Before becoming sister companies, compounding company AlphaGary and piping systems manufacturer Wavin, both of whom today are subsidiaries of Mexico's chemical giant Mexichem, had little to do with one another. Today, the companies are reaping the fruits of a synergistic business relationship, in which AlphaGary, headquartered in the U.S. supplies the material and Netherlands-based Wavin manufactures the product - in this case pipe and sanitary ware seal components - for use in the non-pressure thermoplastic piping systems it produces.
During the past recession, the plastic pipe industry was heavily hit, as residential and commercial construction came to a halt and infrastructural investments plummeted. Today, as plastic pipes continue to supplant traditional materials, such as iron, and with global demand for plastic pipe forecast to rise 6.2 percent annually through 2017 to 23 million metric tons, the future looks bright for manufacturers of pipes and pipe fittings. Factors such as environmental concerns and the low cost, ease of installation and better performance of plastic all play a role in the surging popularity of plastic pipes: less water is lost due to leakage, the material is strong but light, does not corrode, causes no deposit buildup and is extremely durable.
An important part of this performance is due to the quality of the pipe joint seals used in thermoplastic piping systems. "Historically, seals made of vulcanized rubber - EPDM, SBR - were used, which were necessarily loose-fit seals, as vulcanized rubber cannot be joined to plastic," explained Adam Killoran, technical manager of industrial products AlphaGary-Mexichem. "The solution was to use a thermoplastic elastomer instead. This led to the development of TPE seal materials, usually TPV, which could be co-molded with the plastic fitting to produce a highly efficient, leakproof joint."