Title:
Boiler assembly alignment tool apparatus and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A boiler assembly alignment tool can include a base and a plurality of projections attached to the base. The projections can be configured to align two or more flue sections of a boiler subassembly. The cross section of the projections can be configured in a shape that complements or matches the configuration of one or more corresponding sets of convective fins on the boiler flue sections, such that when a flue section is placed on the alignment tool the flue section is brought into a unique alignment with the alignment tool. Thus, multiple flue sections placed onto the alignment tool are brought into a proper alignment with one another to facilitate assembly of the boiler subassembly. In addition, a method or process for assembling a boiler subassembly can include placing two or more flue sections onto an alignment tool and fastening the flue sections to each other.



Inventors:
Moskwa, Kenneth R. (Valparaiso, IN, US)
Application Number:
11/117500
Publication Date:
11/02/2006
Filing Date:
04/29/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F22B1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WALTERS, RYAN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BakerHostetler (Washington, DC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A boiler assembly alignment tool, comprising: a base; and a first projection attached to the base, the first projection being configured to substantially align a plurality of flue sections.

2. The alignment tool of claim 1, wherein each of the flue sections includes a sealing interface and an attachment interface, and the sealing interfaces and the attachment interfaces of the flue sections are substantially aligned when the flue sections are substantially aligned.

3. The alignment tool of claim 1, wherein each of the flue sections includes a corresponding set of convective fins, and the first projection is configured to pass between the sets of convective fins when the flue sections are properly aligned for assembly and not to pass between the sets of convective fins when the flue sections are not properly aligned for assembly, so as to substantially align the flue sections when the flue sections are placed on the alignment tool.

4. The alignment tool of claim 3, wherein a cross section of the first projection is configured to have a clearance of one-tenth of an inch or less with one or more of the convective fins when the first projection extends between the convective fins.

5. The alignment tool of claim 3, wherein a cross section of the first projection is configured to engage one or more of the convective fins when the first projection extends between the convective fins.

6. The alignment tool of claim 1, further comprising one or more additional projections configured to substantially align the plurality of flue sections.

7. The alignment tool of claim 1, wherein the base is configured to support and stabilize the alignment tool and the plurality of flue sections when placed on the first projection.

8. A boiler assembly alignment tool, comprising: means for aligning a plurality of corresponding sets of convective fins on a plurality of flue sections; and means for supporting and stabilizing the means for aligning.

9. A method of assembling a boiler, comprising the steps of: placing a first end flue section on an alignment tool that includes a projection configured to substantially align a plurality of flue sections; and placing a second end flue section on the alignment tool such that the second end flue section is substantially aligned with the first end flue section.

10. The method of claim 9, wherein an attachment interface on the second end flue section is substantially aligned with a corresponding attachment interface on the first end flue section when the second end and first end flue sections are placed on the alignment tool.

11. The method of claim 9, further comprising the step of fastening the second end flue section to the first end flue section.

12. The method of claim 9, further comprising the step of placing an intermediate flue section on the alignment tool such that the intermediate flue section is aligned with the first end flue section.

13. The method of claim 12, further comprising the step of fastening the intermediate flue section to the first end flue section.

14. The method of claim 12, further comprising the step of fastening the second end flue section to the intermediate flue section.

15. The method of claim 9, further comprising the step of placing a plurality of intermediate flue sections on the alignment tool such that each of the intermediate flue sections is aligned with the first end flue section and with the previously placed intermediate flue sections.

16. The method of claim 15, further comprising the step of fastening one of the intermediate flue sections to another of the intermediate flue sections.

17. The method of claim 9, wherein a sealing interface on each of the flue sections is substantially aligned with a corresponding sealing interface on an adjacent flue section when the flue sections are placed on the alignment tool.

