Tube Expanding and Economiser Headers

Just an update on progress with the boiler and other (interrupting) activities.

Tube Expanding

Nigel was good enough to make the trip north and assist with the tubing of the first boiler.

This was actually a simple, if repetitive, job.

Fitting the tubes

We firstly supported the three drums in the casing end plates, which were temporarily joined with lengths of timber. When fitting the tubes the game plan is to first locate the “centre” row of straight tubes, then fit the outer rows.

In practice there is not enough clearance to insert the first end of the tube with the drums in their correct orientation, so one firstly turns one of the drums in the casing to allow one end of each of the first row of tubes to be slid into this drum, and then the drum can be rotated back to its correct orientation and the free end of the tube inserted into the other drum.   (Hint: Insert them into the mud drum first, we actually started by inserting them into the steam drum first, but they fall out as you rotate this drum).

Once the straight tubes are in place then the outer rows can be inserted by inserting the tube into one drum and pushing it in as far as the first bend, this then provides the clearance to allow the  tub to be swung into place and then you can slide the free end back into the other drum.

Once the tubes are in place you can commence expanding (in fact we expanded the straight tubes into place before inserting the bent ones. Drilling all the holes with a 12.1mm drill actually worked well and provided just enough clearance to allow assembly – any tighter and it would have been a real struggle.

How much expansion?

Before expanding we did the maths on how much expansion was needed. The idea is that firstly you expand the tube to take up the slack between the tube and the hole (12mm OD, 12.15mm hole) so this was 0.15mm on diameter, then you expand the tube by 5% of its wall thickness. So given a wall thickness of 0.7mm this meant expanding the tubes a further 0.07mm. So the resulting ID of the tube was 10.82mm.  We did this by test expanding one tube in stages and checking the diameter, and when it was right we measured the free-length of the mandrel still showing. This proved to be about 20mm, so we then made a 20mm collar for the mandrel which stopped the expanding at the right point.

This worked very well, the load on the drill driving the expander could be heard to change as the expander reached the collar, thus making it simple to know when each tube was tight, without a lot of squinting down the drums. It’s really a two man job, as one needs to hold the tube so that the required 3mm+ of the tube is extended into the drum, while the other drives the expander and “contraption”. A video of the process in action:

We actually fitted about three-quarters of the tubes that we could reach from one end and then turned the boiler around and did the tubes at the other end. It might have been better to work from both ends, as by the time we had finished the mud drums had been pushed out sideways in the casing by about 1mm – no big issue, but information we will use when expanding the other boilers.

One other issue was that the “contraption” and expander proved too long to be assembled inside the smaller mud drums. We solved this by shortening the “chuck” on the “contraption” and by shortening and regrinding the square drive on the expander.

Here are some pictures showing the process. About 14hrs work to expand the tubes for one boiler.

Interruptions

The next part of the job was to turn up the ends for the drum, and also the economiser and superheater ends.

I decided to start with the economiser and superheater ends. Having first drilled another 12.1mm hole in the centre of the blanks for the inner headers (to take one of the super heater tubes), this was initially a simple turning job with the blanks held on a mandrel pre-turned in a 3-jaw chuck – this lead to Interruption 1, the clutch on the Harrison started slipping when confronted with the loads of highspeed turning with the insert tooling I was using. So an hour of so cleaning and refilling the parts washer followed by getting all the oil off  the clutch plates solved the problem.

Then we needed to cut 70mm diameter 12mm deep recesses in the centre of each part – I started by boring one of these, but it was slow work, so I decided to change over to milling these – here two more interruptions intervened in progress. Firstly the Mill started a rather worrying clicking noise from the gearbox – trying to ignore it didn’t seem to work, so I concluded I needed to strip it and investigate, as any major failure would be catastrophic as there very few parts available if anything broke.

Rambaudi Mill Gearbox Servicing

Rambaudi Mill Gearbox Servicing

This was simple to do, but hard on the nerves  – more parts washing, lots of inspecting and new grease restored the machine to full (quiet) operation. I think small bits of dirt and swarf had migrated into the gears and spindle bearings, and the cleaning sorted things.

 

Lastly, I spent a while trying to resharpen a bunch of broken and worn milling cutters with pretty limited success – so I bit-the-bullet and purchased some new cutters, including a 16mm “ripping” cutter designed to rough out at higher speed – a good choice.

Recess Milling and PCD drilling

I decided to mount the header blanks on a rotary table and then mill the 70mm recesses with the ripping cutter, then remount the blanks on the table with a stud through the centre hole, located between a set of stops to drill the 12 M8 tapping holes using the DRO’s PCD program – nice and simple and accurate. More pics.

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