills

Andrà Tutto Bene (Everything Will Be Alright)

Improve Your Wastewater Pump Reliability

Better shaft bearing materials lead to longer life


Vertically suspended pumps with separate discharge (API Type VS4, shown in Figure 1) are generally used for sump pumps or waste water pumps. These pumps are a frequent source of headaches. The shaft bushings wear out leading to chronic repairs. Even though these pumps are in a “utility” service, this is one of the most challenging services for vertical a pump shaft bearing material.

There are a few different reasons the shaft bearings on these pumps fail, depending on the process conditions. These pumps can be installed in a wide range of conditions, so we should start by defining the service.

Define the Service

The first step is to clarify “sump pump” or “wastewater pump”, which are generic terms encompassing a wide range of services which tend to use the VS4 pump type. Some services are pumping primarily chemicals or chemicals mixed with water, and some of them are pumping primarily water mixed with dirt. Some services are very dirty, others are quite clean. Another variable is that the shaft bearings are flushed with different arrangements. Some of them are flushed with the process fluid, others with clean water, and others are greased.

diagram of a typical waste water pump

Figure 1: Typical waste water pump configuration

Given the range of service conditions, there are several different problems which can cause the shaft bearings to fail. However, there are some commonalities. First, by design, the shaft bearings are along the column of the pump with a separate discharge for the process fluid. The bearings can run dry at start-up until the flushing fluid arrives. Sometimes, the external water flush is turned off; sometimes the flush lines from the process fluid are plugged; sometimes the grease supply is inadequate. In a chemical sump, the mix of chemicals can cause corrosion with metal wear parts. In very dirty sumps where the bearings are flushed with the process fluid, abrasive wear tends to be the main problem.

Based on your conditions, frequency of failures, and damage witnessed, we should be able to help identify the main issues in your service and help you dramatically improve pump reliability. We have helped plants extend the life of these pumps from a few months to several years.

The Road Map

Sump Type  Clean water flush  Greased Bearings  Product Flush
Process chemical sump
Water/dirt/chemicals        *

*In applications with a dirty water flush, a hard-coated sleeve under the shaft bearings is recommended.

Considering the above, we have created the following table to help you identify the type of service where your wastewater/sump pump is operating.


If you have waste water/ sump pumps failing at your plant, use the table above to identify your service type and contact Boulden today. We have bearing materials for these pumps which can run dry, resist abrasion, run with marginal lubrication, and resist all of the chemicals likely to be encountered. We have material in stock available for shipment almost anywhere in the world and we can help you with design and machining of the parts. Until next time, be safe and healthy.

Helpful Links:

Boulden B-Series Materials

Boulden Installation Guide for Vespel® CR-6100

Standard Stock Sizes of Vespel® CR-6100

Vespel® CR-6100 Product Data Sheet

Vespel® CR-6100 Machining Guide

2MW Boiler Feed Pump Case Study

Amine Stripping Pump Case Study

Today’s Photo

Hills in Black Forest Germany

Black Forest Germany


Comparing Pump Component Composite Materials

There is one material property that can tell you a lot about how a composite material is likely to perform in a pump: The coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE). If the value is too high, the material can deliver inconsistent results in challenging services.

Why CTE?
A low CTE is essential for reliable performance because components like wear ringsthrottle bushings, and vertical pump shaft bearings run with tight clearances. A low CTE allows the material to experience normal frictional heat generation during contacting conditions without significant deformation.

Conversely, it is difficult for a material with a high CTE to maintain a tight clearance. When exposed to normal frictional heat generation or higher temperatures, a high CTE can quickly cause the component to “grow” and close the clearance. When this happens, contact increases, frictional heat generation increases, and premature failure of the component can follow. This is likely what happened to the bushing in figure 1:

Failed vertical pump shaft bushing made from high CTE material

Figure 1: Failed vertical pump shaft bushing made from high CTE material

The difficulty from the user’s perspective is everyone selling materials for pumps claims that their material has a “low CTE.” What this often means is “low CTE relative to other plastics.”
How do you define low CTE?

At Boulden, we define “low CTE” to mean “equal to or lower than the CTE of the metal parts in the pump.” Common metals used to manufacture pumps are carbon steel, 400-series stainless, or 300-series stainless, so we want to be close to or below the CTE for these materials.

Boulden B-Series
Because we think CTE is so important, we developed our B-Series materials with this in mind. If you are currently using PEEK-based components, contact Boulden about upgrading to our B-Series materials. B-835 is our replacement for 30% carbon fiber filled PEEK; B-1050 is our replacement for “abrasive resistant” PEEK blends. B-920 is a non-PEEK proprietary blend, also for potentially dirty services.

