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A twin-screw rotor profile design and

computational fluid dynamic simulation

X. He*1, C. Pan 1, M. Wu 1, X. Ji 1 and R. Zhang 2
There are increasing demands for more efficient screw compressor design method which could
overcome the problems of rotor profile modification and compressor performance test
establishment. As a result, non-uniform rational B-spline curves and computational fluid dynamics
theory were introduced as a new method of twin-screw compressor rotor profile design. In this
paper, unilateral asymmetric combined cycloid with pin gear arc rotor profile was put as the research
object to develop a new rotor profile. Non-uniform rational B-spline curves, which are easy to be
modified, are applied to the new rotor profile design. The twin-screw compressor flow field simulation
models of both the new and the original one are created. The pressure and velocity distribution law
of the twin-screw compressor under the operating speed are explored with the FLUENT software.
The simulation results provide the basis for further optimisation of the new rotor profile design.
Keywords: Computational fluid dynamics, Freeform curves, Design, Rotor profile

Introduction asymmetric combined cycloid with pin gear arc is put

as the research object to acquire a new rotor profile.
The twin-screw compressor is a positive displacement Under the screw rotor meshing principle, the rotor
rotary machine. Screw compressor rotors of a series profile is established by NURBS curves. The parametric
profile could be conveniently manufactured with small equations of rotor profiles are deduced. The numerical
clearance at an efficient cost. Screw compressors are simulation method and computational fluid dynamics
compact, efficient and reliable. Consequently, they are theory are applied to improve the design efficiency of
widely used in industrial application as well as refriger- twin-screw rotor profile. The pressure, velocity distri-
ation systems.1 bution of twin-screw compressor is described under the
Rotor profile is the most important part of twin-screw working speed 3000 rev min−1.8 Based on the analysis
compressor performance. There are many rotor profile results, the advantages of the novel design are verified,
design methods. Stosic et al.2 presented an optimisation and new plans for further optimisation are explored.
method for screw compressor. He et al.3 proposed a posi-
tive and reverse design method of screw rotor profiles
with freeform curves. Wu and Fong4 proposed an arbi-
trary sealing line method for screw compressor rotor Twin-screw compressor design
profile design. For the development of computational Coordinates system foundation
fluid dynamics theory, numerical simulation is more As shown in Fig. 1, the female and male rotor profiles are
and more widespread in the design of the screw compres- divided into nine segments, respectively. Female or male
sor profile. Wen et al. 5 designed a twin-screw kneader rotor profile of twin-screw compressor on each segment is
based on numerical simulation technology. Shi et al. 6 predefined. Then, in the process of rotor profile design,
founded an analysis model of twin-screw compressor the other rotor profile that meshed with the predefined
rotor, and provided a theoretical basis of profile design one is deduced based on the conversion relationship of
and optimisation. the coordinate systems and meshing principles of twin-
Non-uniform rational B-spline curve is a kind of screw compressor. Redesign or optimisation operations
B-spline curves. It could be adjusted through changes of of the predefined rotor profiles could be made through
control points or modification of parametric equation redefining the curves of the corresponding segments.
weights.7 In this paper, rotor profile of unilateral A0 is distance between the rotor axes; O1, O2 is rotation
axis of rotors; R1, R2 is radii of rotor pitches; Y2O2O2,
Y1O1O1 is static coordinate systems; O3 is intersection
Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Advanced Food Manufacturing Equipment and
Technology, B307, School of Mechanical Engineering, Jiangnan University, point of the pitch circles; O2 × 2y2, O1 × 1y1 is moving
Lihu Road No. 1800, Wuxi, Jiangsu Province 214122, China coordinate systems; O4, O5 are centres of arc B2C2 and
School of Science, Jiangnan University, Wuxi 214122, China H2I2; R is radii of arc C1D1E1, C2D2E2; β1 , β2 is
*Corresponding author, email hxuem2003@163.com radians of point C1,2 and point E1,2 centred on O3;

© W. S. Maney & Son Ltd 2015

Received 19 June 2014; accepted 20 July 2014
DOI 10.1179/1432891715Z.0000000001879 Materials Research Innovations 2015 VOL 19 SUPPL 8 S8-721
He et al. A twin-screw rotor profile design and computational fluid dynamic simulation method

where f (t, φ1 ) is the conditional equation of envelopes. In

this way, the whole rotor profiles of twin-screw compres-
sor could be obtained.

