Hot and cold insulation specialist IPC Industries has started manu- facturing prefabricated dome heads for vessels from rigid polyurethane foam (PIC).
The company focuses on developing new products and technologies from four core materials – PIC, Rockwool, Foamglass and cement, says IPC Industries MD Barry Collins.
PIC is used for cold insulation and the company previously cut pipe sections and vessels from this material; however, at the beginning of this year, it also started producing several new components from the material.
“Usually, a skilled labourer had to bend a dome head from a sheet of material, which would take days. With this new development, customers provide us with the size of the dome they need, and we supply a prefabricated dome head that simply needs to be fitted.
“The manufacturing of the PIC dome takes about five hours. This eliminates the need for a skilled labourer and saves our clients time and money,” says Collins.
IPC Industries also manufactures pre- fabricated PIC elbows, bends and tees.
“The bends are made to fit, so there is minimum heat loss.
“The time it takes to complete a job is a major cost factor for any contractor and these new products allow for time savings of up to three hours for each bend,” adds Collins.
IPC Industries manufactures the products in sizes from half an inch to 48 inches.
Collins notes that there has been demand for these products from the insulation industry, with clients, such as contractors to fuel giant Sasol, using them.
“With many projects, the insulation is the final task to complete. This usually means there is pressure on the contractors to finish quickly, as other sections of the project may have taken longer than expected. These preformed products allow contractors to save time without compromising on quality,” he points out.
IPC Industries is also the South African agent for the Rockwool brand, which is imported from Holland. The material is imported in the form of wire-backed mattresses and is used for hot insulation.
“We use computer numerical control (CNC) cutting machines to cut pipe sections from the Rockwool in any thickness and in sizes ranging from half an inch to 48 inches,” says Collins.
He states that the thermal value of Rockwool pipe sections is superior to that of other mattress and preformed pipe materials, adding that it has been used on projects like State-owned Eskom’s Kusile power station.
“We cut the pipe segments with lips, so there is no direct heat-loss channel. Rockwool has high compressor strength, is easy to work with and there is no waste with the material. We recycle any leftover material, making it an environment-friendly form of insulation,” he says.
The company uses the material to manufacture bends, elbows, tees, boilers, heat exchangers and vessels.
“Rockwool is also used as a fire-protec- tion measure for vessels and boilers, as well as for workers on site who work with the machines, to prevent them from being burnt,” says Collins.
Recently, IPC Industries used the material to manufacture roof panels for soundproofing and thermal applications – an area where the company hopes to see more demand.
“Rockwool gives us an advantage in the industry, as we are able to cut pipe sections quickly and to the exact size required by the customer. Usually they would have to buy a certain length of piping, like 5 m, but if they need 4 m, we cut that exact amount, so there is no waste,” he explains.
The company’s third core product is Foamglass, which is made from recycled glass and is suitable for hot and cold insulation applications.
The raw material is imported by IPC Industries from Europe, in the form of blocks or billets. It is used to manufacture pipe sections, vessel segments, vessel head segments and vessel dome heads.
The material is noncombustible, has a high compressor strength and is able to withstand temperatures ranging from –220 ºC to 482 ºC.
Preformed pipe sections made from Foamglass have previously been avail- able on the market. Now IPC Industries has started manufacturing preformed bends, tees, elbows and vessel dome heads from this material.
It also produces specialised vessel cutouts and segments for heat and gas exchangers from Foamglass.
“We go on site and assess the specialised cut that is needed, measure it and manufacture it according to client specifications,” says Collins.
The company has been developing its Foamglass product range since 2005.
“We have developed our own specifications for South African products that conform to Foamglass special applications for anti-abrasives, joint sealers and membranes, among others.
“All products and tools used with Foamglass are locally sourced, so we are developing the market to be equal to those that comply with European standards,” he says.
The company also manufactures its own cement which it calls thermal plaster.
The THP 300 thermal insulating plaster can withstand temperatures of up to 300 ºC and is used to cover vessels and pipes on site where Rockwool has been applied in the blanket form, acting as an outside skin.
It acts as a vapour and thermal protection barrier, as well as an insulator that can be painted.
The THP 1000 is a thermal finishing plaster, which is finer than the THP 300 plaster. It is able to withstand temperatures of between 800 ºC and 1 000 ºC.
IPC Industries also produces a specialised plaster called Limpet, which is applied as a spray to insulate turbines. It contains a significant proportion of Rockwool and can be used for fireproofing applications.
Collins points out that Limpet has been used in many of Eskom’s plants.
All three products are asbestos-free.
IPC Industries supplies insulation materials and related tools to clients.
“As a service, right from the tender stage of a project, we go on site and assess exactly what the clients will need. We then supply them with a full kit, containing insulation material, as well as all the related tools and parts, right down to hammers and pop rivets, which are all locally sourced,” says Collins.
The company opened a branch in Secunda, in 2008, that stocks parts and tools should a client need any extras. Collins notes that Secunda was chosen owing to its close proximity to the Sasol plant.
The company plans to continue the growth it has experienced over the last three years.
“We have gone from one premises to five in the last three years and are now looking to expand into Lephalale and KwaZulu-Natal,” says Collins.
The company is developing preformed valve boxes and covers made from PIC, which it plans to complete by the end of August.
“We are also developing an automated production line to produce bends, elbows, tees and dome heads using metal sheets for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry. This should be ready for launch by the end of September,” he says.
Collins points out that IPC Industries spends a large portion of its yearly budget on research and development. On average, it releases six new products or product lines a year.
“We were one of the first companies to combine insulation manufacturing with CNC computerised cutting machines and processes. We had to build our own machines and had to design our own computer-aided design and computer- aided manufacturing programmes, which was a challenge.
“Our research and development made it easier for us to speed up our processes and expand our product range. We plan to continue advancing not only our business, but also the industry at large,” he says.