A call for valve innovation

Published:  08 July, 2011

James Roper, industrial brand manager for Durapipe UK, discusses the need for innovation in the design of valves in the industrial sector. 

Valves are integral to all pipework systems within manufacturing operations, and as such, can affect the efficiency of a plant. In the precarious economic climate, plant managers and operators are looking for products and techniques that offer improved efficiency in terms of energy, cost and time. 

Traditionally, metal pipework and valves have been installed within industrial plants, but plant managers should be embracing the benefits that more innovative materials, such as plastic, can offer. Plastic valves offer many advantages over metal alternatives, from the installation process and then throughout the lifetime of the product.

For example as plastic valves are lightweight and easier to handle, much less energy is used during the production, transportation and handling processes, and with no specialist tools or hot works required, considerably less energy is used during installation. Furthermore, when in use, plastic valves have excellent corrosion and limescale resistant properties meaning that they offer a lower rate of thermal conductivity and subsequently, significant energy savings and efficiency, both for the plant and the environment, as well as enhanced engineering value.  Additionally, plastic valves need very little maintenance and with the majority of plastic materials offering a 30 year design life, they will not need replacing during the lifetime of the system.

When maintenance and repair work is required on any valve, it often requires the whole system to shut down, resulting in costly downtime. Being able to easily identify what is contained within a pipework system is of utmost importance as plant managers must be aware of what substance they are closing off and what effect this will have on the overall system.

Within any manufacturing plant, closing off the wrong valve could have disastrous consequences; if the conveyance of certain substances is restricted due to it wrongly being shut off, this can result in problems with the manufacturing process. This can be a particular problem in chemical processing applications; if a particular substance is absent from the final manufactured product, this will cause quality control issues resulting in significant delays and further implications for the plant operator.

Therefore it is imperative to be able to clearly identify the material running through a particular pipework system; this can avoid any confusion over which valves to shut off for maintenance and replacement requirements. It is commonplace that substances are identified by labels being fastened onto pipelines, but these can often fall off or prove illegible, calling for a quicker and more innovative way of identifying pipelines.

The physical process of replacing valves during maintenance work can also be an issue, as it can often result in a complex and time consuming process if the valves are in a hard to access area and are difficult to remove when repair and maintenance works are being carried out.

Every minute that part of a manufacturing system is shut down can cost thousands, so plant managers are always looking to install products that need minimal maintenance and that can be quickly and easily removed or replaced when maintenance is required, saving on labour and lost productivity costs.

In terms of removing valves for maintenance work, there has been a demand from plant managers for products that are easier and more efficient to remove and replace, so that minimal disruption is caused to the manufacturing activity. Developments in the plastic valves sector has seen versatile valve handles grow in popularity. In addition to opening and closing the valve itself, these handles can also be used to tighten the double union nuts during installation.

This makes it an ideal solution for installations that require a valve to be fitted into tight corners as minimum space is needed to install it; the handle uses the valve stem as a pivot in order to tighten the valve ends. Reducing time and labour costs and improving the efficiency of the plant.

Often, valves are not considered properly at the outset of a project and can sometimes be an afterthought after the pipework system has been specified. Valves are integral to any manufacturing plant and so should be given the same consideration as the pipework system. Specifiers and plant managers need to be looking for efficient products that will speed up and simplify the maintenance and repair work, to avoid spiralling costs and keep plants running resourcefully.


For further information please visit: www.durapipe.co.uk

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