Aquatherm plastic piping used for process piping system for a plastics manufacturer.
During the winter of 2017-2018, a combination of a heavy snowpack and high winds caused a portion of the roof to collapse at the headquarters of Illinois Valley Plastics (IVP), Washington, IL. Fortunately, no one was injured and the damage was somewhat mitigated by the presence of a crane rail running the length of the ceiling.
This bit of adversity wrought by Mother Nature served to introduce IVP to polypropylene pipe from Aquatherm, Lindon, UT, and who better than a plastics manufacturing company to benefit from the advantages offered by Aquatherm piping?
IVP Plastics is a leading provider of customized plastic parts for the agricultural, heavy equipment, and automotive industries. The company’s services include consultation, design, prototyping, and material management, and its manufacturing capabilities include thermoplastic molding, injection molding, insert molding, in-mold labeling, and sonic welding.
About two weeks after the roof collapse, while a general contractor was still shoring up the building, Jeff Frieden, president of Warner Mechanical LLC, Edwards, IL, had an opportunity to visit the damaged facility.
“We sat down with the IVP Plastics team, the general contractor, and the insurance company, and the bottom line was that time was of the essence,” Frieden said. “Another contractor had put together a temporary chiller system to keep them in production, but the long-term solution was to take the building down.”
Once the decision was made to replace the damaged building with a new one, Warner Mechanical was hired to design the process piping system for the 16 machines that would be moving into the new building. The old process cooling system had used 6-in. PVC pipe running overhead at the ceiling, and the company said it preferred a system that would place the pipe in mechanical trenches behind each run of machines.
Frieden knew Aquatherm piping would be a good choice for such an application, and IVP management agreed. Frieden turned to Warner Mechanical’s partner, Columbia Pipe and Supply Co., Peoria, IL. Columbia supplied 1,575 ft. of 4-in., 247 ft. of 3-in., and 156 ft. of 1 1/2-in. Aquatherm SDR-11 MF Blue Pipe for the process chiller piping, and 507 ft. of 1-in. Green Pipe for clean-up water. Columbia also supplied the necessary fittings, flanges, fusion outlets, and transitions.
The system designed by Warner Mechanical, with support from Keith Engineering Design Inc., also of Peoria, called for most of the pipe to be located in trenches under the equipment in the concrete floor of IVP’s new manufacturing facility. Fittings emerging from the trench covers allow the machines to be easily hooked up whenever the process line is reconfigured. The company’s Budzar chiller provides 40 F cooling water to the machines, with return water flowing through the Aquatherm pipe at as much as 100 F.
“We decided to do things differently at the new facility,” explained Joe Camp, engineering manager, IVP. “We wanted to put the process plumbing in the floor and it was Jeff’s recommendation to use the Aquatherm pipe for that. It will be nice to not have pipes sweating and dripping, which was a problem when we had the PVC overhead. Another nice feature of the Aquatherm pipe was that we could get longer continuous lengths of pipe, so we had fewer joints to deal with,” he added.
Once the project began, the installation of the Aquatherm pipe attracted a great deal of attention from the IVP Plastics personnel.
“The engineers were watching us put this in, and it really intrigued them, being a plastics company, that we were putting this thermoplastic piping in their building,” Frieden said. “The engineers liked the heat-fusion process, and they all came out of their offices and took a peek. Some were familiar with solvent-weld types of plastic, but once they saw the benefits of the heat-fusion welding process, they had total confidence in the durability of the product. They can understand when it’s properly heat fused there will be no leakage problems.”
Camp agreed and noted one other benefit of the new piping system: it just flat-out looks good.
“Most of it is buried, but there are sections where it runs up a wall or transitions from one trench to another, and it’s got that nice pop of blue,” he said. “When we bring a guest or customer through they’re pretty impressed with it.”
Frieden added that the Aquatherm product was much easier to heat fuse and place in the trenches than metal pipe would have been. “I think any time you’re in a process where you would typically turn to welded piping, you should look at the time savings and durability of Aquatherm pipe,” he said. “For this customer, using [the plastic piping] enabled us to reduce the time it took to complete the system and allow the owner to start production. I also really think it’s a great choice any time you’re in a buried or constrained space,” he concluded. “It’s easier to work with than metal pipe and it offers a big advantage in peace of mind. You know you can walk away from it when the job’s complete and not worry about leaks.”