PVC Plastic Pipes: Application, Production, and Manufacturing

PVC is an abbreviation for polyvinyl chloride, which is a synthetic plastic polymer. It is the world’s third most widely produced plastic polymer after polyethylene and polypropylene. This man-made polymer is rigid, stable, and durable. This makes it an ideal choice for pipe production, manufacture of bottles, non-food packaging, food covering sheets, and cards. It is also applied in plumbing, electrical cable insulation, imitation leather, flooring, inflatable products, etc. PVC is known for its hardness and high mechanical properties. In addition, the polymer is chemically resistant to acids, solvents, and bases, making it resistant to the corrosive effects of sewage. 

It is a highly versatile material capable of being produced in both flexible and rigid forms, depending on the nature of the requirement. PVC is approved for use around the world in water distribution and transmission. Its smooth and non-corrosive surface stays clean even after decades of use, unlike pipes made from iron. Economical and robust, these pipes come in various sizes with a varied range of fittings and can be used for the distribution of both cold as well as warm water. Possessing long-lasting properties, pipes made of PVC are easy to install, lightweight, strong, durable, and easily recyclable making them a sustainable product. The smooth surface provided by PVC encourages a faster flow of water, lowering the amount of friction that pipes made from other materials, such as concrete or iron, offer. 

Almost half of the PVC manufactured globally is used for producing pipes for municipal and industrial applications. PVC pipes are a popular and cost-effective alternative to metal piping. 

The common uses of these pipes are:

  • Water plumbing- The use of PVC for water plumbing is considered the largest PVC application. PVC resin can be molded into varying lengths and diameters of pipes to supply water to buildings, facilities, and equipment. According to meticulous research and experimentation conducted, PVC is considered a non-toxic, long-term, safe option and is recommended for water delivery. 
  • Waste handling and control- PVC can furthermore be used in the handling and control of waste materials. It is used for managing waste across modern infrastructure from homes to commercial buildings and industrial plants. PVC in the form of pipes is employed in the sewer, wastewater, and drains, and vents. Sinks, toilets, and other structures also use these pipes. PVC’s synthetic properties of abrasion resistance increased flexibility and strength.
  • Chemical handling, delivery, or transfer- In comparison to metallic pipes, PVC is more capable of handling certain chemicals that pipes made of metal material cannot- hydrochloric acid, for example. The chlorine content of pipes made from PVC provides increased material resistance against chemicals, degradation. It also erases the possibility of a fire spreading. As a result, these pipes are preferred in chemical handling, production processes, delivery, and transfers of organic and inorganic acids, alcohols, hydrocarbons, halogens, salts, and oxidizing agents.

Pipes are manufactured by extraction of raw PVC and generally follow the same steps of manufacture. 

The steps for production are:

  • Feeding of powder/pellets into the PVC twin screw extruder
  • Melting and heating in multiple zones
  • Extruding through a die to eventually shape it into a pipe-like structure.
  • Cooling of the shaped pipe
  • Cutting of the cooling pipes into desired lengths

As PVC is a low-carbon plastic, it requires less energy and fewer resources to manufacture. Due to their lightweight nature, less energy is consumed in its transportation. The low weight of pipes means that workers employed for installing the pipes are less likely to get injured. The pipes last longer than those made from alternative materials and are easily recyclable. They can be recycled several times without losing their technical properties. The recycled material can be used to manufacture mew pipes or a range of other products. Using recycled pipes helps in the preservation of natural resources. 

Though PVC water pipes are typically produced in lengths of 6m, they can be supplied in greater lengths too. This reduces the need for a larger number of joints, allowing for faster and more efficient installation, less hydraulic friction, and fewer opportunities for leakage.

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