The TurboCore platform Series: TurboGenerator

The Dynamo TurboCore was developed to expedite the deployment of our flagship product, an electric power solution for powering artificial lift systems in the Oilfield—we will be piloting it this summer. Based on this product we will be able to show our partners how to design and develop their own systems around the TurboCore. Simultaneously we will be releasing our 1500 Series Turbocore, which as the name implies, is a scaled up version of the 700 series and is capable of producing over 2x the power.

TurboCore System Diagram

TurboCore System Diagram

A turbogenerator, as the name implies, is a turbine that produces electric power. The Turbogenerator is created by taking the baseline gas generator and bolting on several components. Hot pressurized air coming out of the TurboCore is converted into mechanical work through a second turbine, called the power turbine. This turbine is attached to a shaft which drives a generator. With the 1500 series TurboCore, the shaft power output for this basic turbo-generator is approximately 15kW.

Gas generators have a few key characteristics that drive their performance. One that is important here is the load line. The load line relates engine speed (RPMs) to engine pressure and airflow—and ultimately total power output. As fuel is added to the engine RPMs increases as does total power. Eventually the gas generator will reach peak power. The factors that limit fuel input and power output for a particular set of hardware include shaft speed limit, temperature limits, and compressor stall limits The limiting factor in any particular situation depends on the full system design and the expected operating environment.

Adding a power turbine is tricky business. Just as turbocharging a traditional car engine changes how it behaves, adding a power turbine requires significant design considerations. This is because adding a power turbine adds flow restriction and back pressure to the gas generator. The increase in backpressure results in a shift in the operating line of the gas generator—ultimately impacting the gas turbine system performance and total available power.

1500 Series TC Operating Line

1500 Series TC Operating Line

When designing a gas turbine there are a lot of considerations to be made, from optimizing blade shape to optimizing the critical parameters of the gas generator for different applications. At Dynamo we’ve created a suite of tools to help us analyze gas turbine system behavior and find proper match between compressors and turbines to get the desired performance and operating characteristics. An example of how the operating line is impacted by a power turbine is shown in the figure to the left, and represents one of the more complex analyses.

These sets of tools allows Dynamo to quickly evaluate different applications and use cases for the TurboCore, including the implementation of several independent loads and their effect on system performance.  Using these tools, the Dynamo development team has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to rapidly develop solutions around the TurboCore, with design to prototype validation times under nine months.

The TurboCore platform Series: TurboCore Platform

Over the past few months the Dynamo Team has been working on deploying our first generation TurboCore 700, a turbine engine platform for the next generation of remote power products.  Our platform is designed for three things: reliability, flexibility, and modularity.  There are several ways to interface with our platform, from our software & controls API to interfacing with the physical hardware of our product—and we’ll be working to make this as seamless for designers as possible.

The reason we are doing this is simple.  With all of the resources and talent of the world at our disposal, we know that there are experts out there who know far more about their customers’ needs than we will, and we want to empower them to leverage our product.  Every week we get a request for adapting our hardware for specific application, including water desalination, flameless heat, & residential combined heat and power.  While we wish we could tackle all these problems, we can’t.  As turbine experts, we can teach you to push the envelope of imagination with our products.

At Dynamo we are working on developing a world class turbine platform. We are focusing our in-house design efforts on a unique generator solution built around this technology; we also provide these components as kits for our development partners.  But at the core of the platform is our gas generator—it’s the heart of the engine that drives the performance & flexibility of the unit.  The gas generator is designed to run across a broad range of environmental conditions, with a wide range of fuels, and to do so reliably for thousands of hours—allowing end users the freedom to employ the turbine when and where they need it.  The turbomachinery is interchangeable, allowing us to provide different gas generators sized for specific applications, at a cost that is comparable to traditional reciprocating engines found in the market today.

P1020090-BThe gas generator alone only produces hot, pressurized air, and additional components are needed to put it to work—such as the addition of heat exchangers, generator, auxiliary turbines.  We do these ourselves in building our generator product.  To facilitate the mechanical design, we offer a Hardware Development Kit, which contains everything from CAD models, drawings, specs, and reference designs for products we have worked on.

