With the global expansion of the plastic pipe markets, the need for customised fittings to join pipe and create branch lines has also grown. Ewan Green (AMI) has described the growth in plastic pipe systems across Europe with PE gaining market share. Fittings is a higher value industry, because of the critical moulding expertise required to manufacture such complex shapes and structures. AMI is organizing an international conference to discuss the joining methods for pipes and the manufacture of pipe fittings. Plastic Pipe Fittings & Joints takes place at the Maritim Hotel in Cologne, Germany from 10-12 December 2007.
There are many methods of joining pipes from socketing and solvent bonding to a wide range of welding techniques. Pipeline integrity depends on selection of the best method and installation costs are directly affected by the efficiency of the joining method chosen for each construction project. For example, in a large diameter thick wall pipe a joint can take 45 minutes to weld in place – this ties up manpower and expensive equipment. If a better method can be found a company becomes much more competitive in tendering and profit margins will be improved. Fast Fusion and Foma Engineering have both developed new joining methods and equipment. Friatec has looked at new jointing methods for pressure pipes.
As many pipe joins are welded, the material in the fitting has to be compatible (often identical) with the pipe. However, the extrusion grade of plastic does not lend itself to injection moulding. Hence companies such as Borealis Polyolefins and Prime Polymer have developed high flow grades of PE100 for fitting manufacture. The stresses on fittings can be very high and so fittings are often made of engineering materials such as polysulfones (Solvay Advanced Polymers) and fluoropolymers (Solvay Solexis).
PVC is a common pipe material and has the advantages of flame retardancy and chemical resistance. Aliaxis is one of the main manufacturers of pipes and fittings in PVC with Philippe Chinchole as a key expert in this field. This branch of the industry is supported by the PVC4Pipes Association.
In the US, the Plastics Pipe Institute regularly carries out research and training for pipe producers and end-users. Camille George Rubeiz, the Director of Engineering, will give a presentation on the design and installation of PEX plumbing systems at the conference in Cologne.
Georg Fischer Piping Systems is a major plastic pipe and fitting manufacturer and Michael Gressmann is one of the top professionals in R&D, speaking at the AMI conference. There are specialist tool suppliers to the pipe fitting industry including Ramix Moulds in the Netherlands. NRG Control has worked with moulders to cut costs. Sciteq has been working on monitoring systems to check wall thickness and help to reduce material usage.
The construction industry builds for the long-term and pipe systems are no exception. There have been several studies on the durability of pipe and joints: Agru Kunststofftechnik has tested industrial PP pipes, SKZ – Tecona has looked at aged PP and ENSAM has examined drinking water pipes.
TWI has expertise in welding technology and will review pipe joining and non-destructive testing methods. Kiwa Gastec Technology has also carried out research on joints and will give a paper on long term testing of electro fused joints.
The Plastic Pipe Fittings & Joints industry conference organised for December will provide a unique meeting point to discuss the complexities of pipe joining and joint technology.