In general, an expansion joint is a component that is intentionally designed to be expendable when used in ducting and piping applications and will thus require periodic replacement. They act like a sealed spring with their flexibility that allows for expansion and movement in piping systems to keep pipes and hoses from suffering catastrophic damage like leaks and breakage under various pressures.
However, should they suffer premature failure or their structural integrity be compromised, this unforeseen breakdown can typically be attributed to several common oversights. With the help of proper planning and routine maintenance, organisations can easily prevent these oversights and extend the life of their expansion joint components.
1. Installation errors
Proper installation is key to prolonging an expansion joint’s service life and substantially eliminates the risk of premature failure. The most common installation errors that accelerate a joint’s failure rate include installing with a reversed flow direction, misaligned liners, premature removal of shipping devices, and mechanical damage from external factors.
Expansion joints that operate in a reversed flow direction become problematic once a flow liner or another device is installed to keep debris buildup in the convolutions. Misaligned internal liners often cause this reversed flow direction, and installing them incorrectly means they become far less effective at providing adequate protection against mechanical damage.
2. Using the wrong design
Most expansion joints are designed for only one specific function or purpose. Thus, if you purchase these parts from manufacturers and omit to tell them about one or more movements in your system’s operation, be it axial, lateral, or angular, they will naturally provide expansion joints that bear the wrong design for your application.
An expansion joint constantly subjected to higher pressures beyond what it is designed for will naturally fail sooner than usual. Preventing this type of failure ultimately requires communicating with your supplier about your application’s requirements and getting expansion joints that are more appropriate for your use needs.
4. Insufficient support
The supports are the cornerstone of a piping system’s stability. For instance, guides and anchors are vital for holding bellows in place and allowing the expansion to move. Using a bellow with the wrong size may encourage compression and stretching to meet the required position, causing warping that reduces performance and results in an unstable piping system. As such, if a system is ever deemed to have inadequate support, additional control units, tie rods, or any other forms of support must be included in the expansion joint design.
5. Chemical exposure
Corrosion develops both inside and outside a piping system. You can avoid this leading cause of expansion joint failure and delay its onset through routine cleaning and flushing of the piping system after harsh chemicals like chloride pass through the components. Otherwise, having a dirty piping system will cause chlorides to settle over time and cause breakdown.
When installed and used correctly, expansion joints can reliably function for several years of service. Combine this with preventive maintenance, and failures will likely never occur. That said, understanding the most common causes of why expansion joints break down is also beneficial to gain valuable insights into your system’s current status.
At Pharmchem Engineering, we provide an extensive selection of expansion joint solutions designed for a wide range of industrial applications, from food processing and power generation to waste disposal and more. Should our off-the-shelf parts not fit your requirements, our team can also work with you to create a custom solution that meets your exact specifications. To learn more about our other industrial components, such as hoses, pipe pigging equipment, dry disconnect couplings, and more, don’t hesitate to contact us anytime.