Adding components to an engine will affect its performance, and we realize that it may be difficult for those without a turbo-machinery background to understand the effects.  To make it easier to work with the TurboCore platform, we offer training and certification programs that teach you how to integrate this unique engine in a variety of products.  In some respects, providing this information is a double edged sword.  We are describing to potential competitors how we engineer and build our products, and we are giving away a wealth of applications we could build ourselves, but we taking on this risk both get our technology to those who need it and to motivate ourselves to continue to provide higher performance & more innovative turbines.

Beyond the hardware platform, we also offer a software platform and API, which allows end users to interface directly with our control system.  We build the control system to ensure that the engine can be started and operated reliably and safely; this is no trivial task, considering the broad range of fuels we expect to use, and the broad range of environments we will have to operate in.  However, our goal is to also provide end users with the ability to configure and operate the device as they see fit.  We are still working on making this system more robust, and anticipate releasing an API in a year.

This is our brief plan on getting TurboCores into as many hands as possible, and we are hoping those of you who have the will and the imagination can work with us to bring this game changing technology to the marketplace.  To demonstrate this approach, the next post will describe a reference design we put together over the summer for a customer.

The TurboCore platform Series: Building a successful platform

Building a platform technology is more than just declaring it as such.  Products do not exist as platforms for the sake of being a platform, but must have some intrinsic value, which can be built upon and ultimately enable new and superior products and services.  Platforms must also have clear points of stability and vicissitude.  Lastly, platforms must have clear processes for enabling collaboration between different parts of the ecosystem—be it internal manufacturing teams, or application developers that clearly articulates how to best leverage a platforms strengths.

The purpose of developing a platform, as indicated in the last post, is predicated on either reducing cost or building value within an ecosystem.  Regardless, the underlying product itself must have some native value, which can be leveraged and grown.  In the previous post vehicle chassis were a strong example because they were the foundation for both cost reduction and were valuable in providing the structure which ultimately housed the vehicles built from them.  In the Apple example, the mobile hardware is the platform, on top of which new applications could be built that uniquely leveraged mobility.  A platform with a unique value proposition fosters a strong ecosystem—tautologically, a strong platform begets itself.

Because the platform is really a foundation for everything that is built on top of it, there must be features of the platform which are immutable, delivering a core set of values.   This can range from the physical footprint (think x86 chipset platform) to how it is used (think Facebook).  There must also features that can be modified or tweaked in a controllable manner to allow users of the platform to adapt it to their own needs.  Often times these modifications exist beyond the physical (or digital) product produced by the source company.  In the example of vehicle chassis, variations include physical pieces of equipment added to create the final product, from the engine and drive train installed on the chassis, to the trim on the interior.  This alludes to early channels for platform technology, namely the OEM. OEMs take core pieces of hardware, like CPUs or Engine, and build a variety of products around them, such as Servers and PCs or trucks and generators—however the interface between the core technology and the whole products are the same.  The customer ultimately derives value from consuming the whole product for their specific needs, but the platform is what provides the foundational value for those end products, be it computational power or horse power.

The last key is defining how the platform interacts with the ecosystem around them.  It should be clear that the interface itself sits and dictates the boundaries of what is core to the technology, and what is mutable.  In software this can be as simple as providing an API or SDK; hardware standards are more complex, with physical properties that must be taken into account.  Regardless, these interfaces define the strength and flexibility of a platform.  If the interface is poorly defined or does not allow partners to leverage the underlying technology, the platform will wither.  Part of understanding the interface is understanding how to communicate it to ecosystem partners; depending on the complexity of the underlying platform, a simple API may be sufficient, but more sophisticated systems may require training, education, and joint technology development.  Partners themselves may need to be qualified or their products screened before being released to the world.  Building a robust process for defining that interface is an exercise in trust between the technology provider and the ecosystem, and is an integral part of building a world class platform.