Pipelines: creating the most effective connections

Typical of chemical and pharmaceutical plants are their miles of pipelines. They are part of the most important supply and disposal facilities of these production plants and as such represent their "veins". Chemical sites are often characterized by their intricate production and energy networks. These networks are subject to a constant process of renewal and improvement. Choosing the right pipe connections can save time and money. The same applies to smaller pilot plants and laboratories.

The variety of media (gases, vapours, liquids of all kinds, acids and alkalis), the pressures to be controlled (vacuum to high pressure) and the very different temperatures (cryogenic liquefied gases, boiling acid mixtures), make the chemicals industry the most demanding for pipelines. What is typical of the chemicals industry is that many special types of pipes exist, for example heated pipes, vacuum pipes, pipes for transporting solids or sterile pipes.

As varied as the pipe materials used and the operating conditions, so are the respective joining techniques: you can flange, weld, solder or glue pipe ends together, use leak-free connectors, modern fittings or even sophisticated Tri-Clamp connections.

The 2N pipe fitting, for example, seals off aggressive media by means of a friction-locked connection that can be released again at any time. Since the inner diameter of the connector is the same as that of the pipe, its design does not reduce the dead volume or affect flow.

Plastics strategy: a new recycling process

With the aim of protecting the environment while at the same time laying the foundations for a new plastics industry, the design, manufacture, use and recycling of the plastics industry will change in the long term as a result of the new EU plastics strategy. In the medium term, only recyclable plastics are to be used. The EU will support these measures with grants (for new plastics) in excess of EUR 100 million. The measures are aimed not only at production (e.g of bioplastics) but at the entire user chain of plastics.

The objective is to limit use to single-grade plastics that can be recycled much more efficiently than mixed products. The recycling industry and bioplastics in the plastics segment benefit from the standardised regulations in the EU. Electronic products (e.g. TV sets) and packaging, which must be recyclable from 2030, are currently being re-designed. Many companies want to use "biodegradable plastics". The EU strategy will radiate long-term and change product design, packaging, use and recycling processes. Europe is well positioned to take the lead in this transition. This approach will open up new opportunities for innovation, competition and job creation.

By using a high-tech castor oil-based polyamide, emtechnik has for the first time succeeded in producing their products from 100% regenerative material. Bioplastics are characterized primarily by their technical properties, which make them suitable for many industrial applications. The material has been confirmed by the FDA as suitable for contact with foodstuffs.

As a result, we are already prepared for all new regulations.

Plastics today

Nowadays plastic is used in many different areas such as in the food and textile industry, semiconductor industry as well as in the medicine and aerospace industry. The requirements for material properties are as diverse as their application areas. More than 200 different types of plastic on the market today ensure that the specific and individual demands of the user are met.

“Plastic” describes a material group that has basic common features: What all types of plastic have in common is the structure made of carbon atoms that are combined to form very long chain-like or reticular molecules. The specific macromolecular structure during the manufacturer of a plastic determines its individual properties.

Nowadays plastics are divided into three main groups: Thermoplastics, thermosetting plastics and elastomers. Thermoplastics such as PE and PP consist of long linear molecules. Their malleability is impressive amongst other features but they are not very heat-resistant. In contrast, thermosetting plastics such as PU break down when heated and are significantly harder and more brittle than thermoplastics. Elastomers include all types of cross-linked rubbers such as FKM. They are deformed even with a small tensile or compressive force.

To ensure constant high quality, emtechnik only uses virgin plastics. Plastic waste that arises during production is collected and passed on to suitable recycling companies for reprocessing and recycling.

Fluoroplastics with high chemical resistance

Fluoroplastics are semi-crystalline thermoplastics made of perfluorinated monomers. For example, ECTFE can be easily processed in typical plastic processing procedures and is free of additives such as softeners and plasticisers. It is treated as a high-purity melt granulate or also as a powder for further processing in injection moulding, for example.

Due to the increasingly high demands for chemical resistance of the products used by the industry, the trend is towards high-quality technical fluoroplastics such as ECTFE (ethylene chlorotrifluorethylene).

ECTFE owes these diverse application areas to its special properties: the material is extremely temperature resistant (-40 – +140°C), particularly resistant to most inorganic and organic chemicals and solvents (no attack by solvents below 120 °C) as well as very resistant to UV and gamma rays. ECTFE is suitable for the safe use of objects that are intended for repeated contact with food as it is physiologically safe. It also does not provide a breeding ground for micro-organisms and therefore is used in the food industry and in clean rooms. In addition the low flammable material can be used in apparatus construction, heat exchangers (e.g. in pickling plants) as well in linings for corrosion protection (e.g. steel and concrete containers).

emtechnik also offers an extensive range of products made of ECTFE such as our flexible tube connectors 1+ and 1A as well as our welding tube adapters. If you have any questions, just ask us now!