Non-uniform rational B-spline curve estimation

The non-uniform rational B-spline (NURBS) curve is
known as one of the most common freeform curves.
Their expressions are given as follows

P(t) = Qi Li,n (t) (3)

Vi Bi,n (t)
Li,n (t) = n i = 1, 2, . . . , nm − 1 (4)
j=0 Vj B j,n (t)
1 Coordinate system
Bi,n (t) represent rational basis functions, Qi are the
φ1 , φ2 is rotation angles; ω2 , ω1 is rotation velocities; control points, m is the number of power, Vi are weight
θ1 , θ2 is radians of point C and point H centred on O2. factors of the parametric equation. NURBS curves
could be modified through changing either control
points or weight factors. Twin-screw compressor rotor
Meshing principle profile is mostly constructed by the multiple curves, and
Here is a predefined segment of the female rotor profile, many modifications are needed before a good perform-
and the parametric equations is as follows ance screw rotor profile to be acquired. For these
reasons, NURBS curves are applied to establish rotor
 profile so as to shortening profile design time.
x2 = x2 (t)
tb ≤ t ≤ t e (1)
y2 = y2 (t)

where t is a parameter in tooth profile equation, tb and te

are the left limit and right limit, respectively. According to The female and male rotor profiles are divided into nine
the coordinate system in Fig. 1, if the male rotor is fixed segments, respectively, as shown in Fig. 1. On the basis
and the transmission relations remain unchanged, it is of the practical requirements, NURBS curves and other
easy to know that the female rotor moves around the freeform curves are used to design or optimise the
male rotor at the angular velocity of −ω1 , and its rotation female rotor profile. Then, the male rotor profile is
speed is −ω2. As a result, a series of curves are generated. deduced by the equations of the female rotor profile
The envelope tangent to these curves is the conjugate and meshing principle. Because of the freeform curves
curve of predefined female rotor tooth profile. The conju- such as NURBS curves are involved in rotor profile
gate curves of the predefined female rotor profiles are the design, the twin-screw compressor rotor profile could be
corresponding male rotor tooth profiles based on the changed through adjusting either weight factors or
meshing principle of twin-screw rotors. Finally, the para- control points efficiently.
metric equations of the corresponding segment in the
male rotor profile could be acquired as follows:
Optimised rotor profiles
⎧ The rotor profile of unilateral asymmetric combined
⎪ x1 = x1 (t, φ1 )

⎨ cycloid with pin gear arc is shown in Fig. 2a. There is a
y1 = y1 (t, φ1 )
(2) long contact line and sealed volume on the profile,

⎪ ∂x ∂y ∂x ∂y
⎩ f (t, φ1 ) = 1 1 − 1 1 = 0 which caused loudly operating noise, air leakage and
∂t ∂φ1 ∂φ1 ∂t low working efficiency in practical applications.

2 a The rotor profile of unilateral asymmetric combined cycloid with pin gear arc. b The new designed rotor profile

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He et al. A twin-screw rotor profile design and computational fluid dynamic simulation method

Table 1 Comparison of the rotor profiles

Female rotor Male rotor

Segments Origin New Segments Origin New

A2B2 Arc Arc A1B1 Cycloid Arc

B2C2 Line Arc B1C1 Arc envelope
C2D2 Arc Arc C1D1 Arc
D2E2 D1E1
E2F2 Cycloid NURBS curve E1F1 Cycloid NURBS curve envelope
F2G2 F1G1
G2H2 Line G1H1
H2I2 None Arc H1I1 Line Cycloid

