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For 50 years now, AGRU has been setting the standard in the production of thermoplastic piping systems. In particular, it is the all-inclusive range of fittings, the parts interconnecting lengths of piping, that really sets the Upper Austrian plastics specialist apart from the competition. The innovations range from Europe's first injection-moulded fittings in the 1960s to fully embedded, electro-socket fittings made of PE 100-RC. This crack-resistant polyethylene is the best-quality raw material currently available on the market. AGRU PE 100-RC fittings offer higher operational dependability with resistance to concentrated loading and can be laid economically without sand bedding.
The AGRULINE PE piping system is the most economical solution for the safe transport of gas, water and wastewater. Optimised over decades, the system is hallmarked by the highest dimensional accuracy, ease of installation, years of maintenance-free operation and a comprehensive range of fittings. So the direction of the pipeline can be changed and the connections remain durably leaktight. These are the reasons why AGRU has uprated its entire range of electro-socket and butt-weldable fittings to the polymer PE 100-RC (resistant to crack). With this material, resistance to induced stress corrosion cracking and concentrated loading is higher than that of conventional PE 100 by a factor of 2.5. For the first time, customers can order lengths of pipe and fittings, the complete piping system in other words, made from this highest-grade PE raw material. The option of dispensing with a sand bed saves time and money when the piping is being laid. And outstanding operational dependability and resistance to seismic events over the subsequent decades of operation are realistic expectations.
50 years of secure connections
This technological accomplishment is the product of half a century of vigorous innovation. Because in 2016 AGRU has a special anniversary to celebrate – for 50 years now this family-owned company has been making non-positive-lock and leaktight connections. Founded in 1948 as a locksmith's shop, the company started working PE/PP in 1961. Five years on, the first injection-moulding machines were acquired for the production of pipe fittings. That move established AGRU as Europe's first producer to supply pipes and fittings of its own make. The boost in productivity was huge, because until then every single fitting had to be painstakingly hand-made by welding up individual sections of pipe. Customers benefited from the considerably higher pressure ratings, much more compact dimensions and vastly improved flow properties because of the seamless, smooth interior surfaces. And now that fittings could be stocked in standard sizes, delivery capability soared.
Change to central gating in injection moulding
In the 1980s, technology driver AGRU switched all its injection moulding to central gating. At high pressure, the molten polymer is injected quickly and uniformly to fill the mould cavity. This produces fittings without joint lines and consequently free of potential weaknesses. These fittings tested for stress rupture strength far higher than anything required by the applicable standards. AGRU continued to play a leading role in the years that followed, producing a multiplicity of diameters between 20 and 500 mm in widely differing engineering plastics on its injection moulding machines. Fittings for saddle welded joints for branches off the main pipe have also figured in the AGRU range since the 1980s. Technologically mature and tried and tested in their thousands, these lines of tapping saddles, spigot saddles and pressure tapping valves include some that are fourth-generation products. And correspondingly, they are trouble-free, accurate and reliable in the field. The pressure-resistant, high-dependability ball valves with integral gearing further enhance AGRU's image as quality and innovation leader.
Space-saving, time-saving electrofusion fittings
In the early 1990s AGRU introduced electrofusion fittings, revolutionising the laying of plastic piping systems. A heating wire is either moulded or ploughed into the specially designed fitting. Embedded in the fittings in this way, the fragile wires are well-protected against damage from outside, for example during handling and installation. The smooth surfaces make the fittings easy to clean in preparation for welding. Fitting and pipe are then welded together by the application of electricity controlled by an electrofusion welding machine. All the welding parameters for each individual weld are read in from barcode. This welding code, as it is also known, is printed on the electrofusion fitting. When welding starts the embedded heating wires heat pipe and fitting to welding temperature, permanently joining them together. Quick and easy, electrofusion welding has the added advantage of the compact design of the welding machines. Bifilar electrofusion sockets have yet another benefit, because each side can be welded separately. So socket and pipe can be welded together on one side before being laid in a narrow trench.
Innovation leadership extends to fluoroplastics
AGRU was and is at the technological forefront of fluoroplastics engineering for piping systems. These are polymers characterised by excellent anti-leaching properties and ultra-high chemicals resistance. As long ago as 1976, AGRU had developed the world's first piping system for ultra-pure media. The raw material was PVDF, the brand name was then and still is PURAD, and the most common application is transporting ultra-pure water in the semiconductor industry. Along with numerous butt-weldable fittings, electrofusion sockets are also part of the product portfolio. In 1990, in response to a growing demand for piping for high-temperature, aggressive media in the chemicals industries, the company introduced a PURAD version made of ECTFE, one of the most resistant fluoropolymers ever. Once again, AGRU was the first to manufacture a piping system of this nature. In June of this year AGRU raised the bar for the production of PVDF piping systems for ultra-pure media yet again when it opened its plant 5, a totally state-of-the-art cleanroom facility.
AGRU's plastics engineers are focused on the future. Only those who today are dealing with the customer- and target-group-specific requirements of tomorrow will be successful in the future. Further optimisation of assembly times, even better flow properties, fittings in even larger diameters and maintenance of the company's technology leadership are among the top-priority issues for The Plastics Experts.