Title:
Support plate for separate and independent tube bundles
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A support plate apparatus capable of separately supporting two or more independent tube bundles within a heat exchanger is described. The apparatus includes at least one bundle support plate and at least two tube bundles. Bundle support plates are separately disposed and substantially parallel. Each bundle support plate has at least two openings. Each opening along one the bundle support plate is dimensioned, located, and aligned in a complimentary arrangement with one opening along each remaining bundle support plates. Each tube bundle includes at least two grids each comprised of interlocking plates and a plurality of tubes. Each tube bundle is disposed within one complimentary arrangement of the openings. Each grid is disposed within and contacts one opening.



Inventors:
Williams, George J. (Doylestown, PA, US)
Application Number:
12/185289
Publication Date:
02/05/2009
Filing Date:
08/04/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F28F9/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
ACEVEDO TORRES, ALEXANDRO
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Ryder, Lu, Mazzeo & Konieczny, LLC (Plymouth Meeting, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A support plate apparatus comprising: at least two bundle support plates separately disposed and substantially parallel, each said bundle support plate has at least two openings, each said opening along one said bundle support plate dimensioned, located, and aligned in a complimentary arrangement with one said opening along each remaining said bundle support plates; and (b) at least two tube bundles, each said tube bundle including at least two grids each comprised of interlocking plates and a plurality of tubes, each said tube bundle disposed within one said complimentary arrangement of said openings, each said grid disposed within and contacting one said opening.

2. The support plate apparatus of claim 1, wherein said bundle support plates further comprising: (c) an L-shaped flange disposed about each said opening.

3. The support plate apparatus of claim 2, wherein said L-shaped flange completely surrounds each said opening.

4. The support plate apparatus of claim 2, wherein said L-shaped flange partially surrounds each said opening.

5. The support plate apparatus of claim 1, wherein said bundle support plates further comprising: (c) a T-shaped flange arrangement disposed about each said opening opposite of said flange.

6. The support plate apparatus of claim 5, wherein said T-shaped flange arrangement completely surrounds each said opening.

7. The support plate apparatus of claim 5, wherein said T-shaped flange arrangement partially surrounds each said opening.

8. The support plate apparatus of claim 1, wherein one said opening has a perimeter composed of linear sides.

9. The support plate apparatus of claim 1, wherein one said opening has a perimeter which is non-linear.

10. The support plate apparatus of claim 1, wherein said openings and said tube bundles are sized based on location along said bundle support plates to optimize cooling or heating performance.

11. The support plate apparatus of claim 1, wherein said openings and said tube bundles are shaped based on location along said bundle support plates to optimize cooling or heating performance.

12. The support plate apparatus of claim 1, wherein each said grid comprises: (i) at least two first plates; and (ii) at least two second plates, said first plates and said second plates interlocked so as to form a grid of depth-wise planar extent with at least one square-shaped opening, each said first plate and each said second plate having a plurality of u-shaped curvilinear nodules, at least one said u-shaped curvilinear nodule along each said first plate and along each said second plate extending into each said square-shaped opening so that each said square-shaped opening has at least four said u-shaped curvilinear nodules therein, each said u-shaped curvilinear nodule having a length that is less than one-half the depth of said grid so that at least two said u-shaped curvilinear nodules are aligned depthwise along said grid, oppositely disposed about said plate, and centered within said square-shaped opening, each said u-shaped curvilinear nodule having an opening there under which is no longer and no wider than said u-shaped curvilinear nodule so as to prevent fluid flow between adjacent said square-shaped openings, at least four said u-shaped curvilinear nodules contacting each said tube so as to be slidable and centrally positioned therein.

13. A support plate apparatus comprising: (a) one bundle support plate having at least two openings; and (b) at least two tube bundles, each said tube bundle including at least one grid comprised of interlocking plates and a plurality of tubes, each said tube bundle disposed within one said opening so that said grid contacts said opening.

14. The support plate apparatus of claim 13, wherein said bundle support plate further comprising: (c) an L-shaped flange disposed about each said opening.