18. The method of claim 9, wherein the step of placing a first end flue section on the alignment tool further includes orienting a first end set of convective fins on the first end flue section with respect to the projection such that the projection passes between the convective fins, and the step of placing a second end flue section on the alignment tool further includes orienting a second set of convective fins on the second end flue section with respect to the projection such that the projection passes between the convective fins.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the step of placing a first end flue section on the alignment tool further includes orienting the first end set of convective fins with respect to the projection such that the first end set of convective fins has a first clearance with a cross section of the projection, and the step of placing a second end flue section on the alignment tool further includes orienting the second set of convective fins with respect to the projection such that the second set of convective fins has a second clearance with the cross section of the projection.

20. The method of claim 9, further comprising the steps of: orienting the first end flue section with respect to the alignment tool such that the projection is able to pass between a first set of convective fins on the first end flue section when the first end flue section is placed on the alignment tool; and orienting the second end flue section with respect to the alignment tool such that the projection is able to pass between a second set of convective fins on the second end flue section when the second end flue section is placed on the alignment tool.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to fuel-burning combustion devices. More particularly, the invention relates to a method and apparatus for aligning and assembling boiler flue sections.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Domestic boilers are used to generate hot water, which may be used to flow through a circuit to provide heating to a facility such as a home or office building. The hot water also may be stored in a hot water tank and used for hot water needs such as running a dishwasher, showers and other domestic hot water uses.

Fuel-burning boilers commonly include a fuel-burning combustion device, or burner, to provide a source of heat to heat liquid water or steam. The burner may supply a hot gas mixture, which can be routed through a series of flue passageways. A boiler may further include two or more flue sections designed to transfer heat by way of convection from the hot gas mixture to liquid water or steam. The flue sections typically can include one or more connected flue passageways through which the hot gas mixture can flow.

In some boilers, the hot gas mixture can be routed through a sequence of flue passageways, each of which can be comprised of a series of flue passageway segments in a series of flue sections. Additionally, the hot gas mixture can be routed in different directions through the flue passageways—for example, the hot gas mixture can be routed in one direction through a first flue passageway, and then in the opposite direction through a second flue passageway that runs parallel to the first, and so on, through a sequence of multiple flue passageways in the flue sections.

Generally, the flue sections of a boiler also include water passageways that are separated from the flue passageways by a solid wall, for example produced from cast iron. The water passageways in the individual flue sections can be interconnected in order to permit liquid water or steam in the water passageways to flow between the flue sections, as well. Furthermore, the flue passageways can include a series of convective fins attached to or formed from the solid wall and configured to extend into the flow stream of the hot gas mixture in order to transfer heat to the fins and subsequently to the liquid water or steam on the opposite side of the wall in the water passageways. Thus, the alignment between the convective fins in the flue passageway segments of adjacent flue sections can significantly affect the efficiency of the hot gas mixture flow.

For this reason, some boiler flue sections can be configured to align with each other. In addition, alignment can be necessary in order to install baffles between some flue passageway segments. Moreover, alignment of adjacent flue sections can be important not only to align the convective fins in the flue passageway segments, but also to ensure alignment of complementary sealing surfaces between adjacent flue sections and any attachment interfaces on the flue sections. Therefore, during boiler assembly the flue sections generally must be properly aligned and fastened to each other, for example, using bolts, screws, rivets, or the like. However, aligning the flue sections during production can be tedious and time consuming.

Accordingly, it is desirable to provide a method and apparatus for properly aligning the flue sections during assembly that is efficient and requires only minimal effort.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The foregoing needs are met, to a great extent, by the present invention, wherein in one aspect a method and apparatus are provided that in some embodiments efficiently align individual flue sections with each other by aligning a set of convective fins on the flue sections, such that sealing surfaces and attachment interfaces on the flue sections become properly aligned, in order to facilitate assembly of a boiler, including fastening the flue sections together.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a boiler assembly alignment tool can include a base and a first projection attached to the base. In addition, the first projection can be configured to substantially align a plurality of flue sections.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, a boiler flue assembly alignment tool can include means for aligning a plurality of corresponding sets of convective fins on a plurality of flue sections, and means for supporting and stabilizing the means for aligning.

