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Making Waves

22/06/2015 | General

Pirtek is so renowned for its hydraulic services that customers often forget the myriad of other skills the company can offer. All of the centres can offer engineering and manufacturing services, but Pirtek Cambridge excelled itself recently, with a major manufacturing installation at Cambridge University.  

 Pirtek Cambridge has built a 7,600 litre water flume for the geography department, under some suitably testing circumstances.  

The new facility is used to study fluid dynamics, particularly the physical modelling of waves, their properties and their effects on coastal structures, offshore structures, sediment transport and other transport phenomena. 

The flume is much narrower than its length, and generated waves are almost two-dimensional in a vertical plane, meaning that the orbital flow velocity component in the direction perpendicular to the flume side wall, is much smaller than the other two components of the three-dimensional velocity vector. Flumes can generate periodic, random, solitary and group waves and extreme examples such as tsunami motions. 


The flume being constructed for Cambridge University has seven linked glass tanks and is able to pump 3,600 litres/minute through the unit from seven linked 1,700 litre aluminium storage tanks. Work on the project started when Pirtek Cambridge franchisee, Kevin Gabriel, was originally called in to help work on the hydraulic rams that tilt the structure. 

However, he advised the department that certain elements were incorrectly specified and other elements would simply not work.   Rather than start from scratch and re-specify the entire installation, Dr Steve Bordan, head of the Geography Department sought Kevin's advice on what was actually need to successfully rebuild the flume.  


In the end Pirtek Cambridge took over the project and built virtually every part of the new flume, including the aluminium tanks, the rams, all the piping and the power packs. The new flume encapsulates the existing 1970s superstructure, which was cut, expanded and re-welded to form the much wider new unit, which was described by Dr Bordan as “pretty unique, as the 600 mm wider tanks would overcome the previous problems of drag experienced in the old 300 mm tanks.” 

Pirtek also proved it had expertise in associated fields, pointing out that the power source designated to the flume wasn't adequate or safe to operate it.  As a consequence an electrician was brought on to site to rewire the flume and install a new phased cabling system. 


“The new flume will be invaluable as a teaching and research facility.   In particular it would greatly aid the study of river flooding, pollution control, seawall construction and storm surges.  It would also be used to study bed loads, gravel and sand movements, soil erosion and movement around 3D structures.  The flume can also be fitted with internal structures to simulate weirs,” says Dr Bordan.   “And the continual and variable flume pump will be able to simulate anything from a trickle, to a mountain torrent, and will be monitored by a 3D laser scanner.” 

But in a final touch of genius, Pirtek Cambridge couldn't use any of the access doors for the installation.   Instead, the entire structure was passed through a window, proving anything is possible to a determined MSST. 

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The health, wellbeing and safety of our customers, team and partners is of paramount importance to us - today and every day. We are doing everything in our power to protect and... MORE