15. The support plate apparatus of claim 14, wherein said L-shaped flange completely surrounds each said opening.

16. The support plate apparatus of claim 14, wherein said L-shaped flange partially surrounds each said opening.

17. The support plate apparatus of claim 13, wherein said bundle support plate further comprising: (c) a T-shaped flange arrangement disposed about each said opening opposite of said flange.

18. The support plate apparatus of claim 17, wherein said T-shaped flange arrangement completely surrounds each said opening.

19. The support plate apparatus of claim 17, wherein said T-shaped flange arrangement partially surrounds each said opening.

20. The support plate apparatus of claim 13, wherein one said opening has a perimeter composed of linear sides.

21. The support plate apparatus of claim 13, wherein one said opening has a perimeter which is non-linear.

22. The support plate apparatus of claim 13, wherein said openings and said tube bundles are sized based on location along said bundle support plates to optimize cooling or heating performance.

23. The support plate apparatus of claim 13, wherein said openings and said tube bundles are shaped based on location along said bundle support plates to optimize cooling or heating performance.

24. The support plate apparatus of claim 13, wherein each said grid comprises: (i) at least two first plates; and (ii) at least two second plates, said first plates and said second plates interlocked so as to form a grid of depth-wise planar extent with at least one square-shaped opening, each said first plate and each said second plate having a plurality of u-shaped curvilinear nodules, at least one said u-shaped curvilinear nodule along each said first plate and along each said second plate extending into each said square-shaped opening so that each said square-shaped opening has at least four said u-shaped curvilinear nodules therein, each said u-shaped curvilinear nodule having a length that is less than one-half the depth of said grid so that at least two said u-shaped curvilinear nodules are aligned depthwise along said grid, oppositely disposed about said plate, and centered within said square-shaped opening, each said u-shaped curvilinear nodule having an opening there under which is no longer and no wider than said u-shaped curvilinear nodule so as to prevent fluid flow between adjacent said square-shaped openings, at least four said u-shaped curvilinear nodules contacting each said tube so as to be slidable and centrally positioned therein.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is based upon and claims priority under 35 U.S.C. ยง119(e) from U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/963,000 filed Aug. 2, 2007, entitled Support Plate for Separate and Independent Tube Bundles, the contents of which are hereby incorporated in their entirety by reference thereto.

FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

None.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a support plate for use within heat exchangers allowing for the independent and separate support of two or more tube bundles. Specifically, the invention includes one or more separately disposed and parallel plates, each having openings there through with a flange disposed about each opening. Support structure about the tube bundle contacts the flange about each opening. Embodiments with two or more support plates have complimentary openings which surround and support a tube bundle.

2. Background

A tube bundle for a heat exchanger is typically supported by two or more tube support structures disposed along the bundle.

For example, FIG. 1 describes an exemplary tube bundle 16 composed of a plurality of closely spaced tubes 12 supported at opposite ends by a pair of tube sheets 10, 11. Tube sheets 10, 11 are plates, each having a plurality of holes therein. Each hole is dimensioned to allow a single tube 12 to be inserted there through without interference or binding. Tube sheets 10 and 11 are separately welded to the ends of a cylinder (not shown in FIG. 1) so as to form a leak proof shell with a single tube bundle 16 therein. Tubes 12 function as a conduit through which a primary fluid passes. A secondary fluid fills the interior volume of the shell and contacts the exterior of the tubes 12 so as to heat or cool the primary fluid, while avoiding mixture between the two fluids.

In another example, Williams et al., U.S. Pat. No. 7,028,765, describes and claims a tube support for use within a heat exchanger.

Referring now to FIGS. 2 and 3, the tube support 1 is composed of at least two first plates 2 and at least two second plates 3. First plates 2 and second plates 3 are interlocked in a perpendicular fashion so as to form one or more square -shaped openings 8. First plates 2 and second plates 3 may be mechanically fastened or spot welded to prevent their separation within a flow field.

