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ReynoldsMather & Platt Ltd. Pumps Department

In 1873 Professor Osborne Reynolds had designed a turbine pump which was a definite advance in centrifugal pumping. Mather & Platt developed and improved upon the new invention and in doing so, laid the foundation for what eventually became a flourishing Pumps Department.

Click here to view a fine example of a renovated Mather & Platt steam pump which can be found at the Cambridge Museum of Technology, in England.

The story of pumps, even more than the story of textile machinery, illustrates the dependence of industry on progress in scientific research. The most important invention, however, did not come until 1875 when Professor Osborne Reynolds ' turbine was made for the engineering laboratory of the Owens College.

Reynolds' invention was the product of laboratory research and demonstrated his remarkable combination of gifts as an engineer and a mathematical physicist, but before his pump was produced by Mather & Platt Ltd. there was a considerable time lag. Mather & Platt exploited the Mather-Reynolds pumps in 1893 as a commercial proposition and developed a series of sizes for dealing with "duties" varying from 100 to 1600 gallons a minute against heads up to 180 feet. In 1900 Mather & Platt entered into an agreement with its Swiss rival Sulzer that both firms would manufacture the type of multistage turbine pump, embodying the several improvements worked out by Sulzers.

Electro-pump Mather & Platt Ltd.
(2.708 M3/H. 13 bars)
The new design was an attractive one, and a sharing of markets seemed a feasible commercial proposition, but Sulzers had at their disposal in Switzerland the high speed electric motors which enabled the pumps coupled to them to be supplied at low cost.

In 1904 the arrangement between the two firms to produce the same type of pump came to an end by mutual consent.

Mather & Platt Ltd. then continued to develop the hight-lift turbine pump based on the orignial Osborne-Reynolds design with all the eyes of the impellers facing the same way.The same year a hand-ajusted nedle valve was employed to produce the required balancing pressure. In 1912 an automatic disc balancing device was introduced. Before 1911 centrifugal pumps were manufactured in a departement known as "Engine Pump and Water Purification".

This article From the Crystal Palace to the Pump Room about pumps elicited this reply to the Editor of 'Mechanical Engineering" on line magazine (qv this link).

Pumping Higher
Robert W. Brown - Weir Pumps Ltd. Glasgow, Scotland

Working in the pump industry, I read the article "From the Crystal Palace to the Pump Room" (February) with interest. The article touched on many events in the history of centrifugal pump development. I particularly liked the inclusion of the drawing of the 1880 pump by Mather + Platt, a famous name in the United Kingdom, now incorporated into the company for which I work. I was taken aback, however, by the author's closing remark that "it is unlikely that the head from a centrifugal impeller pump will exceed 1,000 meters per stage any time soon," and feel I have to comment. Far from the 1,000 meter/stage pump being a future development, or figment of someone's imagination, it's already here and has been operating successfully in numerous U.K. power stations for over 25 years!

As touched on in the article, through the 1950s and '60s conventional multistage centrifugal pumps frequently suffered from problems associated with the flexible rotor designs typical of that era. Rapid wear rates and gland problems were common with an obvious adverse effect on reliability. In the late 1960s, a forward construction program of 660-MW-per-unit power stations was established by the U.K. Central Electricity Generating Board. A period of collaboration between the CEGB and pump makers led to the development of a new breed of centrifugal boiler feed pump, which could meet the challenges that had been defined.

The end result was a series of robust "advanced class" boiler feed pumps - two- or three-stage barrel casing machines operating at speeds of up to 8,000 rpm and rated to deliver feedwater against system pressures of typically 210-220 bar. Advanced class pumps have subsequently been installed in numerous power plants in the United Kingdom and overseas.