The Necessity of Bolted Flange Connection Training
There are numerous considerations for ensuring that a bolted flange connection (BFC) does not leak. They include damaged bolts and nuts, as well as flanges that are too far apart, misaligned or bent. Other issues involve sealing surface damage, improper lubrication, excessive piping loads, and excessive or insufficient bolt loads.
Additional considerations include debris on sealing surfaces, damaged gaskets, correct calibration and hookup of torque-limiting equipment, and proper tightening procedures.
Of these factors, nothing is as vital as the expertise of mechanics. No one is closer to the job or has a better opportunity to call out questionable conditions that can prevent a gasket from acquiring a successful sealing load.
Training ranges from on-site programs set up by company engineers to trial-and-error knowledge passed down from mechanic to mechanic. These educational avenues are valuable, but a complete training program that thoroughly covers the important topics related to successful installation of a gasket is rare.
Companies rarely can afford to commit the necessary resources to create and maintain an expert on this broad and detailed subject.
Given the numerous combinations of conditions, including the bolt-up procedure if one is used, that can prevent a perfectly good gasket from reliably sealing, how can someone know if a condition is acceptable? The connection must be tight enough to develop and retain a certain value of gasket stress but not so tight that damage results to any of the three primary flange components: gasket, flange and bolts. Installers need a complete understanding of the role and limits of the components so they can take suitable actions. A training program is available that provides all of this information.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) PCC-1-2013 document, Guidelines for Pressure Boundary Bolted Flange Joint Assembly, provides guidance on what conditions to look for and what actions to take as well as several time-tested tightening procedures. Unfortunately, it would be rare for a mechanic to have access to this information. Although this guidance is primarily intended for engineering resources, the first of several appendices are entirely dedicated to the training needs of mechanics, and many engineers would benefit greatly from such training. Additionally, it includes specific guidance on how to set up a training package and what should be included in it.
It was not until recently that a formal training program was developed that provides this information and results in an ASME Certificate of Completion that validates the training. In February 2016, ASME formally announced the launch of its Bolting Specialist Qualification Training Program.
Components of the Training Program
The training was the result of collaboration between members of an advisory group that collectively has more than 190 years of concentrated experience in preventing BFC leaks. These include mechanical engineers thoroughly grounded in the science of flanges, bolts and gaskets, as well as professional training resources.
The entire effort was managed by the oversight of ASME Training and Development. Its goal was to develop a comprehensive training program that would draw attention to the real-world practices and observations important to preventing leaks, as well as provide a clear understanding of why they are so important.
Forms of the Training Program
The training is provided in two forms: an online package and a one-day, hands-on session conducted by an ASME-approved technical professional. The online session is divided into four parts, which provide the majority of the training information. This form allows trainees to remain at their respective places of employment and proceed at their own pace. Graphics are extensively used to clarify concepts. At the end of each section, trainees can answer a series of true-or-false or multiple choice questions crafted to test a thorough understanding of the concepts. A passing score is required before moving on to the next part.
Part 1. Principles of Bolted Flange Joints & ASME PCC-1
This module provides a general introduction to the subject, focuses on the wide range of features important to the successful sealing and maintenance of bolted flange connections, and stresses the value of leak-free operation.
Part 2. Flanges, Fasteners & Gaskets
This section draws attention to the importance of understanding the role and limits of the three primary bolted connection components and how to identify mechanical flaws that can compromise the sealing of a connection. Central to this section is understanding how and why each of the three components interact with one another.
Part 3. Putting it Together/Taking it Apart
Critical to the successful tightening of a bolted flange connection is following an approved tightening procedure. As the temperature and pressure of a connection rise, the range of successful bolt loads can become very narrow. This section focuses on how to get it right the first time. Most important, this portion explains how and why a tightening procedure works.
Part 4. Bolting Safety & Tool Handling
Large forces are always involved in the tightening of a BFC. Safety is always the top concern, and the proper handling and use of high-torque equipment is especially important.
Figures 1 and 2 display some key concepts to understand. Figure 1 introduces the force-distance relationship that develops a given value of torque.
Figure 2 explains the consequences of varying values of gasket stress, discusses the importance of understanding both lower and upper limits of tightening, and points out how a combination of high pressure and temperatures can narrow the range of safe sealing gasket stress.
The hands-on session, which becomes available upon the successful completion of all four parts, is conducted at a specialized training facility. A wide range of training equipment and power tools is available to demonstrate proper equipment setup and use.
The ASME Certificate of Completion signifies the trainee has demonstrated an understanding of the material. Maintenance personnel with the certificate will have a matured sense of expertise to bring to the field. Improvement is grounded in nderstanding, and this training is intended to provide it.
Strong growth in food processing and packaging machinery
The past year was very successful for the manufacturers of food processing and packaging machinery: production rose by 8 percent to just under 15.2 billion euros.
“Many manufacturers started 2018 with a very high order backlog, which was gradually converted into sales in the first half of the year. This, too, explains the very high growth rate of 8 percent for the year as a whole,” says Richard Clemens, Managing Director of the VDMA Food Processing and Packaging Machinery Association.
The Packaging Machinery Industry grew by a total of 8 percent to 7.1 billion euros. The “Other Packaging Machinery” segment increased by almost 12 percent to 4.9 billion euros, while the Beverage Packaging Machinery segment increased by 1 percent and reached 2.2 billion euros, only slightly above the previous year’s level.