Each first plate 2 has a plurality of slots 4, preferably equal to the number of second plates 3, partially traversing the width 18 thereof. Each second plate 3 has a plurality of slots 5, preferably equal to the number of first plates 2, partially traversing the width 18 thereof. A plurality of u-shaped nodules 9 are disposed across the length 19 and oriented in a paired arrangement along the width 18 of the each first plate 2 and each second plate 3. As such, the paired arrangement of u-shaped nodules 9 are disposed parallel to and equidistant from the slots 4 or 5 immediately adjacent thereto.

First plates 2 and second plates 3 are planar disposed elements, preferably rectangular shaped and uniform in thickness 20. The length 19 of the first plates 2 and second plates 3 is dependent on the number of tubes 7 within the bundle, the diameters of the tubes 7, and the cross section dimensions of the heat exchanger within which the tube support 1 resides.

Slots 4 and 5 are positioned at predefined congruent intervals along both first plates 2 and second plates 3, respectively. The slot width 21 is at least equal to the thickness 20 of the first plate 2 or second plate 3 to which it is joined so as to allow a width-wise contact and interlock. While various slot lengths 22 are possible, it is preferred for slot lengths 22 to be approximately one-half of the width 18 of the first plates 2 and second plates 3.

Referring again to FIG. 3, a plurality of tubes 7 are shown within an exemplary grid 17 of a tube support 1. The tube support 1 may be either unsecured within or fixed to the structure of a heat exchanger via methods understood in the art.

One or more tube supports 1 are typically used to hold and secure a plurality of tubes 7 within a single tube bundle. Tube supports 1 composed of interlocking plates, like those of Williams et al. and others, are well suited to tube bundles with a reasonable number of tubes 7; however, tube supports 1 composed of interlocking plates are unable to support the load associated with a large number of tubes 7, typically quantified as more than several thousand elements. Accordingly, tube supports 1 like those of Williams et al. deflect and distort when the size of a tube bundle exceeds several thousand tubes 7.

As is readily apparent from the discussions above, the related arts do not include a support structure for use within a heat exchanger to mitigate problems associated with bundles including a large number of tubes, while preserving the performance advantage of tube support structures like those taught by Williams et al.

Therefore, what is required is a support plate apparatus which allows for the separation of a tube bundle composed of a large number of tubes into two or more bundles with fewer tubes without compromising the integrity of a tube support structure composed of interlocking plates.

What is also required is a support plate apparatus which preserves the performance advantages associated with tube supports like those taught by Williams et al.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An object of the present invention is to provide a support plate apparatus which allows for the separation of a tube bundle composed of a large number of tubes into two or more bundles with fewer tubes without compromising the integrity of a tube support structure composed of interlocking plates.

Another object of the invention is to provide a support plate apparatus which preserves the performance advantages associated with tube supports like those taught by Williams et al.

In accordance with embodiments of the invention, the support plate apparatus includes at least one bundle support plate and at least two tube bundles. Bundle support plates are separately disposed and substantially parallel. Each bundle support plate has at least two openings. Each opening along one the bundle support plate is dimensioned, located, and aligned in a horizontally complimentary arrangement with one opening along each remaining bundle support plates. Each tube bundle includes at least two grids each comprised of interlocking plates and a plurality of tubes. Each tube bundle is disposed within one horizontally complimentary arrangement of two or more openings. Each grid is disposed within and contacts one opening.

In accordance with other embodiments of the invention, the support plate apparatus could include either L-shaped or T-shaped flanges which completely or partially traverse the perimeter of each opening.

In accordance with other embodiments of the invention, openings could include linear or non-linear shapes.

In accordance with yet other embodiments, openings and tube bundles could be sized based on their location along the bundle support plates so as to optimize cooling and heating performance of a heat exchange system.

In accordance with yet other embodiments, openings and tube bundles could be shaped based on their location along the bundle support plates so as to optimize cooling and heating performance of a heat exchange system.

