Polypropylene sump pump is 20 ft. long
Shaft-and-impeller assembly is of
polyvinylidene fluoride except for
Centrifugal pump has parts of ethylene
Vertical cantilever bearingless pump with
dry run capability
Automated dual pump/tank system for
collection and transfer of laboratory
Mobile unit can store and pump corrosive
liquids at various locations within plant
Sump pump set in skid mounted double wall
tank to collect hazardous waste.
Polypropylene centrifugal pumps move
50/gal/min of sodium hexametaphosphate
When to Consider
CHEM-GARD Horizontal Centrifugal Pump, FLEX-I-LINER
Sealless Self-Priming Peristaltic Pumps, Nonmetallic Tank
Pump Systems, SUMP-GARD Thermoplastic Vertical Pump
They come in a broad range of materials, each
offering its own attractions.
Reprinted from CHEMICAL ENGINEERING
Edward Margus - Vanton Pump & Equipment Corp.
A process engineer considering the use of a plastic pump faces two
basic questions: Is a plastic pump better than a metal one for my
situation? If so, what plastics and elastomers should I specify?
Plastic pumps have become the choice in more and more process
situations as their qualities and capabilities have risen. However, the
typical engineer remains far less familiar with plastic pumps than with
Pumps made of thermosetting resins are available. However, those
made of thermoplastics are of special interest in the process industries
because of their wide-ranging inertness, as discussed in the next
Why consider plastics?
Originally, plastic pumps came on the scene to handle fluids, such as
blood or hydrofluoric acid, that could not tolerate metals. That inertness
is still a key attraction. The materials are not corroded by the process
fluids, and conversely they do not contaminate the fluid. The latter
advantage is important in many fields, such as pharmaceuticals, foods
and electronic components.
Apart from resisting particular fluids, a given thermoplastic is likely to be
inert to a broader range of them than is true for metals. This provides
Plastic pumps cost little to maintain. Their inertness makes for a very
long operating life. Plastic parts do not gall. Nuts and bolts are easy to
remove, threaded plastic components can be unscrewed readily, and
components of a disassembled pump can be reused. Thus, spare-parts
inventories can be kept to a minimum.
Also contributing to low maintenance is plastics' resistance to the
atmosphere. Since they don't corrode, plastic pumps need not
necessarily be painted.
As regards purchase price, the picture is mixed. Highly engineered
thermoplastic pumps cost less than equivalent pumps of expensive
metals or alloys (e.g., titanium or nickel). They are about on a par with
pumps made of Type 304 or 316 stainless steel. But they are likely to be
more expensive than equivalent ones of brass, bronze, aluminum or
A look at the limitations
The most obvious limitation of thermoplastic pumps concerns the
operating temperatures they can accommodate. Although a few
thermoplastics, particularly the fluoropolymers, can retain their
properties at temperatures as high as 550°F, commercially available
thermoplastic pumps are generally not recommended for continuous
service above 275°F. At higher temperatures, loss of mechanical
properties and stress-cracking corrosion may hinder performance. In
practice, this is not a widely relevant disadvantage, because corrosive
fluids are generally handled at moderate temperatures.
Pumps that employ flexible liners incur an additional temperature
limitation on the liner material. For instance, although a fluoropolymer
casing or body block may be suitable for high temperatures as indicated
above, the upper limit of the elastomeric materials is usually about
As regards capacity, the upper limit for thermoplastic centrifugal pumps
on the market today is about 1,000 gal/min, with heads to 240 ft. The
largest rotary pumps cannot exceed 40 gal/min. The largest
thermoplastic magnetic-drive chemical pumps are limited to
approximately 400 gal/min against a total dynamic head of 40 ft.
Impact resistance and strength of thermoplastic pumps may also pose a
problem. They must be protected against falling objects and similar
impact dangers, because of possible deformation if the operating
temperature is high. Furthermore, thermoplastic material tends to
elongate under sustained load (creep) as temperatures rise.
For these reasons, thermoplastic pumps must generally be armored, by
surrounding the plastic with a metal sheath. This is particularly true of
horizontal centrifugal pumps that are exposed in normal plant
operations. Accordingly, these plastics' light weight cannot be
considered an advantage in those pumps (except to the extent that the
lightness of the plastic components within the armor eases
Light weight is, however, an advantage with respect to vertical
centrifugal pumps, particularly the larger ones. The same is true of
portable hand-held pumps.
Spotlight on materials
The selection of materials for a thermoplastic pump is highly relevant for
at least two reasons. One is the very broad range of polymers available.
The other is that, unlike the situation with pumps made of metal, the
engineer does not consult corrosion tables to help make the choice — a
particular plastic either works for a given situation or it doesn't, and that
information is readily available.
