How To Get the Right Sanitary Clamp

Recently, managers at a major U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturer were reminded of the importance of constant vigilance in their containment systems when they discovered leaks in sanitary clamp connections that forced them to scrap costly process media.

In a pharmaceutical or biotechnology setting, process equipment and piping are connected using a stainless steel sanitary clamp that forces together two ferrules, whose raised lips on the pipe ends facilitate a tight connection. Sanitary fittings are made specifically for pharmaceutical applications, where joint cleanliness and access are of paramount importance. Clamps allow quick disassembly for cleaning and sterilization. To prevent the formation of shelves or pockets that can harbor bacteria the ferrules, gasket and clamp must also provide a non-protruding, recess-less product contact surface.

Usually the connections are routine. However, this manufacturer had equipment that was originally used in different plants located in different regions of the world. As a result, some of the connections were mis-matched: one side had a ferrule that met ASME-BPE (Bioprocessing Equipment) standards, but the other side had ferrules made to a different standard. Slight differences in their specifications made alignment and sealing a challenge through pressure and process temperature changes. Managers noticed that some clamps weren’t able to perfectly seal the ferrules, and the resulting leaks forced managers to discard entire batches of process media because there was no way to prove to the FDA that no contamination had occurred.

In their search for a solution to their mismatched ferrule problem, managers devised a torture test for sanitary clamps. Over two months, they tested six different brands of clamps. Clamp after clamp failed their stringent connection-point leakage tests under heat and pressure. The only clamp able to pass the manufacturer’s testing protocol was the Advanced Couplings clamp, distributed exclusively in North America by L.J. Star. These stainless steel clamps are made from investment castings to produce a high quality, precision fit assembly. The secret is the clamp’s unique “Omega” profile, which pushes the ferules into alignment with high clamping efficiency.

In a global industry, the problem of integrating equipment made to different specifications is increasingly common. To learn more about how the right sanitary clamp design can assure reliable connections, see the SlideShare presentation titled “Must-Have Information about Sanitary Fittings.”


Make Your InterPHEX Visit Worthwhile


     INTERPHEX 2014, the trade show dedicated to the pharmaceutical industry, is headed to the Javits Center in New York City from March 18 through 20. Along with more than 12,000 pharmaceutical industry professionals, representatives from L.J. Star will be on hand to meet and greet our long-time friends (and prospective friends!) in the pharmaceuticals industry.

     To make your visit to INTERPHEX 2014 just a little easier, we’re offering free exhibit hall admission when you register as our guest by clicking below. This year, we’ll be in Booth 2820, displaying a wide variety of pharmaceutical industry-specific products, including the new LumiStar3000TM luminaire, the world’s brightest sight-glass light.

     This 60mm LED sight-glass light provides four times the light output a typical sight-glass light, improving visibility into your most critical processes. At full brightness, the LumiStar 3000 can output 3000 lumens— four times the light output of a standard 100W halogen luminaire—with less energy and heat. It offers unprecedented, penetrating illumination for all kinds of pharmaceutical process vessels.

     While you’re in Booth 2820, we’ll also be happy to talk with you about our recent projects such as working with a major pharmaceutical company who tested several brands of sanitary fittings to find one that won’t drip.

    INTERPHEX 2014 will bring pharmaceutical and biotechnology professionals from around the world together with leading suppliers like L.J. Star. We hope you can join us in New York City, March 18-20.

7 Things You Need to Know About Sight Flow Indicators

Sight flow indicators never go out of style, but they do require occasional replacement, either as part of the facility’s overall maintenance plan or to repair damaged units. When installed in process pipelines, sight flow indicators allow visual observation of the direction and rate of flow of liquid, powder, or gas process media, as well as the media’s color and clarity, through one or more observation windows.

Before you contact a sight flow indicator vendor to place an order, take a few minutes to answer the following questions. Having this information readily available will not only speed the specification process but will help ensure you get the most appropriate product for the application.