Several advantages are offered by the described invention. The described invention avoids the deformation inherent to tube bundles including support structures composed of interlocking plates. The invention facilitates the use of tube supports, like those described by Williams et al, within heat exchangers requiring a large array of tubes. The invention facilitates a separation of tubes within an otherwise larger array so as to allow for the optimization of bundle size and location based on the performance characteristics of a heat exchanger.

REFERENCE NUMERALS
1Tube support
2First plate
3Second plate
4Slot
5Slot
7Tube
8Square-shaped opening
9U-shaped nodules
10Tubesheet
11Tubesheet
12Tube
16Tube bundle
17Grid
18Width
19Length
20Thickness
21Slot width
22Slot length
30Tube bundle
31Bundle support plate
32Tube
33Opening
34Flange
35Flange
36Perimeter
37Grid
38Opening
39Containment structure
40Support plate apparatus

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Additional aspects, features, and advantages of the invention will be understood and will become more readily apparent when the invention is considered in the light of the following description made in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a single tube bundle, for use with a heat exchanger, from the related arts including tube sheets with holes which hold and support a plurality of tubes.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a tube support device composed of interlocking plates for use within a heat exchanger from the related arts.

FIG. 3 is a front elevation view of another embodiment of the device from FIG. 2 showing a plurality of tubes supported within a plurality of square-shaped openings composed of interlocking plates.

FIG. 4 is a section view of a heat exchanger illustrating a plurality of separately disposed tube bundles contacting a pair of bundle support plates in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a section view illustrating a bundle support plate having nine hexagonal shaped openings with one bundle disposed within each opening so as to allow contact between each grid and the perimeter of each opening in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged section view illustrating an opening having a flange along one side of the bundle support plate which contacts the grid disposed about a tube bundle in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 7 is an enlarged section view illustrating an opening having a flange along both sides of the bundle support plate which contact the grid disposed about a tube bundle in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8 is a frontal elevation view illustrating a tube bundle disposed within an opening wherein the flange is disposed about the perimeter thereof in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 9 is a frontal elevation view illustrating a variety of opening shapes along a support plate which are progressively sized based upon location within the heat exchanger to optimize performance in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Reference will now be made in detail to several preferred embodiments of the invention that are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. Wherever possible, same or similar reference numerals are used in the drawings and the description to refer to the same or like parts or steps. The drawings are in simplified form and are not to precise scale.

Williams et al., U.S. Pat. No. 7,028,765 entitled Heat Exchanger Tube Support, is incorporate in its entirety by reference thereto.

Referring now to FIGS. 4 and 5, the present invention, referred to as a support plate apparatus 40, is shown within a containment structure 39 of a typical heat exchanger. The support plate apparatus 40 includes one or more bundle support plates 31, each having at least two openings 33 which support an equal number of tube bundles 30. Each tube bundle 30 is typically composed of a plurality of tubes 32 which are closely spaced and supported by one or more grids 37 disposed along and about the tubes 32. Grids 37 are further composed of interlocking plates, one example being the tube support of Williams et al. Tube bundles 30 in FIGS. 4 and 5 are for illustrative purposes only and therefore may include any number of tubes 32 including large arrays composed of thousands of tubes 32.

Bundle support plates 31 are composed of a planar or nearly planar shaped element, preferably a corrosion resistant metal. The perimeter of each bundle support plate 31 is preferred to substantially match the interior shape of the heat exchanger so as to facilitate contact therewith. Bundle support plates 31 may be welded or fastened to the interior surface of the containment structure 39 comprising a heat exchanger. Bundle support plates 31 are spaced along the length of a heat exchanger so as to contact and support the tube bundles 30 where the tube bundles 30 sag or otherwise distort because of weight loads. Bundle support plates 31 are likewise arranged in a substantially parallel fashion, preferably parallel.

Each opening 33 within each bundle support plates 31 may include a variety of shapes including linear sides and non-linear designs. For example, FIG. 5 shows linear sided hexagonal openings and FIG. 9 shows a non-linear design composed of a circle. Other shapes are possible.