Where Food Processing Machinery is concerned, the degrees of the growth rates in the individual sub-areas do vary somewhat – but all are positive: The production of meat processing machinery grew by 7.6 percent to 1.2 billion euros. The production of bakery machinery increased by 9 percent to 667 million Euro. The confectionery machinery manufacturers recorded growth of 16 percent reaching 360 million euros and the production of beverage production machines grew by 7 percent to 552 million euros.
Exports and investment climate remain strong in Germany
In 2018, exports of Food Processing and Packaging Machinery rose by 6.1 percent to over 9 billion euros. Deliveries to the industry’s most important sales region, the EU-28, rose by 9 percent. Demand from the USA – the most important foreign market – remained high. Exports to China and Russia showed double-digit growth rates. Clear impulses came from many other markets, including Brazil, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India.
Domestic business, too, continued to be an important pillar of the positive business development in 2018. In some food sectors, substantial investments were made in order to expand capacity and to expedite modernisation projects. Also, the shortage of personnel in the processing plants led to further investments in machinery and equipment.
The outlook for 2019 is subject to uncertainties
Generally, the prospects for the Food Processing Machinery and Packaging Machinery sector seem good, as the industry continues to benefit from the rising global demand for processed and packaged food and beverages as well as pharmaceutical products. However, against the background of the exceptionally strong growth last year, only moderate growth of at most 2 percent is likely to happen in 2019.
“Although sales in the first four months of 2019 were higher than in the same period of the previous year, the sales growth is expected to be only moderate at 2 percent. However, incoming orders in the first four months clearly fell short of the previous year’s level. Uncertainties due to ongoing trade disputes, but also many regional political crises, are causing investors to hold back with new orders,” Clemens comments on the business outlook for 2019.
EBRD supports expansion of Aktiva, a metal fabricated parts maker
The EBRD is lending €5 million to Aktiva, one of the leading metal processing and construction companies in North Macedonia, to support its expansion into supplying international companies with metal fabricated parts. The loan financing is part of EBRD efforts to boost the competitiveness of the country’s small and medium enterprises.
The EBRD loan will be used to complete Aktiva’s €10 million investment programme in upgrading production and coating capacity, including the installation of a new KTL (electro) coating line. It will support the company in becoming one of the leading regional “one-stop shop” metal engineering and processing companies. The project aims to help the company grow its metal processing segment and increase the export share of this business segment.
Aktiva, founded in 1999, provides metal fabrication services, as well as engineering, supervision and construction services for steel construction facilities.
Since entering the metal fabricated parts market in 2014, in cooperation with the Belgian bus producer Van Hool – one of the biggest foreign direct investors in North Macedonia – Aktiva has also started producing metal fabricated products for other international companies including Fast and ThyssenKrupp.
In line with the EBRD’s recently approved Country Strategy for North Macedonia, this financing supports and enhances value chain linkages in the private sector. The upgrade is planned at a time when growing numbers of large international companies are outsourcing and partnering with strategic reliable suppliers in south-eastern Europe, which can provide quality, flexible and competitive production as well as quick logistics.
To date the EBRD has invested nearly €1.9 billion in 117 projects in North Macedonia, with a focus on supporting the country’s integration into regional and global markets.
Innovating food processing equipment with custom metal parts
Have you ever had a piece of equipment that worked perfectly…except that one little part that gave you trouble — say, a filter that kept getting clogged or an electrical connector that was always on the fritz? Wouldn’t it be great if you could redesign just that one piece to improve the operation of the entire machine?
These are exactly the kinds of problems Switzer is equipped to solve.
The family-owned custom metal parts manufacturer works with customers across industries — aerospace, medical, telecommunication, optics and photonics, and food processing, and many others — to design and fabricate precision metal parts for use in a variety of innovative technologies. They even worked with X, Google’s R&D division, on Project Loon, which uses balloons flying in the stratosphere to provide Internet access to remote areas. Switzer developed custom metal components for the balloons’ power supply.
To learn more about their work in the food industry, we spoke with Joseph Dunlop, the company’s vice president of business development.
Tackling a common food and beverage industry challenge: Filtration
“Everyone’s trying to be better, smaller, faster, and more efficient with less field service required,” Dunlop says.
That’s certainly true in the food industry, where competition, low profit margins, and a shrinking workforce are pushing processors to improve their operations while cutting their costs. Switzer recently tackled these issues for a notable OEM.
Currently, most filters fall into the commodity category. They’re typically an inexpensive woven wire mesh that can be cut to size. Woven wire mesh may be cheap, but it has two major downsides:
- Blinding. Blinding occurs when particles get caked on the filter and prevent working fluids from moving through. This impairs the filter’s performance until it’s no longer usable. As a result, the filters have to be replaced frequently. It has a similar impact in grinding and pulverizing applications.
- Structure degradation. Over time, the fiber structure of wire mesh weakens. “The distance between the wires will grow and shrink based on how much media is going through the woven wire mesh filter, and how much fatigue it witnesses,” Dunlop explains.
The OEM wanted to eliminate these problems. They also imposed an additional caveat: the new filter had to fit into the same space as the old one. The goal wasn’t to redesign the entire machine, just to provide higher-quality, longer-lasting filtration.
“This was a cool engineering problem for us,” Dunlop says. What Switzer developed was a metal filter that was thinner and more efficient than the traditional wire mesh. “When we make filtration media, it’s a single piece and it’s flat. We don’t weave anything, so there’s no three-dimensional component, no Z direction.” The single-piece construct is also more durable than woven wire, so the filter doesn’t have to be replaced as often.
This is just one example of the kind of “bleeding edge” technology innovation Switzer can bring to the food industry. The possibilities are endless.
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