Freeform curves such as NURBS curves are introduced, curves. The equations are expressed as follows
and the newly designed rotor profile is shown in Fig. 2b.
Comparing Fig. 2a with Fig. 2b, it is easy to see the fol- Bi,3 (t)Wi Vi
lowing: (1) the straight lines are replaced by circular arcs C(t) = i=1
n (7)
i=1 Bi,3 (t)Wi
in segments B2C2, H2I2. A smooth mesh between the
male and female profiles is achieved; moreover, the Vi are the control points of the NURBS curves, Wi are
effects of working stress concentration are suppressed the weight factors, Bi,3 (t) are the basis functions of three
on screw rotors through this design. (2) The combination B-spline equations which are defined by the vectors of
of the NURBS curves and their envelopes are used control points Vi , h is the number of control points.
instead of the combination of a point and cycloid in seg- Point H2 is a fixed point in the female rotor tooth
ments E1H1, E2H2. As a result, the seal volume of the profile. Since Point H1 is coincided with point H2, the
original profile is eliminated, and the diffusion of gas is parametric equations of cycloid H1I1 could be written
reduced. (3) Points H1,2 are moved some distance as equation (8): λ is the distance between a point of the
towards the upper left of their original position to cycloid H1I1 and the male rotor axis O1. e = 0.625%; A0 .
prevent the starting point H1 of cycloid H1I1 from being
worn heavily. But the height of the highest point is ⎧
⎪ x1 = A0 cos φ1 − (R2 − e) cos (θ2 − kφ1 )
brought down on meshing line, which makes the relative ⎪

⎨ y2 = A0 sin φ1 + (R2 − e) sin (θ2 − kφ1 )
leakage triangle expanded. (4) The interdental volume is   (8)
amplified by expanding the radius of arcs C1E1, C2E2. ⎪
⎪ 1 (R2 − e)2 + A2 − λ2

⎩ φ1 = u θ2 − arccos
All the new designs are listed in Table 1. 2A0 (R2 − e)

Parametric equations of the optimised profile

Numerical simulation
The female rotor tooth profile is an arc centred on point
O4 on segment B2C2. The arc parametric equation is The working flow of twin-screw compressor is air, and its
expressed as follows characteristics were studied mainly by using the analytic
method, numerical calculations.9 However, owing to the
 complexity of twin-screw compressor flow path, the ana-
x2 = x4 + r4 cos t
t4 B ≤ t ≤ t 4 c (5) lytic method requires a huge workload, and the analytic
y2 = y4 + r4 sin t results are usually error-prone. In this paper, the air
flow is calculated by numerical simulation method with
where x4 , y4 are the coordinate values of O4 in static appropriate professional workstations that installed cor-
coordinate system Y2O2O3, r4 is the radius of arc B2C2. responding software to save costs as well as to improve
t4B is the left limit of the parametric equation. Since design efficiency. Through this way, some difficult pro-
the normal direction of arc B2C2 endpoint C2 and the blems of experimental operation even could be solved.
female rotor velocity are in the same direction, the
values of t4B could be deduced. For the tangential direc-
tion of arc B2C2 endpoint B2 and the female rotor velocity Numerical models
are in the same direction, the values of the right limit t4c The air flow of twin-screw compressor is Newtonian flow,
could be obtained. The tooth profile equations on which could be calculated by the k − ε model. In con-
segment B1C1 are as follows sideration of the specific twin-screw compressor air con-
ditions and the airflow characteristics, these following

⎪ x1 = x4 cos kφ1 − y4 sin kφ1 − r4 cos (kφ1 − t) + A0 cos φ1 assumptions are made: (1) air flow is stable, isothermal,

⎨ y = −x sin kφ + y cos kφ + r sin (kφ − t) + A sin φ
1 4 4 4 isotropic. (2) The air flow is considered as a kind of tur-
1 1 1
0 1
bulent flows, since the Reynolds number of the air flow

⎪ 1 k
⎩ φ1 = arcsin (y4 cos t − x4 sin t) + t is large. (3) Effects of inertia and gravity are ignored.
u A0
(4) There is no effect of lubricating oil on the nature of
(6) the air flow. (5) Air leaking outside of the compressor is
ignored during the compression process. (6) The compres-
Teeth profiles E1H1, E2H2 are established by NURBS sor working cycle is theoretical. Ultimately, the air flow

