Material handling valves come in all shapes, sizes, varieties, and with hundreds of available options. From rotary valves and knife gate valves to double dump valves and trickle valves the choices are nearly endless. With such a vast selection available, choosing the right material handling valve for a given application can be a difficult task and choosing the wrong valve can be costly.
While there may be more than one possible solution to a material handling need, there is often a best solution to be found if the proper considerations are given. Here are the top five questions any plant manager or plant engineer should ask when choosing a material handling valve.
- What is the nature of the material being handled?
The most important consideration for any material handling application is of course the material itself. The characteristics of the material being handled will determine what type of valve should be selected. Extremely fine material typically requires a valve with tight tolerances and seals to avoid material from dusting out to the atmosphere. Coarse or chunky materials often require a valve with larger clearances to avoid plugging or jamming of the valve mechanism.
- Will the valve meet your operational parameters?
Not all valves are created equally and the environments they are expected to operate in vary as well. In many cases material handling valves are put to use on systems with some degree of atmospheric pressure differential. Most material handling valves are intended to be airlocks as well; allowing solid material to pass through the system without allowing major pressure losses. Be sure to select a material handling valve that has a pressure rating within the range it will be expected to operate.
- How should the valve be powered?
All too often, plant maintenance personnel accept the “standard” valve control type listed by the manufacturer rather than choosing the best actuation method for the job. Pneumatic cylinders are the most widely used actuators for knife gate valves and many other process valves due to their continuous-duty rating and readily available shop air supplies. While pneumatic controls may appear to be an easy and convenient method to operate a knife gate valve, a manually operated unit may be more suitable and cost-effective for maintenance valves which are operated very infrequently.
- How easy is it to maintain?
Regular maintenance is a must for any material handling valve. As valve parts wear or material build-up occurs, the need for replacement, repair, and cleaning of the valve is inevitable. When choosing a material handling valve, close attention should be paid to how easily the valve will be to maintain. Quick-release access panels, change-in-place parts, and easily accessed wear parts all make the job of performing regular service on a valve much easier.
- How much will it cost?
While the initial investment for a material handling valve is important, it is only part of the equation. Frequent repairs or labor-intensive repairs to a valve can easily eat into any initial savings in cost. The cost of process downtime due to maintenance needs can become magnified if the valve cannot be repaired in place or replacement parts are not readily available.
Doing the proper due diligence also goes a long way in selecting the best material handling valve for a given application. Realistically, the success of a material handling valve comes down to the careful consideration of application parameters and how much time and effort is given to make sure the appropriate valve is selected.
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