In accordance with yet another aspect of the present invention, a method of assembling a boiler can include the steps of placing a first end flue section on an alignment tool that includes a projection configured to substantially align a plurality of flue sections, and placing a second end flue section on the alignment tool, such that the second end flue section is substantially aligned with the first end flue section.

There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, certain embodiments of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof herein may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are, of course, additional embodiments of the invention that will be described below and which will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto.

In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of embodiments in addition to those described and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein, as well as the abstract, are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception upon which this disclosure is based may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view illustrating a boiler assembly alignment tool according to a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view illustrating the boiler assembly alignment tool of FIG. 1 and the proper alignment of three boiler flue sections.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view illustrating the boiler assembly alignment tool of FIG. 1 with three flue sections aligned and fastened together on the tool.

FIG. 4 illustrates a cross-sectional view of a projection with a rectangular cross section taken along the 4-4 cross section indicated in FIG. 1 and a corresponding set of convective fins.

FIG. 5 illustrates a cross-sectional view of a projection with a cross section including opposed tooth-like protrusions taken along the 4-4 cross section indicated in FIG. 1 and a corresponding set of convective fins.

FIG. 6 illustrates a cross-sectional view of a projection with a cross section including offset tooth-like protrusions taken along the 4-4 cross section indicated in FIG. 1 and a corresponding set of convective fins.

FIG. 7 illustrates across-sectional view of projections with around cross section taken along the 4-4 cross section indicated in FIG. 1 and a corresponding set of convective fins.

FIG. 8 illustrates a cross-sectional view of a projection with an undulated cross section taken along the 4-4 cross section indicated in FIG. 1 and a corresponding set of convective fins.

FIG. 9 is a flowchart illustrating steps that may be followed in accordance with one embodiment of the method or process.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

An embodiment in accordance with the present invention can provide a boiler assembly alignment tool, including a base and one or more projections attached to the base that are configured to align the flue sections of a boiler subassembly. The base can be configured to support and stabilize the projections along with an assembly of flue sections placed onto the projections. The projections can include a cross-sectional shape configured to engage or have a minimal clearance with one or more convective fins on the flue sections. The alignment tool has the advantage that the flue sections are brought into close alignment with each other as the flue sections are placed onto the projections, facilitating efficient boiler assembly, including fastening of the flue sections to one another. The invention will now be described with reference to the drawing figures in which like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout.

An embodiment of the present inventive apparatus and method is illustrated in FIG. 1, which shows a representative boiler assembly alignment tool 10. The boiler assembly alignment tool 10 can include one or more projections 14 such as slats or columns that are configured to engage or have a minimal clearance with one or more convective fins on a boiler flue section. The individual projections 14 can have different or unique lengths, widths, thicknesses and cross sections in order to complement or mate with different sets of convective fins. Although the embodiment shown in FIG. 1 includes two projections, alternative embodiments can include a single projection, three projections, four projections, or more than four projections, as desired to align a particular configuration of convective fins on a boiler flue section.

FIG. 2 illustrates a boiler assembly alignment tool 10 in conjunction with three representative flue sections 20: a first end flue section 22, an intermediate flue section 24 and a second end flue section 26. Nevertheless, various embodiments of the alignment tool 10 can accommodate any number or combination of flue sections, including multiple intermediate flue sections or not including an intermediate flue section. For example, a preferred embodiment is configured to accommodate two intermediate flue sections, in addition to a first end flue section and a second end flue section.

The alignment tool 10 can be configured to fit between or to engage, or mesh with, corresponding sets of convective fins 28 on each of the flue sections 20. That is, the projections 14 may not contact the convective fins 28, but pass within a relatively small distance of the convective fins 28; or the projections 14 may be in actual contact with the convective fins 28, possibly including an interference fit. For example, each of the alignment tool projections 14 can pass between corresponding sets of convective fins 28 around the periphery of a series of flue passageway segments 29 that comprise a flue passageway in the flue sections 20. The sets of convective fins 28 can be configured to facilitate heat exchange between a hot gas mixture flowing through the flue passageway segments 29 and liquid water or steam in the flue sections 20. In some embodiments of the invention, water circulates through the flue sections 20 via water passageways 30.

