The prediction of the aeromechanical behavior of low-pressure blades represents one of the main challenges in the Steam Turbine Industry. The evaluation of forced response and damping is critical for the reliability of new designs and usually requires expensive validation campaigns such as Wheel Box Tests (WBT).

A WBT consists of one or more blade rows assembled on a rotor and spun at the desired rotating speed in a vacuum cell, with synchronous excitation provided by various sources. The WBT provides accurate information about the blade modes frequency, the alternating response level, and allows the evaluation of the mechanical damping.

Given the large effort in terms of costs and time associated to the experimental activity, the possibility to rely on the output of a numerical code either during the first steps of a new design or to investigate the effect of minor changes to a current design would be extremely beneficial to the development of future products.

In order to compute the non-linear forced response of shrouded blades of steam turbines, custom numerical solvers must be developed, since commercial finite element (FE) solvers do not perform this kind of analysis in the frequency domain.

In this paper, the forced response of a blade with shrouds of a low pressure steam turbine is computed and numerical results are compared with the experimental Wheel Box Tests performed at GE Oil & Gas. The calculations require a three-step procedure: in the first step, a non-linear static analysis is performed in ANSYS® in order to compute the actual contact area on the shroud surface and the distribution of static normal loads, then a reduced order model of the blade is generated in ANSYS® taking into account the stiffening effect on the blade of the pre-stress due to the centrifugal force, finally the reduced model is imported in a numerical code and the non-linear forced response of the blade is computed.

The numerical code solves the balance equations of the system in the frequency domain, by means of the Harmonic Balance Method, imposing cyclic symmetry boundary conditions of the system. An interpolation procedure is implemented in order to manage the non-perfectly matching meshes of the shroud contact surfaces, while the tangential and normal contact stiffness is computed with a numerical model based on the contact mechanics principles.

The numerical and the experimental results around some of the critical resonances of the system are compared in order to assess the reliability and accuracy of the numerical tool for its future implementation in the mechanical design practice of the blades.

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