The century of steam did not get its nickname by chance. The first industrial revolution meant a shift from manual production in workshops to large-scale machinery production. The power of rivers was used to drive machines. However, it was not available everywhere; therefore the solution was the steam engine. With the steam engine, the industrial revolution began to gather pace. První Brněnská Strojírenská (PBS) was also involved.
An engine for Austro-Hungarian industry
The first in-house steam engine was produced by PBS in 1824, ten years after the company was established. This model can be seen today at the Technical Museum in Brno. Others came soon after. In the mid-19th century, PBS was the main supplier of steam engines for mines in Moravia, especially in the Ostrava region. The successful company started to build a new production plant on Olomoucká Street in Brno in the 1870s.
Machines are still driven by steam to this day
Steam has become an important medium which drove the first industrial machines and still drives them to this day. It is the main medium of most power plants, from thermal to nuclear. Only, in place of simple pistons, modern turbines use its power much more efficiently. And nowadays they are included among PBS' main products.PBS is one of the world's leading manufacturers of turbines of its own construction, with various types and power performances. They have served reliably in thousands of places around the world for many decades.
Licences have accelerated development
In addition to development itself, the company has purchased licences for further development. In 1880, PBS entered into an agreement with Austrian inventor Alfred Collmann to use valve equipment in steam engines. Later, in 1889, the company also bought a steam boiler licence from the English company Babcock & Wilcox. Four years before the end of the century, the company began using the distribution equipment of Hugo Lentz, a Brno inventor, in the steam engines. At the turn of the century, PBS was the largest Austrian manufacturer of steam boilers and steam engines. The two-cylinder Lentz-distribution steam engine was awarded the prestigious Grand Prix at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900.
Steam engines have given way to turbines
In the same year, however, the first steam turbine was installed on the European continent; and the owners of PBS saw that this equipment was better than the steam engine in virtually every respect. Turbines were more power-efficient, more powerful, more reliable; their maintenance costs were lower; and they could deliver pure steam usable for other manufacturing technologies. Therefore, the company bought a Parsons turbine licence in the same year, and started producing the turbines three years later.
Turbine production was extraordinarily demanding in terms of production precision; however, the quality of the Brno products soon surpassed the quality of the original machines. In 1911, the first První Brněnská Parsons design appeared. It was a so-called "mixed" turbine, which is effective at both full and partial power. This principle is still used in several variants today.
Cogeneration is not new
PBS has become the largest manufacturer of steam turbines. As early as in 1906, the company also produced the first two-pressure turbines for the utilisation of waste steam from metallurgical plants, as well as the first back-pressure turbines, which in addition to electricity also supplied steam for technological purposes in the chemical and paper industries and sugar processing plants. Nowadays, the concurrent generation of electricity and heat, i.e. cogeneration, is practically used as a standard for new implementations; however, it is nothing new.
One year before World War I, PBS built a new boiler room; and, shortly after, a press-machine workshop and blacksmith's workshop.
Turbines for the Austro-Hungarian navy
Although World War I dramatically changed the production programme, PBS continued in development, especially in increasing steam turbine power performance, in spite of adjusting production to war requirements. Among other things, they produced the unique 14 MW condensing turbine.
The company, together with Italian manufacturer Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino, to which it provided the licence, produced a total of 133 ship steam turbines for Austro-Hungarian battleships, cruisers and merchant ships between 1910 and 1918.
The development department also led the first experiments with multi-body turbines during that period. The factory was developing and producing back-pressure, condensing and auxiliary turbines. In parallel with the development of turbines, the development of boilers was also carried out. In 1930, PBS invented its own vertical boiler.
The next war once again brought a major change in the production programme. However, the factory did not cease development. In 1940, PBS produced a 40 MW turbine for the Karolina mine power plant. Even in 1941, the company produced a back-pressure turbine with controlled steam offtake. Until 1945, the company was the largest producer of steam turbines in Central Europe in terms of production capacity.
Unfortunately, the company was almost destroyed at the very end of the war by Allied bombing.
Turbines and boilers at the core of the production programme
After rebuilding, the company focused on turbines and boilers, which became the main export items. These were mainly standard types of multi-stage turbines up to 55 MW; they were used to drive turbo-alternators, turbo-compressors and blowers. Among others, PBS supplied the turbines for the construction of the transit gas pipeline, supplying 136 6 MW turbines and 26 1.5 MW turbo-generators to 11 compressor stations in Czechoslovakia. Other equipment was supplied for the construction of the gas pipeline in other countries, including Russia.
Reliable and economic PBS boilers are still used in many operations, not only in the former Czechoslovakia, but also in many other countries, such as Egypt, Iraq, Cuba, United Arab Emirates and in other places. The delivered boilers varied not only in their performance but also in the type and quality of the raw material they burned. The company commissioned its first regeneration boiler in 1956. The PBS brand can also be found in facilities used in nuclear power plants, including, for example, the Bilibin nuclear power plant in Chukotka, Russia, i.e. beyond the Arctic Circle.
In the first half of the 1960s, experts from PBS passed their experience on to employees of Bharat Heavy Electricals, the largest Indian power manufacturer today. PBS also provided them with licences for 1.5 to 18 MW steam turbines.
The company started production of valves and turbo-chargers in 1950 in the newly built production plant in Velká Bíteš. The development and production of steam turbines and other products have also gradually moved there. In 1969, the company started operation of its own precision casting foundry, which was mainly used for casting turbocharger wheels. The operation was gradually expanded; nowadays it provides the company's energy section with blades for turbo-chargers and power turbines, as well as other components for various pieces of equipment. The foundry was partially robotised, and is one of the most modern foundries in Europe.
Early onset of cogeneration
In the early 1990s, the company succeeded with steam back-pressure turbines. Boiler operators could use them to adjust the steam pressure, while simultaneously generating electricity. They de facto elevated their boiler plants to cogeneration plants, thus significantly increasing operational efficiency. This trend was gradually developed at the end of the 20th century, and cogeneration is the absolute standard today.
Nowadays, PBS' successful energy products include equipment and comprehensive solutions for bioelectric power plants. An example is the bioelectric power plant in Kutná Hora, which burns straw and provides the town with heat and electricity.
“Given the pressure on diversification and decentralisation of electricity production in Europe, there is a growing interest in building smaller resources, mostly up to 50 MW". And this is actually the sector in which PBS is very strong, and where it is trying to succeed in the market. We have already completed several cogeneration power plants burning different types of fuel, especially biomass, as well as gas, of course,” Miloslav Kafka explains.
Since 1901, the company has supplied five thousand turbines to almost 70 countries.
- The first PBS products included steam engines and boilers
- The company in Velká Bíteš has been producing and developing turbines for more than 100 years
- More than five thousand turbines have been delivered to approximately 70 countries worldwide since 1901
- Since the very beginning, the energy industry has been one of the pillars of development and production in PBS
- Decentralisation of energy production in Europe is resulting in edincreas interest in the construction of smaller cogeneration power plants