High Performance Materials Make Their Mark In Manufacturing

(This article was authored by Austin Ganly, Applications Engineer of Beswick Engineering Co., Inc. It was published online at www.manufacturing.netwww.thomasnet.com and www.pddnet.com, and on print by Laboratory Equipment April 06 issue, IEN March 06 issue and NH Business Brief January 06 issue.)

Throughout the industrial manufacturing world, there is an increasing trend toward the use of high performance materials. Designers are moving away from using brass and standard elastomeric seals and are instead, implementing stainless steels, nickel alloys and higher grade elastomers within their designs. This is particularly evident within the Fluid Handling Industry, where components designed for compressed air are now also used for the movement of specialty gases and corrosive fluids.

Several industries utilize specialty gases and fluids such as DI water, Hydrogen, Helium, anesthesia gases, propane, solvent, ink, methane, alcohol, acids, lubricants, etc. within their product or manufacturing process. These industries rely on the characteristics that high performance materials offer in order to make their products work effectively. High performance materials provide several advantages. These include: cleanliness for high purity applications, low out-gassing for analytical equipment, corrosion resistance, long life, strength, reliability, weight reduction, and durability. Many of these characteristics are critical to manufacturing within the pharmaceutical, semiconductor, medical, inkjet printing, fuel cell, toxic gas detection, chemical processing and analysis instrumentation industries.

Imagine if the security scanner that detects toxic gas residue at the airport malfunctioned due to the breakdown and failure of an inferior material within the system. Or, if the analyzing machine at the oil refinery that supplies quality fuel for your car suddenly stopped working. These are just a couple of examples where the use of high grade materials is essential to maintain the operation of the product and the safety of the public. Industrial manufacturers can save time and money by utilizing these materials and limiting failures and lengthy repair times.

The demand from designers for higher quality components is driving manufacturers and suppliers to master machining and assembly procedures of these high performance materials. It has created the necessity for suppliers of fluid handling items to offer their products in alternative, higher performance materials, such as Stainless Steel, Magnesium, Nickel Alloys, and Titanium. It has also required that they provide gasket and o-ring seals comprised of materials like Dupont’s (www.dupont.com) Kalrez®, Teflon® and Viton®, Greene Tweed’s (www.gtweed.com) Chemraz®, and other compounds such as EPDM, and flourosilicone. There has been a growing demand put on manufacturers and suppliers of the fluid handling industry to offer standard products in these alternative materials. However, many of these materials require different machining, finishing and assembly processes. This has forced manufacturers and suppliers to investigate different machining processes and employ new assembly techniques to produce their products in these high performance materials.

A handful of well known manufacturers, who supply the fluid handling industry, have already started implementing these alternative materials into standard products. Companies are now offering high pressure regulators for the pharmaceutical/biotech industry in either Hastelloy-C® or Monel®, both of which are Nickel Alloys. These regulators are available with optional seal materials to maintain high purity within a system. Other fluid handling industrial manufacturers have made the switch to machining Teflon®, Kynar® and even PEEK® to combat harsh environments. The special need for smaller, lighter and higher performance fluid handling components within the Lab Equipment industry has a prominent miniature fluid handling manufacturer based in New Hampshire working with several high performance materials. They are expanding their standard product line to include products manufactured in 316 Stainless Steel, Titanium, Magnesium and other materials all while offering application specific high performance elastomers to provide excellent sealing.

There is a growing necessity for suppliers to manufacture their standard products in alternative, high performance materials and offer them as catalog items. A well known industrial supplier selling everything needed by manufacturing industries has added numerous high performance materials, from 316L Stainless Steel to Inconel® and Viton® to Kalrez®, all as standard stock items to their substantial catalog. As fluid handling manufacturing companies improve their machining and assembly processes when working with these materials, the marketplace will offer more products made of higher grade components. The products containing these components will last longer, have a greater reliability and survive the harshest environments. Industrial manufacturers need to become familiar with these alternative materials. Very soon, alternative materials will become common place and those who do not adjust to these changes, will be left behind.