Openings 33 are dimensioned so as to allow a single tube bundle 30 to be slidably disposed therein. Openings 33 between two or more bundle support plates 31 are located, dimensioned, and shaped so as to be complimentary and aligned along the length of the heat exchanger. As such, the size, location, and shape of openings 33 between two or more bundle support plates 31 are a mirror image of the other. Openings 33 are either molded into the bundle support plate 31 or cut therein via methods understood in the art.

Grids 37 along each tube bundle 30 should be positioned so as to ensure one grid 37 resides within each opening 33. The perimeter 36 along each opening 33 should completely or partially contact the periphery of the grid 37 therein. The outermost structure of a grid 37 may include a flange which acts as a positive stop when the tube bundle 30 is properly located within two or more bundle support plates 31.

Referring now to FIG. 6, an alternate embodiment of the bundle support plate 31 is shown including a flange 34 along one surface thereof. The flange 34 extends beyond the surface of the bundle support plate 31 in a L-shaped arrangement and may be either molded onto the bundle support plate 31 or welded or fastened thereto. The flange 34 is intended to provide greater surface contact area with the outer periphery of the grid 37, without increasing the thickness and weight of the bundle support plates 31, so as to reduce stresses imparted into the grid 37 when contacting the bundle support plate 31.

Referring now to FIG. 7, another alternate embodiment of the bundle support plate 31 is shown including a pair of flanges 35 disposed along both sides thereof. Flanges 35 extend beyond the surface of the bundle support plate 31 in a T-shaped arrangement and may be either molded onto the bundle support plate 31 or welded or fastened thereto. Flanges 35 are intended to provide greater surface contact area with the outer periphery of the grid 37, without increasing the thickness and weight of the bundle support plates 31, so as to reduce stresses imparted into the grid 37 when contacting the bundle support plate 31.

Flange 34 and flanges 35 described herein are typically composed of a planar or nearly planar shaped element, preferably a corrosion resistant metal.

Referring now to FIG. 8, a bundle support plate 31 is shown including a flange 34 or flanges 35 which completely surround the perimeter 36 of a hexagonal shaped opening 33. In this arrangement, the grid 37 is aligned with and contacts the flange 34 or flanges 35. In yet other embodiments, flange 34 or flanges 35 may partially traverse the perimeter 36 of the opening 36, preferably along the contact side of an opening 33.

Referring now to FIG. 9, another exemplary bundle support plate 31 is shown include a variety of non-limiting shapes, including rectangles, squares, and circles, for the openings 38. The shape and dimensions of each opening 38 is based upon the tube bundle 31 which resides therein. As such, larger tube bundles 31 and corresponding openings 38 may be located within the heat exchanger where heating or cooling efficiency is greater and smaller tube bundles 31 and corresponding openings 38 located wherein the performance efficiency is less. Furthermore, the shape of the tube bundles 31 and corresponding openings 38 may be optimized based on flow fields within the heat exchanger.

One or more bundle support plates 31 described above are positioned within a heat exchanger and either welded or mechanically fastened to the walls thereof. Thereafter, two or more tube bundles 31 are each assembled by sliding a plurality of tubes 32 into one or more grids 37 so that the tubes 32 are positioned in a parallel and closely packed arrangement. Thereafter, each tube bundle 30 is inserted into the heat exchanger so as to traverse the openings 33 within one or more bundle support plates 31. Each grid 37 along each tube bundle 30 should be properly aligned with and disposed within an opening 33 so as to contact the perimeter 36, flange 34, and/or flanges 35 thereof. In some embodiments, it may be advantageous to either mechanically fasten or weld grids 37 to the bundle support plates 31 after assembly. Tube bundles 30 may be separately removed for maintenance and replacement.

The description above indicates that a great degree of flexibility is offered in terms of the present invention. Although the present invention has been described in considerable detail with reference to certain preferred versions thereof, other versions are possible. Therefore, the spirit and scope of the appended claims should not be limited to the description of the preferred versions contained herein.