The mining industry, like every other industry, is constantly in search of new ways to make its work more efficient and effective. One area that holds potential for significant savings in both time and cost is a mining operation’s pipe system, or more specifically, the point at which the pipes are joined. The pipe joint, as it’s called, can and should be a point of innovation, where the simple function of putting pipes together or taking them apart for maintenance and dismantling can be expedited exponentially. Piping systems at a mining site hold significant potential for new time and cost efficiencies because they represent a large portion of overall installation and maintenance time on a project.

Today’s mines can choose from several pipe joining methods, such as flanging, fusing and welding, or grooved technology. While grooved joining systems have been around for close to 100 years, they continue to grow in popularity as more mines choose this method. Despite the legacy of use in applications throughout the world and its simple concept, grooved piping continues to evolve to meet the growing needs and demands of a myriad of industries.

The most recent innovation in the grooved mechanical piping industry is a simple one, yet it holds significant promise for efficiencies within the complexities of mining operations—addressing both the physical demands and expectations of design, installation, maintenance and dismantling of a system, to the financial return on investment for the project overall. The innovation is a new advancement in pipe coupling design called installation-ready couplings. Research of the advancement, and evidence from many industrial fields including mining, indicates installation-ready couplings can save 50% or more in the reduction of time over the use of standard couplings.

Understanding the Advancement
Standard couplings comprise two housings, one gasket and bolts and nuts to tighten the coupling, bringing the two housings together for either a rigid or flexible joint. A standard coupling arrives at a job site with its parts conjoined as one product, yet for assembly, an installer must first disassemble the parts to get the coupling ready to be used. First, the installer places the gasket at the end of the pipe, then brings the pipe together and centers the gasket between the grooves. Next, the housings are placed over the gasket and bolted metal-to-metal. While the grooved joining method is already significantly simpler than other methods of joining pipe, such as welding or flanging which require more people, safety considerations and time, the new installation-ready advancement in grooved pipe joining even further improves efficiencies.

Installation-ready couplings do not have to first be disassembled to use, and feature a new, center leg on the contained gasket that acts as a pipe stop. When the installer simply “stabs” the entire pre-assembled coupling onto the first pipe, the center leg firmly presses against the pipe, which serves as a confirmation that the coupling has been placed correctly. The next pipe is put on the other end of the coupling and the installer simply tightens the housings with the already-in-place bolts to secure the pipe joint.

The time savings come from the elimination of the need to first disassemble the coupling, as well as the need to search for any lost or stray parts, as the parts on the installation-ready coupling are already together.  

Minor cost savings come from the elimination of the need to carry spare parts. More significant cost savings can be realized in the reduction of problems associated with improperly installed pipe couplings, such as inadvertent pinching of the gasket, because installation-ready couplings provide for virtually error-free installation. Major and costly pipe system compromises from improper installation can include problems such as leaks in compressed air lines, one of the common problems in an underground mine. When any issue arises from a coupling having been installed incorrectly, additional labor must be called in to address the problem.  

Because the assembly work of the product’s parts is already complete, and all parts are positioned and aligned correctly even before installation, the new installation-ready couplings virtually eliminate the margin for worker error on site.

Gasket Choices
Installation-ready couplings are offered with a variety of gaskets for various uses within a mine. The most common gaskets are nitrile and EPDM. For compressed air lines, nitrile gaskets are recommended. Nitrile gaskets are made of material that won’t deteriorate when exposed to air with oil vapors, which is present when oil-separating filters are not used in the air line, a common practice within a mine. EPDM gaskets are the best choice for use in water lines.  

Innovations in any part of a mine’s operations can help the industry save time and money, and make operations more efficient, error-free and flexible. By closely examining every point of operation, such as where two pipes come together, supplier partners to the mining industries can find new ways to help customers. Sometimes even the most logical, simple changes can reap huge enhancements to a company’s operations.

This article was supplied by Victaulic (www.victaulic.com).

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