Polypropylene – or what sportswear and high-tech fittings have in common

Since the development of polypropylene (PP) in 1954 by Giulio Natta, PP has experienced an unparalleled development and found a very wide area of application. Initially no one thought it possible that PP would evolve into the most important synthetic fibre in the sports textile segment:

Spun polypropylene is processed into a highly functional webbed fabric. This gives rise to an extremely light material with a large volume. PP fibre is extremely durable and tear-resistant and has developed into a miracle fibre for sports clothing in recent years. The threads themselves have tiny hairs and as a result the contact surface to the skin is extremely low – a noticeable advantage for the wearer during sporting activities. PP fibres do not absorb any surface moisture and this means that moisture and air are dispersed. Thanks to its special surface structure, odour is not produced even during strenuous sport activities. Clothing made of PP is less susceptible to dirt and can even be hygienically cleaned in cold water. But why fittings made of polypropylene?

The same positive properties contribute to making PP one of the most important plastics for manufacturing fittings. It is the hardest polyolefin polymer and maintains this property even at a temperature of 90°C. It is extremely resistant to abrasion and heat, has excellent dielectric properties and insulates very well. PP is also a water-repellent material. Changes in air humidity therefore have no effect on the material properties.

Polypropylene is light and also extremely resistant to mechanical stress. However the outstanding advantage is the extensive chemical resistance to alkalis and solvents. As a result, the use of plastic fittings for aggressive media in plant construction has proven its value more and more in recent years and has been successfully used for different applications.

Different types of polypropylene are used for emtechnik fittings. Please contact us for more information about their properties and application areas.

Seamlessly leak-proof – dead volume free male connectors

Dead volume free line systems are needed in particular in applications where absolute purity is necessary. Normally a dead spot develops at the front face between the inner and outer male thread when using standard threads that facilitates dirt particles or bacteria becoming deposited. This can lead to undesirable negative effects. To prevent this, we have developed our own dead volume free connections.

Here the thread end is not sealed by a sealing collar or by the thread itself but by an outer taper. Effective use requires the female thread on the mating element to have the same taper. The desired seamless transition is achieved when screwing in. Bacteria or dirt particles can no longer become deposited or build up – a benefit that is greatly appreciated for plants and processes in the semiconductor industry ad medical technology.

These special fittings are designed in PP, PVDF, PFA and PTFE plastics and are also available in HP quality on request.

Sampling made easy!

As processes become ever more complex, the importance of quality assurance in industry continues to grow. It is especially important to verify compliance with specifications. Representative sampling is an important part of quality assurance and process analysis. To be able to provide unambiguous information about the properties of the overall quantity requires precise coordination of sampling, preparation and analysis technology. There is less concern today with how good the examination of the sample is and more with how good the sample is that serves as the basis of the examination.

emtechnik offers a number of options in this regard for organising sampling precisely: The sampling pump was developed to simplify the sampling of liquids. The integrated flexible tube is immersed in the drum and 40 ml of liquid are drawn off by pulling the handle. The sampling glass can then be unscrewed.

Sampling with flexible tubes is easy and uncomplicated with the 5H single-hand operated valve. Samples of aggressive liquids and gases can be taken safely and reliably with the 3K quick connector. The shut-off element seals the line before the coupling is disconnected. With the 6R741, on the other hand, sampling can be precisely timed. This is especially advantageous in process analysis and comparative sampling, since the electrical ball valve makes it possible to draw absolutely and exactly the same volume.

These various methods ensure absolute quality assurance and guarantee problem-free sampling.

What does "suitable for use in food products" actually mean?

In many areas of industry, plastics contribute to making customer applications more efficient. These light, versatile materials have proven to be an effective solution in the food industry for decades. Products of emtechnik ensure a reliable supply and discharge of the media, particularly in drinking water treatment and dispensing systems. In cleaning processes (CIP/SIP) and during the disinfection of machines and plants, they withstand even the most aggressive media and high temperatures. Plastics that come in contact with foods must meet the most exacting standards to be suitable for use in food products. But what does "suitable for use in food products" actually mean?

The materials, which are summed up under the term food suitable, correspond to the regulations of the FDA and/or the European regulations EC 1935/2004. A lot of our tubes are available with certificates, which comply with the food regulations under EC-law or the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). The FDA is the regulatory agency of the United States of America for monitoring of food and approval of drugs. The FDA monitors the safety and effectiveness of human and animal medicines, biological products, medical products, food suitable and radiation-emitting devices. This applies to both products produced in the USA and to imported products.

The EC 1935/2004 defines uniform laws in reference to packaging materials and objects, which will come into contact directly or indirectly with food. The regulations are supposed to protect human health as well as consumer interests and guarantee that the products can be sold all over Europe.

