Raychem Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., expects to speed commercialization of its new plastic-pipe joining technology through an agreement with plastic pipe producer Uponor Group of Espoo, Finland. The agreement covers cross-linked polyethylene pressure pipe used in water and natural gas distribution, said Raychem spokesman Spencer Sias. Raychem developed an electro-fusion technology in which a PE sleeve melts around a pipe joint.
Sias said each firm will market the pipe-joining technology independently. The agreement does not include a manufacturing or marketing joint venture.
Raychem's Ultratech Division will make the joint-sealing equipment. Uponor extrudes a range of pipe and tubing, and molds fittings.
The Ultratech Division makes heat-shrinkable plastic sleeves and tapes that are applied to metal pipes to prevent corrosion. Raychem is a major manufacturer of heat-shrinkable plastic tubing. It also has plastics operations for high-performance wire and cable, conductive polymers for fuses and electric heating cable.
Uponor Group has annual sales of about $700 million from 32 plants in 14 countries.
Its Uponor US Inc. subsidiary had sales of $123.3 million last year in HDPE, cross-linked PE and PVC pipe and tubing. Its main markets are plumbing, gas distribution, municipal water and sewer, and underfloor heating.
The Newcastle, Del., firm has 28 extrusion lines at plants in Tulsa, Okla.; Buckhannon, W.Va.; Columbia, Mo.; Apple Valley, Minn.; Conroe, Texas; and Phoenix.
Sias said Raychem developed a PE sleeve with a bimetallic cage imbedded in it. When pipe installers apply an electric current to the sleeve, resistance from the cage heats the sleeve and melts it, bonding the pipe ends together. He said a key feature of the technology is that it is ``self-regulating'' to prevent overheating of the sleeve.
Sias claimed Raychem's system is faster, more secure and easier than conventional techniques of heating each end of a pipe to melt it and then pushing them together for a joint. Electrofusion systems also are used but existing systems are not self-regulating, he claimed.
Raychem's sales last year were about $1.5 billion. It has facilities in 40 countries and employs about 10,000. Sias said it specializes in materials science and process engineering for electronics, industrial and telecommunications applications.