A new advanced system for making rubber seals significantly improves the efficiency of manufacturing huge concrete pipes, helping to make sure the sections will fit together without leaking (by John Frank)
Anyone seeing the massive concrete pipes used for sewers and culverts might assume that making them is a fairly simple matter of pouring concrete into a mold and waiting for it to harden.
But manufacturing concrete pipe is actually a very demanding process. It requires the right consistency of concrete and a lot of vibrating to make sure the concrete is compacted properly. Pipes are generally made in vertical molds and can weigh upward of seven tons, depending on the diameter of pipe. Pipes made with integrated sealing systems include cast-in rubber seals to assure there’s no leakage when pipe sections are joined together on site.
But the vibration needed to make a pipe correctly is bad news for those seals, which can be displaced in the manufacturing process. “The concept of integrating seals into manufactured pipe has been around for more than 35 years, but until recently, most seals have been a bit of a compromise,” says Julian West, Product Manager for pipe seals within Trelleborg Industrial Solutions. That’s changing thanks to Trelleborg’s new F-165.
The F-165 is a pipe sealing system that uses two grades of rubber to create an integrated seal that holds in place during manufacturing despite the vibrations. A harder rubber gives a superior tension against the steel pallet used in the pipe-making process, reducing any possibility of a seal moving out of place.
“It outperforms anything we’ve made before and everything else on the market currently,” West says. “The biggest advantage is the stability of this seal during the manufacture of the pipes.” Pipe makers can’t tell if a seal has moved until after a pipe has cured. And if one has been displaced, all they can do at that point is scrap the pipe. The F-165 could significantly cut such scrap rates, West says. “Our seal isn’t going to be part of the daily issues that the pipe manufacturer faces in his production,” he says.
Trelleborg began marketing the new seal for the most widely used pipe sizes in the UK in early 2015, but West expects Germany to become the major market for the new seal, given the high standards in place for German pipe manufacturing. “Integrated seals are their preferred design,” he says. “The pipe association there recommends it.”
The new offering will replace four different existing seals that Trelleborg had sold to various niche markets. “We’ve enhanced our offering by putting together the best of our knowledge and drawing together what we wanted it to do,” West says of the new product, whose development process dates back two years.
Besides making the manufacturing process easier, the F-165 also simplifies the pipe installation process. The new seal requires fewer installers in a trench and is ideal for mechanized pipe laying, reducing health and safety issues on site. “This seal is proving to be extremely efficient in what it does,” West says. That’s good news for Trelleborg’s customers, and for Trelleborg.