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Rarely does a simple solution solve a very big problem, however, there is a new compression/ tube fitting from Superlok on the market that does just that. Since tube fittings were first patented in 1959, there have been issues with connecting tubing to fittings without incurring leaks or experiencing safety issues. Many have worked on a solution to this problem without success… until now.
The tubing and fitting market is massive, with these products being used everywhere in production processes and equipment applications. The larger markets include, oil and gas refineries, food and beverage processing, aerospace, mining, ship building, pharmaceutical, power plants and transportation/ CNG. The main benefits of tubing include its visual appeal and the ability to bend and route it from point “A” to point “B”. Traditional fittings used to connect tubing offer a relatively quick and accurate assembly and disassembly. When installed correctly, the tube/compression fittings can hold thousands of pounds of pressure. Because of the wide variety of applications and unique benefits, tubing and fittings are an industry standard, but have seen little change in over 50 years.
A significant number of leaking fittings in the market prompted a tube fitting manufacturer, Superlok, to review the cause and search for a solution. Testing proved that tube fittings work very well at sealing properly. This is largely true for many of the main manufacturer’s fitting products, if the installation instructions are followed. Top manufacturers have been producing great tube fittings, but the connection success rate has been inhibited by mistakes made during installation.
Superlok focused on this fact and knew that most leaks were the result of human error in the connection process, not inferior fittings and manufacturer defects. A solution could only come if the human error potential was minimized.
To further understand this problem, we have to look at the installation process. All stainless steel tube fittings have the same installation procedure. After the stainless steel tubing has been measured, cut and routed, an installer will insert the tubing into the tube fitting. The fitting nut is then hand tightened. From that point, the nut is further tightened by a wrench 1-1/4 turns. To complete the process, the fitting connection should be verified with a manufacturer’s gap gauge to ensure the fitting gap is exact. This gap is the distance between the body of the fitting and the nut. If everything was done correctly, the connection will not slip or leak within the specified pressure ranges.
The industry knows that the results of a poor installation can be costly and dangerous. Some installers simply do not know there is a procedure to tighten the fittings. They can be inexperienced or may have not been trained on the correct installation process. Other experienced installers believe the myth that one can “feel” when a fitting has been tightened to the correct torque. This is a big misconception because fittings are not secured by torque. Proper installation is a result of the gap measurement between the tightened nut and fitting body.
A special gap gauge is made to verify that a tube fitting has been tightened correctly. This has been the only way to have confidence that the connection has been made up properly. These gap gauges are rarely sold by suppliers and generally have not become a part of an installer’s tool kit in the industry. This tool is very effective, but only if it is being used.
Superlok studied each of these issues and created an amazing solution… a built-in gap gauge they named the “I-Fitting”. Each of their fittings incorporates a two piece, snap-inspection ring installed in the gap between the nut and fitting body. As an installer tightens the nut to the correct depth, the rings are engineered to break apart at exactly the right time. When the rings pop, it signals the installer to stop, confirming that the fitting has been tightened to the right depth. The installer can now see, hear and feel this new technology work to make a safe and precise connection.
What does this do for the industry? The Superlok I-Fitting assures companies that their employees are making safe connections. Employers have been able to reduce the time and money spent on repairing leaks. Installations are now faster and worker safety concerns are greatly reduced. Because this simple idea takes much of the human error out of the equation, it is now a real solution for companies all over the world. Superlok has been able to add this I-Fitting technology to all of their tube/compression products, including ball valves, needle valves and check valves. This is innovation that really works and is fast becoming an industry changing product.