Some manufacturers will give you this actual measurement, but most do not. If you need to increase free passage, see if it is possible to use a narrower-angle nozzle.
Deflector designs.These nozzles use a round orifice and spray against a deflection surface. The orifice diameter is the free passage. Some are narrow-angle designs, which generally are quite large and old-fashioned. They offer no particular advantage over more compact axial designs when the angle is below 40 degrees.
On the other hand, wide-angle deflector nozzles ("flooding" nozzles) are quite compact and can offer a sizable increase in free passage over axial designs. However, they are tangential and will not replace axial designs directly. You might have to reconfigure your mounting, but they can help your problem.
Disc designs.These designs are very old fashioned and have disappeared from some catalogs. The nozzle uses a "cat's eye and bow tie" orifice configuration that produces a decent-looking fan, although it is not as even as more standard axial designs. A round orifice provides high free passage for the flow, even in their wider-angle versions. The down side is the mounting, which requires cap and base holders and can get bulky. If you are able to tolerate the size, disc designs can be useful.
This cutaway illustrates an axial full-cone nozzle design, which uses a typical "X" style swirl insert.
Trying to determine the free passage of a full-cone nozzle can be very difficult if the catalog does not spell it out specifically. Many designs are available, and little consistency exists between manufacturers.
Most full cones are axial designs and employ some kind of vane (spinner, swirl insert), which spins the liquid within the nozzle body. The centrifugal force of the spinning throws the liquid into a cone as it exits the orifice. Some helix (pigtail, spiral) designs use a long deflector surface to peel away the water column and form it into a cone. A few tangential inlet nozzles use that method to induce the spinning.
With standard axial designs, the vane generally is the smallest cross section. The nozzle will clog there before it will clog at the orifice. Consequently, nozzle designers strive to create a vane that has as large a free passage as the orifice. Such designs are available; however, an inverse relationship exists between free passage and the uniformity of distribution. Designs that boast high free passage measurements generally do poorly on uniformity.
The most extreme example of these phenomena is a helix design. Although helix designs rightfully claim high free passage, they do not create true full-cone distribution. They generate two or three concentric rings of liquid.
Other designs can have heavy centers or heavy edges, depending on the design approach. However, sometimes clog resistance is more important than distribution uniformity. If you need information about distribution, you will have to ask for it.
For small nozzles (generally less than 11/2-in. to 2-in. pipe connection), one of the best compromises is the "X" vane design. This design is available from several manufacturers and combines decent free passage with very good distribution. The design is available in a wide variety of angles and capacities so specific performance should be readily attainable.
If you are willing to make some design adjustments, tangential inlet full cones are available that offer excellent free passage and distribution combinations. The down side is the inlet configuration, which makes the cones hard to use with existing headers. They also tend to be expensive, and the capacity range is limited. However, if you can find what you want and make it work, it can be well worth the effort.
The key to full cone design is understanding what is ," and what is not ," the free passage measurement. Most of the time, it is not the final orifice diameter. If you are not sure and it is critical for your application, do not be shy about asking. The same goes for distribution uniformity.
This cutaway illustrates a tangential hollow-cone nozzle with no internal obstructions. The final orifice is the smallest point of the liquid path. This design provides the highest tolerance for debris possible for the flow rate.
Generally, hollow cones are the easiest to deal with. In all but the smallest sizes, they are usually tangential designs with no vanes or other internal devices. Some that appear to be axial designs actually are disguised tangential nozzles. In most cases, the orifice is the free passage measurement.
The main, but not only, exception to the tangential rule is the helix design. This configuration adapts well to hollow- cone or full-cone designs. Helix designs meter the flow at the nozzle inlet. A column of liquid is forced into the cone, and the outermost layer of liquid is split off and deflected into the cone.
The free passage is the distance between the "threads" of the helix. It can clog if a piece of debris passes through the inlet, but cannot pass out between the threads. The result is a new deflection surface that will degrade the spray pattern drastically. The main cure is to make the helix longer, so the distance between the threads is equal to the inlet diameter. This solution increases the effective free passage at the expense of size and precision of the cone formation. Such modifications usually are spelled out in the manufacturer's literature.
Small hollow cones ," less than half an inch ," especially axial designs, can have complex internal designs that reduce free passage. Designs vary widely between manufacturers, so it is difficult to make generalizations. Bear in mind that the orifice diameter will not help.
Air atomizers are difficult to generalize about because of their complex designs. You will have to figure out which design you need to get the job done and then live with that design. You will have to ask the manufacturer what the relevant free passage measurements are. Always remember to ask about air as well as liquid. Both sides can clog. From an operational standpoint, filtration is your best bet.
Prevention or resolution of a clogging problem is best accomplished as part of a cooperative effort between you and your nozzle supplier. Working together, you can configure the best combination of elements to minimize operational problems.
The problem can be solved in many ways. It is a matter of finding the best solution for your application.
Welander is engineering director with Lechler Inc., St. Charles, Ill. Contact him at (800) 777-2926.