Amanufacturer of extruded PVC pipe, American Pipe & Plastics, Kirkwood N.Y., was established in 1977 to service the plumbing, water and sewer industries as well as telecommunications, power utility and fiber optic conduit markets. Serving such a range of industries means that American Pipe is willing to find creative solutions to process challenges.
While tooling up one of its extrusion lines a couple of years ago to run its Am-Liner II sewer rehabilitation liner, American Pipe found that the heat transfer fluid’s temperature control system was severely fouled with sludge and carbon after years of continuous production. The company turned to the extruder manufacturer for assistance, and the OEM recommended that the company contact Duratherm Extended Life Fluids, Lewiston, N.Y.
Cleaning in Hours Instead of DaysDuratherm engineers conducted an extensive consultation with American Pipe to determine the plant's needs and took samples of the existing heat transfer fluids for analysis. After reviewing the company's processes and challenges, the engineers suggested using DuraClean Ultra fluid. The fluid is designed to strip fouled systems of carbon and sludge deposits in a matter of hours, so it was well suited to American Pipe's busy, nonstop production schedule.
"With the severity of the system's sludge deposits, we were hesitant that a cleaning product could replace days of manual cleaning and disassembly," says Mark Fransiscovich, American Pipe's maintenance technician. But the plant decided to give it a try.
Manual cleaning involves disassembling a system composed of a reservoir tank, pump, liquid-to-liquid heat exchanger or electrically heated elements, filters/housings, numerous pipes and hoses, solenoid valves, supply and return manifolds, and numerous other components. Removing and reinstalling the system generally takes one person at least six to eight hours, and the process of manually cleaning, inspecting and replacing parts as necessary might require another six to eight hours of labor and downtime.
By contrast, to use the cleaning fluid, the operators simply drain the existing fluid, refill the system with the cleaning fluid, check the filters and replace them as needed, and then restart the system. According to the company, a lightly fouled system needs to run for a few hours with the cleaning fluid; a heavily fouled system might need to run for 10 to 12 hours. The only labor required during this time is a periodic check of the filters to ensure that they do not become clogged with sludge or debris. Once the cleaning is complete, operators drain the system, refill it with a heat transfer fluid and restart production. (A flushing fluid can be used to ensure complete removal of the cleaning fluid prior to refilling the system.) The savings in labor and downtime can add up to thousands of dollars, depending on the operation.
At American Pipe, the fluid reduced the cleaning process from several days to a matter of hours. "After six hours [of running the fluid], we were thoroughly impressed," Fransiscovich says. "The system was spotless, and all of the hard buildup was completely removed to a degree that we thought was only attainable by sending units out to be tank cleaned."
Reducing Downtime Through Precise ControlAfter the success of the cleaning project, American Pipe turned to Duratherm to solve another difficult situation. The plant was setting up a line to run its AMFO multifiber optic conduit system, which incorporates the company’s patented "snap clip" system. The process called for an extremely tight tolerance that could only be achieved by maintaining tight temperature control (within ±2 to 3°F [1.1 to 1.7°C]) across the extruder’s multiple zones.
Working with various OEMs, American Pipe considered water cooling jackets, air cooling fans and traditional heat transfer fluids. Plant engineers knew that heat transfer fluids would provide the steady, even temperature control required for the process, but past experience with heat transfer fluids fouling and breaking down left them hesitant.
American Pipe began using the fluid in the fall of 2006 and hasn't looked back since. "We have completely redesigned our preventive maintenance procedure to incorporate Duratherm fluids exclusively in all our extrusion lines," Fransiscovich says. "As a result, we have seen a much lower percentage of issues and downtime associated with our thermal transfer units and a significantly longer runtime between shutdowns - a definite financial savings."
For more information about American Pipe & Plastics, call (607) 775-4340 or visit www.ampipe.com.