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Valve World Expo 2016: Specialist Article No. 5

The specialists amongst the valves

Valve World Expo 2016: Trend towards stainless steel valves for hygiene

Stainless steel valves are always in the spotlight, thanks to their ability to resist corrosion. They allow for perfect hygiene and are therefore often used by the food and pharmaceutical industries. These rustproof valves offer great advantages for manufacturers and dealers.

Stainless steel valves have been an impressive success story in the last few years. “Current demand is very good. A lot is being invested worldwide in plant engineering for the pharmaceutical industry. Due to ‚global health trends‘, a growing world population and industrialization in emerging markets, the trend will remain positive for the time being, even though the sector can’t disconnect itself entirely from the global economy,” stated Marco Becker, Head of Distribution Marketing at Gemü.

Requirements are increasing
Mankenberg agrees. “The trend in the last decades continues to be increasingly towards stainless steel,” reported the company. Demand for the material is rising in many sectors. Reasons are “higher standards also abroad and rising quality and purity requirements for plants,” said Heiko Bischoff, Export Manager at Mankenberg. Compared to steel, stainless steel offers far different qualities in terms of corrosion resistance, purity and longevity. Mankenberg even made stainless steel valves their standard – its share of production is around 75% and still growing.

Gemü also praises valves made from stainless steel. In the pharmaceutical, food and biotech industries “the focus is on sterility, aseptic handling and safety,” explained Marco Becker. The surfaces of stainless steel valves can be processed very well, making it possible to produce a precisely defined surface. This allows “a stainless steel valve or tubing made from stainless steel to be cleaned and sterilized very easily”.

Corrosion resistance
Stainless steels become corrosion resistant thanks to the formation of a passive coating on the surface. Such a metal oxide or metal oxide hydrate coating has a high chrome content and prevents the steel from coming into direct contact with aggressive media. Should the coating itself be damaged, a new one forms itself most of the time – the material is self-healing, so to speak. In order to make sure this is the case, stainless steel has a chrome content of at least 12% and a carbon content of no more than 0.12%. Adding molybdenum increases resistance.

Stainless steels are not only corrosion resistant and hygienic, but also wear-resistant, low-maintenance, long-lived, durable, weldable and temperature-resistant.

For the pharmaceutical and beverages industry stainless steel V2A with the material numbers 1.4301 and 1.4305 is used. The rustproof steel 1.4301 – also called AISI 304 – is a chrome-nickel steel approved for a permissible temperature stress of up to 600°C.

Pharmaceuticals on course for growth
These are properties the valve sector can utilize. They are especially in demand by the pharmaceutical industry, which has been growing for years. Global turnover of pharmaceuticals in 2014 was 864.4 billion euro, states the German Pharmaceutical Industry Association (BPI), a growth of 6.4% yearly. Latin America is the strongest growth market with a rise of 17%, followed by North America with growth of 12%. Asia, Africa and Australasia trail behind, with an increase of 6%. Based on absolute sales, North America is the largest market with a turnover of 322.5 billion euro, while Asia, Africa and Australasia are second place with 246.8 billion euro. Europe comes in third, contributing 213.8 billion euro. As such “more than 70% of total sales in the global pharmaceuticals market is achieved in North America, Europe and Japan,” declared the BPI.

The BRICS states Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa offer a lot of potential, despite economic growth slowing down in the five emerging markets in the last few years. The outlook is nonetheless positive, as sales are expected to grow in the respective countries. “The role of the pharmaceutical markets in the BRICS states will continue to increase for the pharmaceutical industry,” emphasized the BPI.

Life expectancy is growing
The BPI sees several reasons for the continued growth of the pharmaceuticals market: “To date, many diseases are unresponsive to therapy; life expectancy of people is on the rise and the changed consumer interest, as well as the search for more quality of life, increases demand for health-related services and products”.

A further important market for manufacturers and dealers of stainless steel valves is the food industry. While profitable, development of sales is not positive worldwide. Germany serves as an example. Here, turnover in March 2016 decreased by 3.1% compared to the same period last year. The mid-term business outlook of the sector for 2016 is quite restrained according to the Federation of German Food and Drink Industries (BVE).