CTE of composite materials

Material CTE (in/in/F) CTE (mm/mm/C)
Vespel CR-6100 3.1 5.6
B-920 3.5 6.3
B-1050 5.1 9.2
410 SS 5.5 9.9
Carbon Steel 6.0 10.8
B-835 8.7 15.7
316 SS 8.9 16
30% CF Filled PEEK 15 27



A low CTE is critically important to the performance of a composite wear part in a pump and one of the reasons Vespel® CR-6100 has proven so reliable over the past 20 years. Boulden-supplied materials also offer ease of machining, simple installation practices, and material availability. Boulden keeps the material you need in stock and can supply raw material or machined parts including our patented PERF-Seal® with rapid delivery.

If you want to make your pumps more reliable, easier to operate, safer, and more efficient, contact Boulden today. We can help you choose the best material for your application and provide detailed design assistance.

Mistakes to Avoid When Upgrading to Composite Pump Components

Upgrading your centrifugal pumps to composite wear parts is one of the easiest, fastest and most reliable ways to make your pumps better. While this upgrade is easy and reliable, there are a few pitfalls to avoid in order to ensure success.

The normal rule of thumb for upgrading to composite materials like Vespel® CR-6100 or Boulden B-Series is to reduce the clearance by 50% compared to API values for metal parts. This can increase pump efficiency and increase the Lomakin Effect in your pump, making the pump more reliable.

#1 Rotor Concentricity

However, reduced clearance requires that the pump be rebuilt to a good standard with a concentric rotor. Just because the Vespel® CR-6100 parts will not seize does not mean that the shop can do a sloppy job. The standard check used for metal parts–that the rotor must turn freely after assembly and coupling in the field still applies. Friction from rotor sag is acceptable, hard mechanical interference from poor alignment of internal parts is not.

#2 Clearance within Vertically Suspended Pumps

As mentioned in item #1, you can reduce the internal running clearance for wear rings. For vertically suspended pump shaft bushings, however, reducing the clearance doesn’t offer much benefit. There is generally no significant differential pressure across these parts. Therefore, reducing clearance at these parts will not increase pump efficiency or do much for rotor stability. If you reduce the clearance of these components too much, you will gain very little and make it very hard to keep the rotor concentric.

internal component parts

internal component parts

Download the Boulden Installation Guide and note the different tables for vertical and horizontal pump wear parts to avoid this issue

There are a lot of problems you can solve when you upgrade your pump to composite wear parts. You can help your pump survive dry running, avoid seizure, reduce cavitation, reduce vibration, help your seals last longer, and improve efficiency. In general, however, the composite materials used for wear parts are not the best choice for services that cause severe erosion of metal parts. The rule of thumb is that if standard metal parts do not show signs of abrasive erosion, you can consider composite materials.

vertically suspended pumps

vertically suspended pumps

#3 Expecting to Solve Abrasive Wear Problems

To put it in perspective, refined products, boiler feed water, chemicals, and utilities are a great place to use Vespel® CR-6100 and Boulden B-Series. For vertical pump shaft bearings in dirty service like wastewater and river water intake pumps, Boulden B-1050 is a good choice. If it is a true slurry service, composites are not the right choice.

Several times over the years skeptical customers have asked us: “We tried black plastic in our pumps 10 years ago. It didn’t work. What makes you think your material will be any different?”

#4 Using a Material with a High Coefficient of Thermal Expansion

Almost invariably, what we find is that the site had used a material with a high coefficient of thermal expansion. One of the reasons Vespel® CR-6100 has proven incredibly reliable is that the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) is about 60% lower than carbon steel. The earlier generation of composite materials on the market had CTE values around 3X higher than carbon steel. In practice, a high CTE will make problems in the pump worse–because the material will tend to “grow into” the rubbing or contact in the pump, reduce the clearance, and rapidly fail. Because Vespel® CR-6100 has a low CTE, it does not do this. It remains dimensionally stable until normal operation is resumed.

Boulden believes that CTE is so important, we developed our entire B-Series line of materials to have CTE values very close to or less than carbon steel.

In Conclusion

After 20 years and over 10,000 pumps upgraded with composite materials, problems have been few and far between. Using our experience in application and design, we want to be sure all of your upgrades are successful. We can supply raw material from our inventory, CAD drawings, and machined parts. Boulden has a huge inventory with the best lead times and service in the business. Contact us to upgrade your next pump today.

Today;s photo!

Yummy pie! Stay safe!

Yummy pie! Stay safe!