Composite Gains Composite Materials May Hold the Key to Success
Technology borrowed from the automotive and aerospace industries, as well as Formula One racing, offers superior performance and multiple benefits for process industries.
As the Indian economy continues to accelerate, the infrastructure on which GDP growth depends is under pressure. India’s energy and process industries –such as power, oil and gas, chemical, water and mining – are expanding quickly to cater to growing domestic and international demand.
The good news is that they are in a position to leapfrog entire generations of technology and reap the benefits of 21st Century innovations, even as some of their Western competitors are still relying on older solutions.
Evaluating industrial valves
Industrial valves are a case in point. While metal has long been the material of choice, the newest valves to hit the Indian market employ composite technology that has crossed over from the automotive, aerospace and Formula One fields to offer process customers superior performance and advanced attributes. In addition to being a useful case study in itself, the following look at the properties of composite materials, and the features and benefits that they offer design engineers and end-users will be of wider interest.
According to IS Malhotra – Managing Director of Tyco Valves & Controls (India), which launched its own line of Keystone brand Composeal composite valves at ChemTech World Expo 2011 in Mumbai, the wider adoption of composite materials for engineering design fits well with the sustainability policies of today’s industrial organisations. “It reduces their dependence on metal raw materials. The strength, low mass and low thermal conductivity of composites offer considerable energy savings in manufacturing, transport and application,” Mr Malhotra notes.
In recent years, as in so many industries, rising raw material prices for traditional valve construction materials – iron, stainless steels and metal alloys –coupled with increasing labour costs, has led to a gradual relocation of non-critical manufacturing processes. Mr Malhotra states, “Now the experimentation in cutting edge technologies with composite materials means their properties are now much better understood, and engineering companies are ready to deploy them more widely and with confidence.”
To take a specific example, in the case of quarter-turn industrial butterfly valves, the improved mechanical properties of composites and their chemical and physical properties ensure that they can deliver performance that is comparable to (or better than) a metal resilient seated valve. Further, composites also offer these values reduced weight and better corrosion resistance. “Examining important characteristics such as tensile strength, elongation and modulus before reinforcement permits valve manufacturers to choose a matrix that performs more like traditional valve materials than the conventional plastics to which composites are sometimes mistakenly compared,” he explains.