Thus, for example, when a flue section 20 is placed on the alignment tool 10, the projections 14 can pass through the flue passageways 29 between the convective fins 28, leaving a minimal clearance—for example, one-tenth of an inch or less—between the projections 14 and the convective fins 28 on each side and at the ends of the cross sections of the individual projections 14 where the projections 14 pass between the convective fins 28, as shown in FIG. 2. The projections 14 can be configured such that the projections 14 are able to pass between the convective fins 28 when the convective fins 28 (and thus the flue section 20) have a unique orientation with respect to the alignment tool 10. Otherwise, if the convective fins 28 (and thus the flue section 20) are not properly aligned with the alignment tool 10, the projections 14 can be unable to pass between the convective fins 28. Thus, for example, as each of the flue sections 20 is placed onto the alignment tool 10, the flue sections can be automatically brought into a desired alignment with each other.

As further illustrated in FIG. 2, the flue sections can include a flue gas sealing surface, or interface, or more than one sealing surface, such as the representative flue gas sealing interfaces 32 on the first end flue section 22, on the intermediate flue section 24, and on the second end flue section 26. Thus, as each of the flue sections 22, 24, 26 are brought into alignment by the alignment tool 10, the flue gas sealing interfaces 32 can be brought into proper alignment with complementary, or mating, sealing surfaces on the respective adjacent flue sections to ensure proper sealing of the flue passageway segments 29 between the flue sections 20. As an example, the sealing interface on an upper face of one flue section—for example, the upper face 34 of the first end flue section 22—can contact a complementary sealing surface on the lower face of an adjacent flue section—for example, the lower face 36 of the intermediate flue section 24. Proper sealing between the flue sections 20 has the advantage that the hot gases passing through the flue passageway segments 29 cannot escape from the flue sections 20, but rather can be contained within the boiler assembly.

Likewise, the flue sections can include one or more water passageway sealing surfaces, or interfaces, such as the representative waterway sealing interfaces 38 on the first end flue section 22, on the intermediate flue section 24, and on the second end flue section 26. Thus, as each of the flue sections 22, 24, 26 are brought into alignment by the alignment tool 10, the waterway sealing interfaces 38 can be brought into proper alignment with complementary sealing surfaces on the respective adjacent flue sections to ensure proper sealing of the water passageways 30 between the flue sections 20. Proper sealing between the flue sections 20 has the advantage that the liquid water or steam passing through the water passageways 30 cannot escape from the flue sections 20, but rather can be contained within the boiler assembly.

In addition, the flue sections 20 can include one or more attachment, or fastener, interfaces, such as the representative ear-shaped attachment interfaces 40 on the first end flue section 22 and on the second end flue section 26. For example, in a preferred embodiment of the inventive apparatus, the flue sections 20 can include attachment interfaces 40 on the first end flue section 22 and on the second end flue section 26, but not on an intermediate flue section 24. In this case, the intermediate flue section 24 can be sandwiched between the first end flue section 22 and the second end flue section 26 and held firmly in place without requiring attachment fastener interfaces on the intermediate flue section 24. However, in an alternative embodiment an intermediate flue section 24 can also include attachment interfaces 40, which may interface with complementary attachment interfaces 40 on the first end flue section 22, the second end flue section 26, or another intermediate flue section 24.

When a flue section 20 is placed upon the alignment tool 10, the attachment interfaces 40 are automatically brought into alignment with those on other flue sections 20 as the projections 14 on the alignment tool 10 pass between the convective fins 28 of the corresponding flue section 20. As a result, when a flue section 20 has been placed upon the alignment tool 10, the attachment interfaces 40 on the first end flue section 22, the second end flue section 26, and any intermediate flue section 24 are brought into alignment with each other in order to facilitate fastening of the flue sections 20 to one another. The alignment tool 10 thus has the advantage that the individual flue sections 20, such as the first end flue section 22, the second end flue section 26 and one or more intermediate flue sections 24, are quickly and efficiently brought into proper alignment for assembly, as shown in FIG. 2.