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He et al. A twin-screw rotor profile design and computational fluid dynamic simulation method

3 a Three-dimensional model. b Meshing generation results

numerical model could be given as follows corresponding screw rotor three-dimensional model
could be obtained. The flow models are exported to
r2 Gambit in STP file format, and the contact surfaces of
μt = ρCμ (9) these models are defined as interfaces. Finally, they are
classified into unstructured tetrahedral meshes by
where μt is turbulent viscosity; ρ is gas density; Cμ is dynamic mesh method, which is shown in Fig. 3b. The
empirical constant; r, ε is turbulent kinetic energy; turbu- grid quantity of the air flow models is listed in Table 2.
lent dissipate rate.
The air flow could be written as follows
Dynamic simulation results
∂(ρui r) ∂(ρr) ∂ The distribution of pressure and velocity
+ = Gr + Gb − ρε − YM + Sr (10) The twin-screw compressor flow numerical simulation is
∂xi ∂t ∂xj
analysed by the professional fluid analysis software
FLUENT after setting the operating speed

∂(ρui ε) ∂(ρε) ∂ μt ∂ε ε 3000 rev min−1 and other relevant parameters. The
+ = μ+ + C1ε (Gr dynamic pressure simulation results of the original and
∂xi ∂t ∂xj σ ε ∂xj r
new air flow fields are shown in Fig. 4. The pressure of
ε2 the twin-screw compressor flow is gradually increased
+ C3ε Gb ) − C2ε ρ + Sε (11)
r from the intake port to exhaust port, which is obvious
to be noted in Fig. 4. The pressure is low in intake port,
where but the pressure of the exhaust port is high. The downside
⎧   pressure of the meshing line is higher than the upside

⎪ ∂ui ∂uj ∂ui pressure significantly, which matches the practical distri-

⎪ Gr = μt +

⎨ ∂xj ∂xi ∂xj bution of the compressor flow pressure. According to
μ ∂T 1 ∂ρ . (12) Fig. 4, the pressure of the intake port is −0.0922 MPa

⎪ Gb = βgi t , β=−

⎪ Prt ∂xi ρ ∂T on the original air flow field, whereas the new flow

⎩  √ field’s pressure is −0.0907 MPa; the highest pressure of
YM = 2ρεMt2 , Mt = r/a2 , a = λRT
original exhaust port is 0.707 MPa on original air flow,
the pressure of new flow field is 0.767 MPa. The
Gr is turbulent kinetic energy related to the gradient of
maximum differential pressure of the original flow is
mean speed; Gb is turbulent kinetic energy related to the
0.7992 MPa, the maximum differential pressure of the
buoyancy of air; YM is influence coefficient of the total
new flow field is 0.8577 MPa. As described above, the
dissipation rate related to the pulsation of compressible
pressure distribution of the novel profile air flow field is
turbulence; C1ε , C2ε , C3ε is empirical constants. Prt is
optimised: the intake pressure improved by 1.6%, the
turbulent Prandtl number; σ ε , σ r are Prandtl numbers
highest exhaust pressure improved by 8.5% and the
of turbulent dissipation rate and turbulent kinetic
maximum differential pressure improved by 7.3%.
energy; gi is component of gravity acceleration in the
As shown in Fig. 5, the location of high velocity is the
direction of i; Mt , β, a is turbulent Mach number,
leakage triangle where the air is leaked from the high-
thermal expansion coefficient, sound speed.
pressure area to the low-pressure area. It is obvious to
The physical parameters of air in a standard atmos-
see that the maximum leaking velocity of the original
pheric pressure at 20°C are as follows: the density of air
flow is 725 m s−1, whereas the velocity of new flow field
is ρ = 1.29 kg m−3; kinetic viscosity is 17.9 × 10−6 Pa s−1;
is 768 m s−1. Compared with the original flow field, the
thermal conductivity is 2547 W m K; specific heat capacity
is 1005 J (kg−1 K−1). Since the flow is assumed isothermal,
the energy equations are not given. Table 2 Grid quantity of the air flow models