Decontamination with emtechnik

The high-performance plastics used by emtechnik withstand tough conditions where other materials fail. A practical example in collaboration with our branch office in Belgium with a specialist for water disinfection from Izegem (in West Flanders) demonstrated how our products can also be used for disinfection.

Aqua Ecologic offers disinfection services based on a pure chlorine dioxide solution (Diox Forte). The main activity is disinfection of water. This activity covers 4 fields : animal drinking water in agriculture, process water in (food related) industries, legionella treatment and public water disinfection (drinking water and swimming pools). Diox Forte is limited corrosive but due to its high concentration, the materials used need to be resistant to this oxidising agent. All parts on the devices need to be from PVDF. The product range of emtechnik offers Aqua Ecologic all possibilities to meet their clients requirements.

Based on the know how in water disinfection, a decontamination technique based on chlorine dioxide fumigation has been developed together with the University Hospital in Antwerp. Exposing spaces and devices to chlorine dioxide gas for their decontamination offers many advantages. Today, no organism is resistant to a proper treatment with chlorine dioxide, the conditions in which it has to be applied are relatively simple and the product is safe to use (not carcinogenic and suitable for heat and moisture sensitive devices). Decontamination with chlorine dioxide is a well-known method in the United States of America and has now found its way to Europe. Decon-O-Logic, the department of Aqua Ecologic that commercialises the fumigation technique, got much interest from the pharmaceutical sector.

Recently, the research facility created by the University of Antwerp for testing a polio vaccine, the so called Poliopolis, has been disinfected through chlorine dioxide fumigation. In order not to have any cross contamination between two testing groups, the 3200 m³ facility has been injected with chlorine dioxide gas. To achieve the needed exposure, 8 generators, all equipped with flowmeters from emtechnik have been used.

Plastic vs. Stainless Steel

Why not simply use products made of plastic if plastics are already used as lining for metal pipes and valves in the chemical industry (for example for hydrogen chloride gas or hydrochloric acid at 180°C)? They offer many additional impressive advantages in comparison to stainless steel:

The high-performance plastics used by emtechnik offer many attractive features, including much higher resistance to chemicals than stainless steel. They can also be sterilised using various processes and produce excellent results even with frequent cleaning. The materials PVDF and PFA have both FDA and USP Class VI approval (pharmaceutical approval). They are suitable for hot steam sterilisation (autoclavable at 134 °C) or can be sterilised with γ radiation while fully retaining their mechanical properties (maximum dosage 25-50 kGy). PVDF is non-toxic in the range < 150 °C and does not provide any breeding ground for microorganisms, since it behaves very similarly to glass. This is another way in which plastic is superior to stainless steel.

Plastics also retain their strength and rigidity even at high temperatures. Flexibility and lightness ensure easy assembly and disassembly. Usage in miniature structures can also be implemented on request. In the food industry, emtechnik products such as the flexible tube connectors 1+ and 1B+, flow meters and Tri-Clamps for the stainless steel/plastic transition are used in a variety of applications: in cleaning processes (CIP/ SIP cleaning), for disinfection and in dosing of cleaning chemicals and concentrates. In drinking water treatment our products offer impressive features in the use of ozone, chlorine/chlorine dioxide and ECA water. They are also mostly resistant to UV radiation. Products that are used in this context must especially meet the requirements of standards and approvals in the industry. FDA conformity and compliance with regulation EC 1935/2004 are therefore indispensable and an absolute must for emtechnik.

An overview of materials used by emtechnik and their properties can be found here.

PFOA-free production of plastics

For years perfluorooctanoic acids (PFOAs) have been used in the EU to produce the plastic PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). PTFE is used as textile membranes, for example in rain jackets or breathable functional clothing, but also for non-stick kitchen utensils. The fact that its properties are harmful to both the environment and health was largely ignored over the first few decades of production. However, PFOA is non-degradable and accumulates in organisms and is very toxic. Humans absorb these particles mainly from the environment or through food, but the human body is unable to break these particles down. Toxicological studies have shown that the compounds tend to accumulate in the liver and are carcinogenic and toxic for reproduction. The particles are most commonly absorbed through the use of various products such as a Teflon pans. As soon as cracks develop in the pan due to the high temperatures, the particles are released and enter the human body via the food.

At the initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013, PFOA was identified as a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) under the European Chemicals Ordinance (REACH) and added to the ECHA Candidate List. Many companies have already switched to alternatives. Those companies that still use PFOA and precursors may use the transition period until 2020 to use more environmentally friendly substances. If PFOA whose salts or precursor compounds are used as a constituent of another substance, in a mixture or product, for example in impregnation sprays or food packaging, tolerance limits of 25 ppb for PFOA and their salts and 1,000 ppb for precursor compounds must be observed.

emtechnik has exclusively been using PFOA-free plastics since 2013 and will continue to do so in the future.