In addition, alignment of the flue sections 20 and the convective fins 28 can be useful in subsequent assembly processes. For example, some boilers can include baffle elements that partially fill a gap between the convective fins 28 of one or more flue passageways 29. In this case, the baffle elements may be installed in the flue passageways 29 after the flue sections 20 have been fastened together. Thus, the alignment tool can have the additional advantage that the convective fins 28 of the flue passageways 29 can be adequately aligned when fastened together in order to permit subsequent installation of the baffles.

FIG. 3 illustrates a representative boiler subassembly 44—including a first end flue section 22, an intermediate flue section 24 and a second end flue section 26—that has been placed upon the alignment tool 10, causing the individual flue sections 20 to automatically align with each other, and then has been fastened together using fasteners 46, such as draw rods, bolts, screws, rivets, pins, or the like. For example, a preferred embodiment includes four draw rods with threads at both ends that are fastened at each end using a threaded nut. Although the embodiment shown in FIG. 3 includes fasteners 46, other embodiments can include any suitable attachment device or method compatible with the boiler subassembly 44 and the alignment tool 10, for example, clamping mechanisms. Generally, throughout the assembly process the flue sections 20, or boiler subassembly 44, can rest upon the alignment tool base 12, which can be configured to support and stabilize the alignment tool 10 with the flue sections 20 or a boiler subassembly 44 installed on the alignment tool 10.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the base 12 is configured to stand or rest freely upon a horizontal surface, such as a floor of a manufacturing facility or a work bench. In this embodiment, the projections 14 can stand upright in a vertical orientation upon the base 12, which can be oriented in a generally horizontal orientation. Thus, the base 12 must extend in all directions beyond the aggregate center of gravity of the alignment tool 10 with a boiler subassembly 44, such that the aggregate center of gravity of the alignment tool 10 and the boiler subassembly 44 falls within the borders of the edges of the base 12 with sufficient margin to ensure that the alignment tool 10 will stably rest with a boiler subassembly 44 installed. However, in an alternate embodiment, the alignment tool base 12 can be anchored to a floor or other stable, or rigid, horizontal surface. In yet another alternative embodiment, the base 12 can be anchored to a wall, or other vertical or non-horizontal surface, such that the projections 14 extend outwardly from the base 12 in a horizontal or other than vertical orientation.

Furthermore, in various embodiments, one or more of the projections 14 of the alignment tool 10 can include a unique cross section that complements or matches the configuration of a set of convective fins 28 located in the flue passageways 29 of a flue section 20 (see FIG. 2). For example, an embodiment of the alignment tool can include one or more projections 14 with a rectangular cross section, such as the representative rectangular cross section 48 shown in FIG. 4, which can be configured to fit with a minimal clearance between the convective fins 28. The width and the thickness of the rectangular cross section 48 can be designed to fit within the area between the convective fins 28 along the full length or a partial length of a set of convective fins, such as the representative set 50 shown in FIG. 4.

In some embodiments of the invention, the alignment tool 10 can include projections 14 with the representative cross section 52 shown in FIG. 5, which can include tooth-like protrusions 54 configured to fit between the individual convective fins 28 so as to engage or have a minimal clearance with the representative set of convective fins 56. In such an embodiment, the tooth-like protrusions 54 can be directly opposed on each side of the cross section 52, as shown in FIG. 5. However, in an alternative embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 6 the tooth-like protrusions 54 can be offset from each other on the two sides of the cross section 58 in order to match a set of offset convective fins 60.

As shown in FIG. 7, another embodiment of the invention can include projections 14 with a round, or substantially round, cross section 62. In this embodiment, multiple projections 14 can be used to align a single set of convective fins 64. In yet another alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 8, the projections 14 can include a cross section 66 that includes a scalloped, or undulated, surface 68 configured to mate with a set of convective fins 70. Nevertheless, additional embodiments can include projections 14 of any suitable cross section that matches or complements the configuration of the convective fins 28 of a flue section 20 (see FIG. 2) in order to automatically align the flue section 20.

