With a track record of success as piping material in Europe, polypropylene is expected to be a winner in the North American sanitary sewer and drainage markets as the continent's largest corrugated pipe maker launches a new PP product.
That is the general consensus of engineers and pipe industry officials who in April heard Hilliard, Ohio-based Advanced Drainage Systems Inc. announce that it will launch a triple-wall corrugated PP pipe in spring 2009.
``[PP] is going to be a good product. It's going to break down some of those barriers in the marketplace that have been put out there by competitive products,'' said engineer and pipe consultant Tim Toliver, president of Bowling Green, Ohio-based Advanced Pipe Services LLC. ``[PP] is easier to design with, it doesn't have stress cracking - I think they're on to something,'' Toliver said by telephone.
PP pipe has been used extensively in Europe, according to Gene Palermo, president of Palermo Plastics Pipe Consulting, in Friendsville, Tenn.
``It definitely has more rigidity,'' Palermo said. ``It's a stiffer material. It may be useful for deeper-bury service; one application is sanitary sewer.''
ADS officials cited the sanitary sewer market as one they hope to penetrate with their new product.
``My personal belief is that the evolution of [PP] corrugated pipe in North America will basically help in the promotion of plastic pipe and will allow the usage of corrugated pipe in certain applications,'' Palermo said. ``[PP] may be the answer to penetrate the sewer market and other competition markets.
``A lot of the experience the Europeans have with the use of corrugated [PP] will help in that avenue,'' he said.
The ADS initiative will further illustrate the strength of plastics as pipe material, said Tony Radoszewski, executive director of the Irving, Texas-based Plastics Pipe Institute.
``From a PPI standpoint, it shows the versatility of polymer that exists in the world that can be used to be viable competitors against the standards in the industry. In this particular instance, that's going to be metal and concrete,'' Radoszewski said.
It is yet another example, he said, of how the plastics industry is constantly evolving while concrete and metal remain relatively static.
``We're constantly improving,'' he said. ``Instead of adding filler to make the product cheaper, we make advancements to make the product better.''
Kurt Waldhauer, president and chief executive officer of McPherson, Kan.-based machinery maker American Maplan Corp., said a successful launch of PP pipe in North America for ADS should precipitate other pipe makers following suit ``once ADS blazes the trail and gets the standards going.''
The new products, which ADS will call N-12 HP, will be specified through a new ASTM International standard currently under development, according to ADS officials.
The PP will call for some line changes for the pipe companies accustomed to processing polyethylene, Waldhauer said.
``For the same amount of volume, the tooling is pretty much the same,'' he said. ``What changes is the mold blocks.''
PP crystallizes faster than PE, he said, calling it one of its advantages.
``It's part of what gives it its high strength, what gives it its crack-propagation resistance,'' he said.
That will require pipe extruders to invest in new mold blocks, and perhaps new cooling mandrels and joint-gasketing systems, he said.
It has been technological advancements in PP resin that have allowed this new use for the material, Toliver said.
``[PP] is really coming into its time, if you will,'' he said.