Engineers have a responsibility to consider many variables when specifying products for current and future environments. This article addresses variables relating to the valves and fittings normally specified by process engineers.
Like so many components in a manufacturing environment, a failed valve may result in catastrophic financial losses, serious injury, or death.
Here are the five most important things engineers consider when specifying valves and fittings.
Pressure: As pressure on a flow line increases or decreases, valves are expected to perform. Many well-publicized industry failures occur when valves fail to operate as expected or -- as was the case in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 -- when operators fail to properly interpret test results.
Temperature: Both hot and frigid temperatures may cause valves to malfunction. Engineers need to fully understand the average temperatures and more importantly the extremes in which a valve is expected to perform its function.
Media: Because there are so many materials involved in the manufacturing process, engineers must carefully consider both the immediate lines, pipes, and hoses that a valve or fitting may connect with, as well as all the upstream and downstream materials that may affect the process flows.
Environment: All companies have legal and moral responsibilities to consider when building and remodeling the processes that control material flows. Engineers need to be aware of the impact their designs have on both internal and external environments.
Reliability: Most process engineers realize that the equipment and materials they specify must operate all day every day and will likely be in place for decades. They must specify components such as valves and fittings that function flawlessly and are durable.
As engineers work on a process flow, they must carefully consider the temperature, pressure, media, and environments in which the equipment will operate, as well as the reliability of that equipment. In the case of valves and fittings, the decisions engineers make are mission critical, and valves that fail to operate properly can result in serious injury or death.