Several reasons speak for the restrained expectations in Germany. “Uncertainties and increased pressure on earnings are growing for the food industry,” remarked Laura Busch, a Consultant at the BVE. Higher labor costs, increased demand for skilled workers, as well as the growing demands of consumers for quality and sustainability are the greatest concerns of companies this year, according to a survey of the federation. “The increasing market concentration and consolidation in the food industry and consumers’ need for information of origin and production methods are further burdens, as well as high prices and scarcity of resources, and more and more regulation and red tape”.

Pharmaceutical valves a role model
Despite all of this, the consumer climate in Germany is “better than in the European neighbor states,” stated the BVE. German consumers are prepared to spend more on higher quality products. Even though the food industry serves a rather sensitive market, it is a very big market that requires large quantities of stainless steel valves. After all, worldwide demand for foodstuffs is growing, owing to the fact that the worldwide population will grow from currently 7.1 billion people to 9.1 billion people in the year 2050.

Both the pharmaceutical and food industry increasingly have the same requirements for valves. Based on requirements continuing to rise, experts believe valves used in food production will be comparable to valves used in pharmaceutical plants.

An important role in the sanitization process in food production and drug manufacturing is the principle of steam drying in clean rooms. “With this process, the components to be dried are exposed to steam which is generated from distilled water and must be as free as possible from condensate,” explained Mankenberg. A liquid separator separates the condensate from the steam under operating pressure, using the centrifugal principle. The interaction between high temperatures and the highly reactive pure water quickly leads to intergranular corrosion, which is also called intergranular attack. The company therefore uses a low-carbon stainless steel, “which ensures a high corrosion resistance in the event that very aggressive media are separated”.

Controlling steam pressures
For a more complex manufacturing process numerous pressure control valves are required. In the food industry, beverages are often aerated. Carbon dioxide is supplied as a fluid, due to high pressure. It becomes gaseous again when de-pressured. Here, pressure reducing valves are necessary to achieve the change in state.

Pressure reducing valves allow the controlled vaporization of fluid carbon dioxide coming from cylinder batteries, thereby creating gas. The gas won in the process is used to aerate mineral water. “A valve should have a high flow coefficient for CO2 pressure reduction,” stated Mankenberg, “as the regulator could freeze over due to thermal expansion. The valve would basically freeze up“.

In drug manufacturing and food production, valves are responsible for a large number of functions such as mixing, separating, discharging, feeding or cleaning, and nearly all of these are sterile processes. This is why Gemü uses multiport valve blocks. Residual volume has to be low, and there should not be any internal welds. Stainless steel is the preferred material.

Trend towards heat sterilization
When developing valves for the pharmaceutical and food industry, manufacturers need to make sure that dead space, cavities and gaps are eliminated, otherwise there is a risk of corrosion and bacterial growth.

Various types of valves are used, ranging from shut-off and control valves to diaphragm valves, butterfly and safety valves. Both the pharmaceutical and food industries are increasingly replacing cold sterilization with heat sterilization, a development requiring manufacturers to take note. Seals need to be designed to deal with higher cleaning temperatures.

The individual requirements of customers and the versatility of stainless steel, for instance in handling critical media in food production and drug manufacturing, made Berluto expand its stainless steel business. The company therefore now offers numerous different float valves made from stainless steel. And Berluto is not an isolated case.

Focus on specialists
Spending money here will bring a return on investments for the valve industry. There is no doubt that the requirements for components to be used in the pharmaceutical and food industry will continue to rise, just like the global population. Stainless steel valves will increasingly be in the limelight. The stage is set for companies specialized in such products.

Valve World Expo 2016 in Düsseldorf
At Valve World Expo, 10th Biennial Valve World Conference & Exhibition, exhibitors will showcase the latest machinery and equipment for the valve sector, including valves, valve components and parts, actuators and positioners as well as pumps, compressors, engineering services and software. The concurrently held Valve World Conference will feature workshops and specialist presentations on valve and fittings related topics as well as new trends and designs. The event will take place from November 29 - December 1, 2016 at the fairgrounds in Düsseldorf, Germany.

For Valve World Expo 2016 press information, contact:
Anne Meerboth-Maltz
Tel. (312) 781-5185

Messe Dusseldorf North America Located at 150 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 2920, Chicago, IL. Phone: 312-781-5180. .