The nation’s largest manufacturer of custom designed pumps for the construction industry has improved its frame and fuel tank design with assistance from SATOP.

Thompson Pump & Manufacturing, located in Port Orange, Fla., is a 34-year-old company with nearly 300 employees nationwide and annual revenue of nearly $40 million. The company manufactures portable diesel driven pumps for use at construction sites. Clients include industries such as underground utility, road building, heavy construction and remediation, as well as mining, industrial, and agricultural operations, municipalities, the military and other government agencies.

“Because we custom design each pumpset we build for a client, we are creating a new, customized product every week,” said Dale Conway, Thompson Pump vice president of engineering. “That is an ambitious schedule, but it is in keeping with our aggressive plan
for company growth.”

Thompson Pump’s enterprising engineering staff devised a new idea for a combination mounting base/fuel tank for portable diesel-driven pumpsets. Called the modular frame, the new design would allow the addition of components in the field without altering the base pumpset. “The benefit to our customers will be that they would be able to purchase upgrades to their pumps, rather than sending them into the factory for major alterations,” Conway explained.

The challenge Thompson Pump faced was to design the modular frame to allow multiple pump and engine combinations to be mounted on the same frame, while providing adequate strength, reduced weight, economic viability and aesthetic appeal.

Bill Thompson, Thompson Pump president, heard about SATOP and suggested that Conway contact SATOP for help in evaluating the company’s design and to look for ways to reduce cost and increase strength and reliability. SATOP provides free engineering assistance to small businesses with technical challenges through donations of time and expertise from 49 Space Alliance Partners throughout the country.

SATOP’s Senior Program Engineer, Chris Gilfriche, brought in Alliance Partner Design By Analysis, Inc. (DBA), in New Britain, Conn., to address the Thompson Pump Request for Technical Assistance (RTA). DBA has worked on such NASA projects as the NASA/JPL Deep Space One Probe, the Launch Vehicle Adapter (LVA), and the Cassini Space Satellite, and is a particularly active SATOP Alliance Partner.

James R. Jones, DBA senior analytical engineer, volunteered to work on the RTA. He performed numerous stress analyses on both the existing fuel tank and the proposed design. With those results, he provided Thompson Pump with a set of recommended modifications that should reduce both material and fabrications cost.

Based on the evaluation and recommendations made by SATOP, Thompson Pump incorporated several new design changes into the modular frame production model. Included in the improvements were refinement of the lifting points of the frame and changes to the type and location of the load carrying crossmembers. The company has added the modular frame concept to more than 30 percent of its product line, with plans to add the concept to the entire product line by 2008.

Conway said that Thompson Pump would like to utilize SATOP in the future to investigate the possibility of making the modular frame into a double-wall containment fuel tank.

“We were very impressed with the professionalism, technical competence and speed of the assistance we received from SATOP and DBA,” Conway said. “SATOP is a valuable tool for small businesses like ours that have limited engineering staffing and computer software.”