Model Inner cavity Intake port Exhaust port

Three-dimensional models
As shown in Fig. 3, the profiles of female and male rotor Original flow 1 120 256 575 732 44 059
Designed flow 1 570 613 685 502 66 281
are spiralled up about their rotation axes, and

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He et al. A twin-screw rotor profile design and computational fluid dynamic simulation method

4 a Original flow at meshing section. b New flow at meshing section

5 a Velocity vector of the original flow field. b Velocity vector of the new flow field

leaking velocity is increased by 5.6%. For the phenom- basis of the simulation results. Ultimately, a prototype
enon of backflow is exhibited in the exhaust port,10 the of the twin-screw compressor rotor profile would be pro-
displacement of intake flow field is put as the displace- duced and a confirmatory experiment is to be made to
ment of the compressor. The displacement of the original verify performance of the rotor profile. Apart from all
compressor flow field is 15.5 m−3 min−1, and the new the above, it could be seen that this new design method
one’s is 16.1 m−3 min−1, which is increased by 3.9%. could overcome the inconvenience in traditional rotor
profile design or optimisation process such as the compli-
Further optimisation cated modification in rotor profile, shortage of funds and
The maximum differential pressure of newly designed flow time in the compressor performance experiments, pro-
is increased obviously based on the dynamic simulation blems in data collection and analysis.
analysis results. It forebodes a certain rationality of the
novel rotor profile compared with the original profile.
However, the slight increase of the compressor displace-
ment is mainly because points H1,2 are moved some dis- In this paper, the rotor profiles are established by free-
tance towards the upper left of their original position. As form curves (non-uniform rational B-spline curves) to
a result, the leakage triangle is expanded. And the obtain a smooth mesh of the rotors, and the optimisations
further growth of compressor displacement is affected. of rotor profiles could be made by motions of the control
Further improvement of the newly designed twin-screw points or changes of weight factors of the curves easily.
compressor rotor profile is still needed. Freeform curves When compared the simulation results of the new
such as NURBS curves could be applied to replace the profile with the original profile, it is easy to be noted
cycloid and the arcs in segment H1I1. Segments E1H1, that the maximum differential pressure of the new com-
E2H2 would be extended outward some distance to pressor flow field is increased significantly, which indi-
achieve a smooth mesh of female and male tooth profiles. cates a certain rationality of the redesigned profile.
The radius of arc H2I2 would be increased and points H1,2 In the twin-screw rotor profile design process,
are extended towards the upper right of their original pos- Computational Fluid Dynamics theories and freeform
ition. The above optimisations could be achieved by mod- curves are applied. On the basis of the numerical simu-
ifying control points of curves or weight factors of the lation results, freeform curves are applied to optimise
parametric equations. Then, a new numerical model the rotor profile until a novel good performance profile
would be built to simulate the compression process of is obtained. With this method, physical experiments are
compressor. The rotor profile would be adjusted until a decreased as few as possible to realise the advantages of
good performance rotor profile to be obtained on the cost, reliability and agility.

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He et al. A twin-screw rotor profile design and computational fluid dynamic simulation method

Acknowledgements 4. Y.-R. Wu and Z.-H. Fong: ‘Improved rotor profiling based on the
arbitrary sealing line for twin-screw compressors’, Mech. Mach.
This project is funded by National Science Foundation of Theory, 2008, 43, (6), 695–711.
China (51275210), (51105175); Industry-University- 5. J. Wen, X. Sun, W. Sun and G. Zhang: ‘Rotor profiles design method
and numerical simulation for twin-screw kneader’, Chinese J. Mech.
Research Foundation of Jiangsu Province (BY2013015- Eng., 2013, 49, (3), 63–73 (in Chinese).
30); and Six-Major-Talent-Summit Project of Jiangsu 6. W. Shi, X. Yu and J. Li: ‘Finite element modal analysis of double
Province, China (2013-ZBZZ-016). screw compressor rotor’, Compressor Technol., 2012, 4, 7–9 (in
7. J. Chen and H. Cui: ‘Shape modification of NURBS curves based on
weight’, J. Naval Univ. Eng., 2012, 24, (4), 108–112 (in Chinese).
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