Differences Between Cutter Fan Agitators and Shaft-Connected Inducers

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I  was recently in a discussion with an engineer regarding the use of a cutter fan to supply agitation. I was very surprised to find that the engineer, although having some pump experience did not understand the difference between the title objects. Not only could this lead to backward rotation and subsequent damage to a pump but the lack of understanding would also lead to the implementation of ineffective dredging techniques. Therefore today’s blog is on Cutter Fan agitators and shaft-connected Inducers.

The Cutter Fan also known as an Agitator is connected to the main shaft of the pump. The first manufacturer to employ this type of agitation was Hevvy/Toyo Pumps on their heavy-duty submersible dredge pumps. Their patented design utilized a curved three-blade stirring attachment that was threaded onto the pump shaft just below the suction inlet.

The cutter fan or “agitator” as it is sometimes called is typically protected by a stand attached to the bottom of the pump. For added protection on the larger pumps, Toyo places a stub shaft in between the pump main shaft and the cutter fan. Operationally, all cutter fans redirect a portion of the fluid heading toward the pump suction and push or “fan” fluid away from the pump. The agitation provided by the cutter fan dislodges solids and re-suspends them into a slurry. As these solids are drawn toward the pump inlet some of the slurries is redirected by the cutter fan back down into the solids deposit providing a more effective form of agitation than a jet of purified water. This redirecting of slurry/solids continues in a cyclic fashion forming a “pocket” of high solids content slurry directly in front of the pump suction inlet. This of course maximizes the number of solids being pumped, an important feature for any dredge pump.

The Inducer, like the cutter fan, is attached to the main shaft. It can be located anywhere in front of the impeller. The optimum location is entirely application-dependent. Technically said, its normal function is to raise the inlet head by an amount sufficient to provide the NPSHR, thereby preventing significant cavitation in the pump. In short, it can help in applications where initial priming is difficult or the fluid just refuses to flow well into the pump.  Below is a picture of a style of inducer.

In Summary, cutter fans push product away from the pump to aid in agitation while inducers help draw product into the pump. If your new pump arrives with an item that looks like an inducer or maybe a cutter fan, do not guess as to which it is and use it to confirm correct rotation. Since they are both normally attached to the shaft by some form of thread, reverse rotation may result in components unscrewing during operation and some very expensive repairs. Pumps always have a rotational arrow. The cutter fan,  and sometimes the inducer, can be excellent items to watch when bumping for rotation as they are easily visible, but when wiring the pump observe the marked arrow to obtain correct rotation!!  Once you have set rotation you can now look at the blade/vane angles and it will be easy to determine whether the mystery item is a cutter fan or an inducer.

Bye for now!