Moreover, an embodiment of the invention can include a process or method for assembling a boiler subassembly, such as that illustrated in FIG. 9. The process starts in step 72, and in step 74 a first end flue section can be placed onto an alignment tool such that one or more projections of the alignment tool pass between one or more sets of convective fins on the first end flue section. As described above, the cross section of the projections can be configured to match or complement the configuration of the convective fins so that the projections engage or mesh with the convective fins and effectively bring the first end flue section into a unique alignment with the alignment tool. The process then continues in step 76.

In step 76, an intermediate flue section can be placed on the alignment tool such that the projections pass between one or more sets of convective fins on the intermediate flue section. Once again, as described above the cross section of the projections can be configured to match or complement the configuration of the convective fins on the flue section. Thus, as the intermediate flue section is placed onto the alignment tool, the projections engage or mesh with the convective fins in such a way that the intermediate flue section can be aligned with the alignment tool and the first end flue section. In this way, the intermediate flue section and the first end flue section can be properly aligned for assembly.

For example, as described above, the intermediate flue section and the first end flue section can include mating sealing surfaces or matching attachment interfaces that can be brought within acceptable alignment tolerances by the alignment tool. Alternative embodiments can include placing additional intermediate flue sections on the alignment tool such that the projections pass between one or more corresponding sets of convective fins on each of the intermediate flue sections. The process continues in step 78.

In step 78, a second end flue section is placed onto the alignment tool in an orientation that allows the projections to pass between one or more sets of convective fins on the second end flue section. The cross section of the projections can be configured to complement or match the configuration of the convective fins on the second end flue section so that the projections can engage or mesh with the convective fins in order to bring the second end flue section into a particular alignment with the alignment tool 10. In this way the second end flue section can be properly aligned with the first end flue section and with the intermediate flue section to facilitate assembly of a boiler subassembly consisting of these three flue sections. For example, as explained above, the second end flue section and the intermediate flue section can include mating sealing surfaces or matching attachment interfaces that can be brought within acceptable alignment tolerances by the alignment tool. The process then continues in step 80.

In step 80, fasteners can be installed into attachment interfaces on the second end flue section and on the first end flue section, which can be aligned by the alignment tool. As described above, the fasteners can include any suitable attachment device, such as bolts, screws, rivets, or the like. In the embodiment of FIG. 3, the intermediate flue section does not include an attachment interface, because, as explained above, the intermediate flue section is compressed, or sandwiched, between the second end and first end flue sections, which firmly hold the intermediate flue section in place.

Nevertheless, in an alternative embodiment, the intermediate flue section can include one or more attachment interfaces, as is also described above. In this case, the intermediate flue section can be fastened to the second end flue section, to the first end flue section, or to both the second end and first end flue sections. Yet another alternative embodiment includes multiple intermediate flue sections, which also may not include attachment interfaces, or can include one or more attachment interfaces and can be fastened to the second end or first end flue sections, or to each other. The process then stops in step 82.

A preferred embodiment of the method or process of FIG. 9 can include placement of the first end flue section on the alignment tool first, and placement of the second end flue section on the alignment tool last. However, in an alternative embodiment the second end flue section can be inverted and placed on the alignment tool first, and the first end flue section can be inverted and placed on the alignment tool last, effectively reversing the order of installation of the flue sections. Similarly, although the process or method of FIG. 9 can include the placement of an intermediate flue section on the alignment tool, an alternative embodiment can omit the step of placing an intermediate flue section on the alignment tool and include only placement of a second end flue section and a first end flue section on the alignment tool.

The many features and advantages of the invention are apparent from the detailed specification, and thus, it is intended by the appended claims to cover all such features and advantages of the invention which fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and variations will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation illustrated and described, and accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to, falling within the scope of the invention.