AZUSA, Calif., March 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The casual observer may not think sprinklers are that complicated, but they perform one of the most difficult jobs around – making water go where and when you want it, while using as little as possible to keep thirsty plants healthy. Accomplishing this seemingly simple task requires the efforts of highly skilled engineers with experience in a variety of advanced technologies from plastics and hydraulics to aerospace, defense, and consumer electronics.
"Many people believe that sprinkler systems are very simple because they can't see inside," said Randy Montgomery, Advanced Product Development Manager for Rain Bird. "They see this thing sticking up from the ground and water comes out – but they have no idea of the complexity inside; the physics that it takes to make all of that happen. There's no electric power, it's all hydraulically driven. Some people might even think that's magic!"
Montgomery will tell you that he and his fellow Rain Bird engineers and designers don't just design irrigation products – they are responsible for a total water delivery system. They take into consideration everything from the power coming into the controller, to the water hitting the ground, to where the water goes after it lands and becomes available to the plant roots.
"We spent two years just researching how water droplets behave when flying through the air," says Montgomery. "We looked at the size of the water droplets coming out of the nozzle, taking into account wind effects, humidity effects, and evaporation – all to better understand how we can achieve maximum landscape efficiency using the least amount of water."
Designing sprinkler systems that support the company's core philosophy of "The Intelligent Use of Water™" is complex enough that Rain Bird utilizes computer simulations. The engineers first visualize the process in computational fluid dynamics (CFD), an analysis tool within the computer-aided design (CAD) system. CFD can calculate how flows react within spaces under pressure, with different flow rates and temperatures.
But there is only so much the computer can do. That's where the Rain Bird Product Research Center (PRC) in Tucson comes in. Engineers take prototype units to the PRC to test and verify their designs. Here, specialized test bays evaluate everything from the burst pressure of the spray heads to how evenly the sprinklers can irrigate an area the size of half a football field.
Rain Bird's PRC is especially necessary for evaluating sprinkler designs since water droplets are notoriously difficult to analyze in a typical CFD program. The smaller the mass of the water droplet, the more the wind can affect it. The pressure of the sprinkler system will dictate the atomization of the water; a poorly designed nozzle can result in a system that creates a fine mist which is easily blown off course in windy conditions and never makes it to the plant roots at all.
But, Rain Bird engineers know their responsibility to use water efficiently doesn't end when the water exits the sprinkler nozzles. "We see our products as a total water delivery system," said Montgomery. "We worry about what happens to the water after it leaves our system - evaporation in the air, percolation into the ground. To us, any water that travels beyond the roots is wasted water."
Rain Bird sprinkler technology may not have sent a man to the moon. But it is doing something equally important by helping the world conserve one of its most important natural resources for future generations: water.
Harris, Baio & McCullough
SOURCE Rain Bird