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What is Bumping Clearance

Bumping clearance as the name signifies is a clearance given so that the piston of the marine
reciprocating compressor would not bump into its cylinder head. In new compressors this
clearance is adjusted by the manufacturers and the marine engineers are blissfully unaware of its
importance. However the ship does not remain new for ever and every machine demands
overhauling and that is where the problems start. Due to short contract now days the marine
engineers normally miss this vital adjustment procedure during their training period and then
remain shy to ask through out their sea careers. In this article the art and the science of checking
and adjusting the bumping clearance has been explained. It is also beneficial for the junior
engineers preparing for their certificate of competency examinations.

How Bumping Clearance Changes over Time

The bumping clearance in a new machine is set properly by the manufacturers during
construction but over a period of time the clearance changes because of the following reasons:

1. Wear at the crankpin bearing. The crankpin bearing wears down due to use and this
clearance can travel right up to the piston and an unloaded piston can hit the cylinder
head. This type of wear can be recognized when the compressor makes impact sounds
running unloaded at the starting and stopping operations. This type of wear would also be
accompanied by a slow decrease in oil pressure over a period of time.
2. Opening up of cylinder heads. In certain types of reciprocating compressors the cylinder
head have to be removed for the changing of the first stage suction and discharge valves.
When the cylinder head is put back the correct thickness of the cylinder head gaskets
should be used otherwise it would change the bumping clearance.
3. Wear on the main bearings. Over all wear on the main bearings would lower the crank
shaft and would thus lower the piston and increase the bumping clearances.

These three are the main reasons for the changing of the bumping clearance.

Significance of Bumping Clearance

The bumping clearance is something which must be adjusted very properly otherwise the marine
engineer would lose both by decreasing and increasing it. If the bumping clearance is less and
the piston would hit the cylinder head and mechanical damage would occur to both of them.

On the other hand if to keep safe, the marine engineer thinks of giving a few millimeters of extra
clearance, the volumetric efficiency of the compressor would decrease and the compressor would
struggle to fill up the air bottle. In the case of excess bumping clearance when the compressor
reaches the TDC a small amount of air remains in the clearance volume which is re-expanded
and re-delivered thus lowering the volumetric efficiency. This would endanger your
maneuvering and an accident is waiting to happen.

How to Check Bumping Clearance

The bumping clearance can be checked by the following methods:

1. In case a suitable opening is available the piston can be barred to the top dead centre and
then feeler gauges can be put inside and the clearances checked at two three points.
2. The more convenient method is to take lead wire (every second engineers store would
have one in some corner) and make a small ball based on the expected clearance and put
it between the piston and the head from the valve opening. Then the piston is slowly
turned to the top dead centre with the help of a Tommy bar. After that the piston is again
turned down and the lead wire ball is extracted and the thickness measured with the help
of a micrometer. This measurement would give the bumping clearance.

The caution which must be observed in these methods is that the clearances of the main and the
crank pin bearing have not been taken into account. The correct method is thus that after turning
the piston to top dead centre the piston connecting rod must be jacked up with the help of a crow
bar. It is only after this hidden clearance has been accounted for, will the correct bumping
clearance be found.

How to Adjust the Bumping Clearance

The bumping clearance once found to be incorrect would have to be adjusted. The methods of
adjusting the bumping clearances are as follows:

1. The cylinder head gaskets can be changed to a different thickness thus altering the
bumping clearance.
2. The shims between the foot of the connecting rod and the bottom end bearing can be
changed thus changing the bumping clearance.

However after adjusting the bumping clearance the clearance should be checked once again to
make sure that there is no error.

The bumping clearance of a marine reciprocating compressor is thus a very important
maintenance point and all engineers must be familiar with it. It decides the volumetric efficiency
and the safety of the compressor. It is hoped that the brief discussion of the subject would guide
the new marine engineers about this aspect of the reciprocating compressors. It must be stressed
that compressors are dangerous machines and incorrectly maintained compressors have claimed
many a lives on ships. It is therefore imperative that the manufacturers instruction manual must
be referred and the above is just a rough guide line.
Read more: http://www.brighthub.com/engineering/marine/articles/66653.aspx#ixzz1RzrlFCWS

What is Clearance Volume or Bumping Clearance in Air

by Hiteshk 22 November 2010 2 Comments

Clearance volume or bumping clearance is the space between the top of the piston and the
cylinder head of an air compressor. This clearance is an important aspect of the compressors and
should be as less as practically possible to improve the volumetric efficiency of the compressor.
The clearance volume should not be too less or too more. Moreover, it affects the efficiency of
the machinery and thus should be checked at regular intervals of time.

Significance and Effects of Bumping Clearance

In an air compressor, when the discharge valve closes in the end of the compression cycle, a
small amount of high pressure air is trapped in the clearance volume.

Before again taking suction, the air trapped in the clearance volume must expand below the
suction pressure i.e. below the atmospheric pressure.

The expansion of this trapped air in the clearance volume causes effective loss of stroke due to
which the volumetric efficiency of compressor drops. Therefore, the clearance volume has a
significant effect on the efficiency of the compressor.
Effects Due to Less Clearance

Small clearance volume may result in piston banging or colliding to the cylinder head.
This is dangerous when the compressor when is running in unloaded condition without any
resistance to the movement of the piston.

Effects Due to Large Clearance

Large bumping clearance retards the formation of vacuum on the suction stroke and thus less air
is drawn inside for compression and accordingly the weight of the air delivered is reduced
proportional to the clearance volume.

Compressor has to run for a longer period to provide the necessary compression pressure.

Reasons for Change in Clearance Volume

During overhauls of the air compressor, if the gasket fitted between the cylinder head joints is of
the wrong type, then the bumping clearance will increase, resulting in wear down of bottom
bearings or wrong bearings are put in place.

How Bumping Clearance is checked?

Bumping clearance is checked by putting a lead ball or plastic gauges over the piston and then
turning the compressor one revolution by hand.

By doing this the lead ball will compress and the thickness obtained is the clearance volume.

This thickness is measured with vernier caliper or micrometer and is then compared with the
manufacturer’s value. Adjustments are made in case there is an offset in the value.
Adjustment of bumping clearance

Bumping clearance can be adjusted with the help of inserting shims (thin metallic plates) in the
bottom bearings. Inserting shims will move the connecting rod and the piston which will change
the clearance.

What should be the Bumping Clearance?

Generally bumping clearance depends on the manufacturer but as a thumb rule it should be
between 0.5% to 1% of the bore of the cylinder.

If you liked this article, you may also like to read Different parts of Marine air compressor

Image Credit


Manual of marine air compressor by Tanabe

Related posts:

1. Troubleshooting Air Compressors on a Ship: The Ultimate Guide

2. Different Parts of a Marine Air Compressor Used on a Ship
3. Air Compressor on a Ship: Checks for Starting and Stopping a Compressor
4. Efficiency of Air Compressor and Uses of Compressed Air on a Ship
5. Safety Features and Maintenance Procedure for Air Compressor on a Ship

Tags: air compressor, bumping clearance, clearance vloume, Clearance Volume, compressor