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L.J. Star | Sanitary Clamps

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.”

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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.

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