  1. What style of sight flow indicator do you need? 360° view flow indicator (sometimes called a full viewcylindrical, or tube-style flow indicator) passes the process media through a glass cylinder that is visible from all angles, which allows ample ambient light to illuminate the flow. It is ideal for observing process fluids for clarity, color, foam, and other conditions, and for the presence of moisture. It is not appropriate for high temperatures or high pressures. In contrast, a view-through flow indicator has two opposing windows that allow the operator to see the intervening flow of fluid as lighted from behind, either by ambient light or with an attached luminaire. This design is suited for ANSI pressure classes, high temperature, and harsh fluid applications.
  2. What is the specific function of the indicator? Although a plain, clear glass indicator is suitable for many applications, others may require a different indicator type to allow gauging the direction and speed of flow of the process material. For example, flow indicators may be fitted with a hinged flapper or flag visible through the glass. The flapper is deflected toward the direction of flow. Because the position of the flapper changes in relationship to the force of flow, it offers the operator an approximate gauge of flow. A rotary flow indicator is fitted with rotors or impellers that are turned by the flow of liquid or gas. The rotors are mounted in the window view so operators can observe the direction and approximate speed of flow. This is particularly useful for clear gases and fluids, but the rotor is visible with dark fluids as well. Drip indicators may be models designed for drip observation or conventional flow indicators installed with a drip tube. These types of flow indicators are suitable for observing drips and low-volume intermittent flows in applications such as distillation. Because they depend on gravity, drip indicators are normally used in vertical pipes with a downward flow.
  3. How will the sight flow indicator be mounted on the process pipe? Sight flow indicators are available with three basic mounting options: flanged, threaded, and sanitary clamp. Flanged indicators have pre-drilled bolt holes. Be sure to let the supplier know the size of the flange to which the sight flow indicator will be connected so that the bolt holes line up with each other. The pharmaceutical industry uses clamp-on indicator mountings so that all components can be easily disassembled for cleaning.
  4. What is the connection size? Sizes depend on the manufacturer but generally range from ¼-inch to 16 inches in diameter, with larger units available as special orders. Provide this measurement to the supplier specified in either inches or millimeters.
  5. What materials should the sight flow indicator be made of? When specifying the type of materials a sight flow indicator should be made of, keep the compatibility of the various components in mind. Carbon steel and stainless steel are the two most common materials used for the body. Stainless steel offers better corrosion resistance and is widely used in pharmaceutical applications. Gasket integrity is crucial to successful indicator performance so ensure that the gasket material used is compatible with the process media with which it will come in contact. Standard gaskets for most industry applications are made of an enhanced PF material or Teflon.
  6. Which type of window glass does the application demand? Glass can come as a conventional glass disc or as a glass disc fused to a metal ring during manufacturing. Fused windows hold the glass in concentric compression that makes the glass resistant to bending stresses that would otherwise cause cracks or failure. They are used when high pressure ratings, impact resistance, and safety margins are needed. Such fused glass windows  are popular in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries. Standard soda glass windows can be used when temperatures are less than 300°F and when there are no corrosive materials and no drastic temperature fluctuations (which could lead to thermal shock). Both conventional soda lime and borosilicate glass discs should be replaced and not be reused after maintenance (disassembly), because tiny fractures may occur during mounting that are not visible to the naked eye. In some conditions, soda lime glass can leach into the process media. For temperatures of 300–500°F, borosilicate glass is typically used because of its higher resistance to thermal shock. Borosilicate glass should be specified in areas where hot equipment may be washed down with cool water, even for temperatures of less than 300°F. In applications involving contact with caustic or acidic chemicals, borosilicate glass is less likely to experience clouding and erosion than soda lime glass. If the glass is fused to its metal frame, then reuse is no problem, because the metal ring takes the stress of mounting. Quartz or sapphire glass is recommended for temperatures greater than 500°F, such as in high temperature steam applications.
  7. What levels of temperature and pressure must the flow indicator withstand? The allowable pressure/temperature limitations for a sight flow indicator depend on the durability of the materials used in its body, retainer, window, and gasket. When talking with the vendor, always clearly specify the levels of temperature and pressure the sight flow indicator must be capable of enduring.

For more tips on how to identify the right sight flow indicator for specific applications, download our free copy of L.J. Star’s Sight Flow Indicators Handbook.


How BioGas Sightglass Keeps an Eye on Green Energy

     Say green energy, and the first words that spring to most minds are likely either solar power or wind power. But there’s another important player in the alternative energy marketplace─biogas generation.

     Biogas is produced when organic matter breaks down in the absence of oxygen. It’s produced by anaerobic digestion by bacteria or fermentation of biodegradable materials such as manure, sewage, municipal waste, or plant material. Like solar and wind power, it’s a renewable energy source. It can be used as a fuel in a variety of applications; when cleaned and compressed, it can power motor vehicles.

     In the United States, anaerobic digesters for farm animal waste are typically large, heated stainless steel tanks fitted with tightly sealed sight glass windows to allow operators to monitor mixing and digestion to ensure efficient operation. These biogas sight glasses are often equipped with explosion-proof LED lighting and cameras, as well as spray nozzles and wipers to keep the window clean despite the often-messy process material. To learn more about what goes into matching the sight glass to the application, watch our new video: “Biogas Sight Glass Use and Selection.”


