In the large-diameter pipe world, less is rarely more.
In the spirit of the bigger-is-better mentality, at least two U.S. pipe makers added 63-inch diameter capacity to their pipe arsenal in 2005 - marking the launch of that size of high density polyethylene pipe being extruded commercially in the United States.
Previously, only KWH Pipe Canada Ltd. had capacity for such sizes in North America.
One of the companies that has added 63-inch-diameter lines is Livingston, N.J.-based J-M Manufacturing Co. Inc., the world leader in extruded PE pipe.
J-M extrudes the pipe at plants in Adel, Ga. and Kingman, Ariz.
J-M officials declined to confirm the identity of the machine's manufacturer, but McPherson, Kan.-based American Maplan Corp., a subsidiary of Bad Oeynhausen, Germany-based Battenfeld Extrusionstechnik GmbH, is the only U.S. manufacturer to announce 63-inch extrusion line sales in 2006. The firm sold three of them. J-M bought two. The second buyer remains unidentified.
Previously, 54-inch lines produced the largest U.S.-made pipe available. Mills, Wyo.-based W.L. Plastics Corp. was among the first to produce it, after installing capacity at its Cedar City, Utah, plant in 2004.
``What you're seeing is an upgrade in infrastructure,'' said W.L. Director Mike Dahl, in a telephone interview. ``As we see increases in population, you see the need for larger volumes of fluids moving through the infrastructure.''
American Maplan President Kurt Waldhauer said the exponential volume increase created by larger diameters offers increased value for large-diameter pipe consumers.
``One 63-inch pipe is like two 48-inch pipes side by side,'' he said, touting the value of increasing capacity from 54 inches to 63 inches. ``The hydraulic carrying capacity for those nine inches of diameter is just tremendous.''
Cost and demand will keep W.L. from investing in such high-volume lines in the near future, Dahl said.
``A 63-inch-diameter line is a very expensive proposition,'' Dahl said. ``We don't come across that much work in that category.''
Marc Miller, J-M's marketing director, disagreed, saying there is indeed demand for 63-inch pipe.
The company recently completed a $13 million project in which it replaced about five miles of concrete pipe with the first domestically produced 63-inch pipe in the country.
``Those are the types of products and the types of opportunities that have driven us to introduce these lines,'' Miller said.
Waldhauer expects Maplan to sell a few more 63-inch lines in 2006. He said the next evolution, the 72-inch line, is coming soon.
``I don't think it will be 2006, but maybe in 2007,'' he said. ``There was one sold in the world this year, but not here in the States. But are they coming? You bet.''