Is PVC Pipe Alright to Use with Compressed Air?

A question arises every now and then on whether or not PVC pipe, yes the stuff from your local hardware store that says it is rated for 200 psi, is safe to use as compressed air supply line.   The answer is always the same,  NO! OSHA agrees – see their statement here.

Schedule 40 PVC pipe is not designed nor rated for use with compressed air or other gases.  PVC pipe will explode under pressure, it is impacted significantly by temperature and can be difficult to get airtight.

PVC pipe was originally designed and tested for conveyance of liquids or products that cannot be compressed, rather they can be pressurized.   The largest concern is the failure method of the piping itself.   When being used with a liquid that cannot be compressed, if there is a failure (crack or hole) then the piping will spring a leak and not shatter.   When introducing a compressed gas, such as compressed air, if there is a failure the method ends up being shrapnel.  This YouTube video does a good job of illustrating how the pipe shatters.

While it may seem that it takes a good amount of pressure to cause a failure in the pipe, that is often not the case.  I have chatted with some local shop owners who decided to run PVC as a quick and cheap alternative to get their machines up and running.

They each experienced the same failures at different points in time as well.  The worst one was a section of PVC pipe installed over a workbench failed where an operator would normally be standing. Luckily the failure happened at night when no one was there.  Even though no one got injured this still caused a considerable expense to the company because the compressor ran overnight trying to pressurize a ruptured line.

Temperature will impact the PVC as well. Schedule 40 PVC is generally rated for use between 70°F and 140°F (21°-60°C). Pipes that are installed outside or in non temperature controlled buildings can freeze the pipes and make them brittle.

If you haven’t worked with PVC before or do not let the sealant set, it can be hard to get a good seal, leading to leaks and a weak spot in the system.

The point of this is the cheapest, quick, and easy solutions are more often , the ones that will cost the most in the long run.

If you would like to discuss proper compressed air piping and how to save compressed air on your systems, please contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

Image courtesy of: Dennis Hill, Creative Commons License

Shocking Credit Cards Costs … In Manufacturing

Winter’s weather comes with a variety of problems. I hope that folks in the Northeast get a break from all this snow soon. In Cincinnati we have not had to deal with much precipitation this year, but it has been cold and gloomy for too long. Personally, I am ready for spring to come and to the see the flowers pop up. I’m also tired of the getting shocked every time I pet my dog. Also, his hair that generally falls everywhere is now stuck to the side of couch.

On a more serious note, the dry air of winter can have a significant impact on manufacturing processes. The same static that attracts dog hair to a couch will also attract dust on to a non-conductive substrate like plastic or glass. I was working with a customer this week who manufactures credit cards and gift cards with custom logos. They fell prey to the dry, statically charged air of winter which caused a quality issue during these winter months. To create the promotional cards, the company would first digitally print the logo on a PVC substrate. This substrate is then stacked to await lamination. As they pulled each sheet from the stack, a charge would build up on the surface which would attract any dust in the area. The dust needed to be removed before the last clear layer was applied or it showed up as ugly bumps on the card surface. This dust was nearly impossible to clean off and still maintain a good finish on the PVC substrate. They tried to wipe the material off with soft fabric, but the rubbing only increased the static while moving the dust around, not off the laminate.

1559 before
Laminating station two stacks of PVC substrate in the plastic bins
1559-photo
Laminating Station with the 110036″ Super Ion Air Knife installed

Using an EXAIR Static Meter, part number 7905, the customer measured 19.5 kV/inch on the PVC sheets before lamination. Because of this charge the customer installed a 36″ Super Ion Air Knife, part number 111036, above the lamination station. The operator would pull a sheet from the stack and pass it under the Super Ion Air Knife. After passing under the Super Ion Air Knife the charge on the sheet read 1.3 kV/Inch, and the dust was removed by the air blowing from the Super Air Knife. This dust removal drastically reduced their scrap levels. In the 3 months of winter, it was accepted that they would loss approximately 15% of all the cards they created do to blemishes on the cards. After installing the Air Knives, they only scrapped 3% of the cards they created. This scrap rate was even better than there summer production. The air knives will now be used year round.  The Super Ion Air Knife reduced scrap by 80%! Also, operators no longer tried to clean the dust with cloth, which allowed them to increase their production.

Dave Woerner
Application Engineer
@EXAIR_DW
DaveWoerner@EXAIR.com