5-Axis Machining of a Waterpipe Turbine [VIDEO]

Lucid Energy’s mission is to turn gravity-fed water pipelines around the world into generators of clean, environmentally friendly energy.

The goal is for the LucidPipe Power System to be placed in pipes of water transmission networks, and generate electricity.

Chosen for our 5-axis machining skills, Sherpa Design and Applied CAx began work on machining the first turbines, called vanes, in the design.

We began with a scaled-down version of the turbine power generator. Each vane is going to be generating around 800 pounds of lift and spinning at 1500 RPM — all while avoiding any impact to water flow — so having a seamlessly machined vane is essential.



Utilizing NX CAM for fixturing and toolpaths, we designed a modular fixture system. We started by importing the Solidworks files seamlessly into NX. We used the existing files to build and design the modular fixture, so it will be able to hold future versions as well.

We decided to run the part in two setups, using our DMU50 from DMG MORI for both stages.

The first setup included an initial water jet cut, and was machined lying down on its side. In that setup we machined the mounting flanges, and not the vane surface

In the second setup we did the entire vane surfacing, using the flange mounts to bolt it to our fixture assembly. We machined the finished surface with various ball mills, using the .2RN for the surface roughness in order to produce a mirror-like sheen. 

Since any roughness can act as a drag on the water, we knew that a fine surface would boost the effectiveness of the vane. According to our machining director, Michael Grant, we achieved “probably one of the nicest finishes I’ve ever seen.”

“With the DMU we’ve had good luck achieving good finish,” he said. “It didn’t take any magic tricks. We used a small stepover with high feedrates.”

The final step was to CMM inspect all seven sections for verifying length accuracy. As we proceed through this project, there might be up to five different versions manufactured.

The point of the device is to maintain water flow without impacting water flow while producing energy, and our CMM helped us verify our goals. We look forward to working with Lucid Energy on future stages of their exciting project.

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Reach out to us about your project. We're engineers and we love to get into the details!

Reach out to us about your project. We're engineers and we love to get the details!

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