What Makes Metaglas® Super Strong?

“Learn the Secret of Sight Glass Strength” is a recent video from L.J. Star that outlines the precision process of fusing borosilicate glass to a stainless steel ring, then cooling it carefully to create a Metaglas® sight glass window. Once the process is complete, the ring compresses the glass continuously, which gives it its exceptional tensile strength, preventing dangerous ruptures or fragmentation for greater reliability and safety. By combining the transparency of glass with the strength of steel, Metaglas virtually eliminates the possibility of a sudden, unexpected rupture, and any crack that might develop, at worst, may slightly affect visibility. In addition to the unsurpassed pressure and impact resistance, the metal frame provides rigidity to prevent breakage if bolts are tightened unevenly during installation. Metaglas products have been tested and approved by safety testing departments of several major chemical and other companies under a variety of conditions, most exceeding those normally encountered in practice.

No Metaglas window has ever been known to fail in service, even those subjected to significant overpressure and/or temperature surges. That high strength in extreme conditions has made Metaglas is the top selling fused sight glass, proven in thousands of installations around the world. Unlike some other sight glasses, it meets stringent DIN 7079 and DIN 7080 quality standards, and has been tested and proven to meet the USP Type 1 standard. To get all the details, watch the video at: http://www.sightglassblog.com/blog/08.html.


Are You a Smooth Operator?

     For a process engineer, being smooth means more than knowing which wine to order in a fancy restaurant. In plant operations, the surface finish of a process vessel, piping, and related components can have profound effects on how well a fluid system performs. Surface roughness can affect fluid flow resistance (friction), adsorption/ desorption, bacteria growth, the build-up of chemicals from a process fluid, corrosion formation, pressure drop, etc. Ultimately, the smoothness of a surface finish can affect service life and maintenance costs. In a sight glass, for example, the surface roughness of both the glass and the metal mounting ring are critical for achieving a good seal in the installation.

     Increasingly stringent specifications are creating greater demand for improved surface finish on most metal components that are part of process equipment. In particular, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries require surfaces in contact with the process media to have finishes that meet the ASME-BPE-2009 Standard. This standard provides specifications for the design, manufacture and acceptance of vessels, piping and related components for application in equipment used by the bioprocessing, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries. This standard includes aspects related to sterility and cleanability, materials, dimensions and tolerances, surface finish, material joining, and seals.

     To learn about techniques commonly used to reduce the surface roughness of metals used in fluid vessels, piping, and related components, request your free copy of the L.J. Star white paper, Surface Finish: An Important Characteristic in Fluid System Components.


What’s Lurking in Your Plants’ Pipes?

Any plant operator can tell you that an innocent-looking set of pipes can conceal nasty secrets, some as petrifying as the monster hiding in the plumbing in a Harry Potter movie. A sight flow indicator is a good way to discover what’s lurking within.

These simple, low-cost devices provide a visual means of verifying liquid flow for direction and approximate rate, and also to observe the color and clarity of process fluids. The body of a sight flow indicator is equipped with one or more viewing windows, usually with gaskets, and a way to mount the indicator to the pipeline, such as a flanged, threaded, or sanitary clamp fitting. They are available to fit standard pipe sizes ranging from ¼-inch to 16 inches and carry ANSI pressure ratings.

Sight flow indicators are applicable to almost every phase of process media movement, whether the media is liquid, gas or powder. Here are some examples:

  • In the processing of bulk solids such as plastic resins, inorganic powders, and food products, sight flow indicators make it possible to observe blending and confirm the free flow of materials.
  • Sight flow indicators allow personnel to inspect pipelines for residue, scale, and foreign matter, especially during cleaning routines.
  • For pipes carrying steam, sight flow indicators can be used to alert personnel to the presence of condensate so they can take steps to eliminate it.
  • A chemical processing system often involves a number of pipelines used to move liquid product though cooling lines, filters, and transfer/pumping lines. Sight flow indicators let operators observe line conditions for signs of clogging or blinding filters.
  • In discrete manufacturing, machines depend on adequate lubrication to operate smoothly. Equipment with sight flow indicators allows maintenance personnel to detect the absence of oil and to inspect the color of the oil, which may indicate it needs to be changed.

The first step in choosing the right sight flow indicator for a specific application is to define the process to be observed, including temperature, pressure, the physical characteristics of the process media, the direction of flow, and the process’s sanitary requirements (if any). To learn more about what’s involved, download a free copy of L.J. Star’s Sight Flow Indicators Handbook: Selection and Application of Sight Flow Indicators in Process Applications.