Many in-plant fluid flow problems arise in piping that has been in place a long time. If a problem occurs with fluids flowing through existing piping, what should you do? Should you clean the pipe, reconfigure it or replace it? Sometimes the answers are as close as your computer.
Information about some commercially available, amazingly complex, but relatively simple-to-use piping network programs is readily accessible on the Web. Two network analysis offerings that come to mind are Applied Flow Technology's AFT Mercury (www.aft.com/products/mercury) and Epcon International's Engineer's Aide Sinet (www.epcon.com/EAS.htm). Other available analyzers and simulators include Engineered Software's Pipe-Flo (www.eng-software.com) and Intelligen's SuperPro Designer (www.intelligen.com/SuperPro.htm).
It is particularly interesting to see how a computer program such as AFT Mercury actually designs a piping system and determines the optimal sizes of piping, ducting, pumps, valves and other system components. More about what AFT Mercury does, costs and some information about a working demo are provided in the AFT Mercury Details Page at www.aft.com/products/mercury/details.php.
Whether you are optimizing a piping network or just transferring material from one place to another, you must keep the fluid flowing. The latest design, analysis and operating techniques for piping systems can help to ensure success. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) offers professional development and continuing education courses that can help you keep current on these techniques. The ASME Continuing Education Institute course on Boiler, Pressure Vessels and Pressure Piping (http://ww2.asme.org/pd/) and courses through ASME International Education and Training (www.asme.org/education) provide convenient and cost-effective ways to learn the latest techniques from experts in the field. Custom courses available from universities such as the University of Wisconsin,"Madison (http://epdweb.engr.wisc.edu/courses_at_your_site) provide another avenue for continuing education. Each of the education Web sites provides course curriculum, schedule and location information.
To keep fluids flowing in a piping system, you must keep an eye open for potential problems. Inspection Guidelines for Pressure Vessels and Piping is available, for a fee, through bookstores or through the Materials Technology Institute (MTI) at www.mtilink.org. The Web page at www.mti-link.org/old/pub40.htm describes the contents of MTI Publication No. 51, a 352-page book authored by Joerg Gutzeit and published by Elsevier Science (ISBN: 1576980111, December 1997). The information can be useful when you are developing a plan for cleaning troublesome process equipment and piping.
If you or your company is not quite ready to spring for a sophisticated or expensive pipe system analysis program, you still can take advantage of a computer program to help keep fluid flowing. Most of the programs previously mentioned are offered in a demo version. For example, the PIPE-FLO Demo (www.eng-software.com/demo/special.htm) has a "Build Your Own System" offer through which you can design a new or existing project and perform all calculations using the program demo, free of charge.
A spreadsheet analysis (www.cheresources.com/pipes.xls), a pipe friction calculation for fluid flow in a pipe (www.efunda.com/formulae/fluids/calc_pipe_friction.cfm), or just a plain old-fashioned paper-and-pencil approach could suffice just as well. Some of the free online applications for engineering design available from FreeCalc.com (www.freecalc.com/index.htm) might be helpful.
While you are thinking about "keeping the fluid flowing," you might take a moment to review the eight New Year's Resolutions for PC Users (www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,77644,00.asp) that were listed in Tom Spring's December 2001 PCWorld.com article. A checklist includes items such as boosting security, avoiding advertising software, fixing broken windows, and, in general, keeping your computer in shape. And for the summer, when air conditioning becomes a topic of discussion, you might find some of the Sites and Software of General Interest links (http://home.att.net/~alt.hvac/gen.htm) useful.
Hodel is Chemical Processing's Internet columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.