In spite of the breadth of the field, most thermoplastics used for pumps
fall into four basic categories: vinyl, polypropylene, polyethylene and
When one considers use of those polymer families, a key parameter is
the service temperature. Some of the temperatures cited here may
seem conservative. That is because plastic components in pumps must
retain not only their shape but also adequate mechanical strength.
The ones most commonly used in pumps are polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC). PVC has good chemical
resistance and is an excellent choice for service temperatures to 140°F.
CPVC withstands temperatures to 210°F.
These materials are widely used throughout the chemical process
industries because they offer relatively low cost, good physical
properties, and resistance to attack by acids, alkalies, salt solutions and
many other chemicals. They are not generally suitable for use with
ketones, esters, chlorinated hydrocarbons, or aromatics.
These increasingly popular low-cost polymers offer a good
strength-to-weight ratio, because of their relatively high stiffness and
their specific gravity of only around 0.90. Maximum service temperature
They resist a broad range of acids, bases and solvents. But they are
generally not recommended for strong oxidizing acids, or for
chlorinated hydrocarbons and aromatics.
Despite that limitation, polypropylene pumps (and other equipment) are
widely used in the petroleum industry because the polymer resists
sulfur-bearing compounds. They are also attractive for water handling
and for waste treatment, and for laboratory service.
This high-molecular weight material is impermeable to water and
generally resistant to organic solvents, acids and alkalies. It is among
the lightest of the thermoplastics, and retains good physical properties
even at low temperature. Polyethylene is attacked by strong oxidizing
acids and chlorinated or aromatic solvents. Maximum recommended
service temperature is 200°F.
The three major fluoroplastics widely used in pumps for structural parts
are: polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), and
ethylene chlorotrifluoroethylene (ECTFE). Each offers particular
PTFE is perhaps the most inert compound known, so it can be exposed
to a extremely broad range of fluids. Its maximum service temperature,
500°F, is significantly higher than that of the other two.
PVDF is stronger, stiffer and less subject to creep than PTFE. It retains
strength well throughout its service temperature range. Its maximum
recommended service temperature is 300°F. It is chemically resistant to
most acids, alkalies (except sodium hydroxide) and organic solvents,
and is equally suited for handling wet or dry chlorine, bromine and the
ECTFE has high tensile strength and impact resistance. It is inert to a
broad range of acids, including the oxidizing types. It also can handle
alkalies, organic solvents (and combinations of them), most other
corrosive liquids, and abrasive mixtures, even when used as a coating
over metals. Maximum service temperature is 300°F.
All three of these fluoropolymers are suitable for applications requiring
extreme purity and freedom from contamination. Examples include
electronics manufacture and the handling of ultrapure water.
Thermoplastic pumps require elastomeric materials as well. These are
primarily used where corrosion resistance and impact resistance must
be combined with flexibility, as in gaskets, O-rings and other flexible
It offers good resistance to weak and strong acids and alkalies as well as
to oxygenated solvents. It stands up well against abrasion and has good
low-temperature characteristics. But it is attacked by oxidizing acids,
and tends to swell in vegetable, mineral and animal oils.
Formed by the polymerization of butylene and butadiene, this synthetic
elastomer has good resistance to corrosive chemicals in general,
including outstanding resistance to dilute mineral acids. It also resists
vegetable and mineral oils. It stands up very well under heat, and offers
low gas permeation. It is not recommended for use with petroleum
solvents or aromatic hydrocarbons.
Buna-N (nitrile rubber)
This copolymer of butadiene and acrylonitrile has good resistance to
weak and strong acids as well as alkalies, and is highly inert to aliphatic
hydrocarbons, petroleum, and mineral and vegetable oils. It has
excellent water-swell resistance, and its mechanical properties actually
improve at higher temperatures. Buna-N is not recommended for use
with highly polar solvents such as acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, and
It offers excellent resistance to dilute acids and weak and strong alkalies,
and good resistance to petroleum, oils and concentrated acids. It is not
recommended for strong oxidizing acids, esters, ketones or chlorinated
Ethylene-propylene-diene monomer (EPDM) rubber
This synthetic elastomer affords excellent low- and high-temperature
characteristics. It resists attack by a wide range of acids and alkalies,
detergents, phosphates, ketones, alcohols and glycols. EPDM does not
tend to absorb fluid, or to swell. It is not recommended for use with
It offers good resistance to dilute and concentrated acids, and alkaline
solutions regardless of their pH. Resistance to strong oxidizing acids is
Copolymers of vinylidene fluoride and hexafluoropropylene have
excellent resistance to oils, fuels, lubricants and most mineral acids, and
stand up against many aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons that attack
other rubbers. They are not recommended for low molecular weight
esters or ethers, or for ketones or certain amines, or for hot anhydrous
hydrofluoric or chlorosulfonic acids. Copolymers of perfluoromethyl
vinyl ether and tetrafluoroethylene offer virtually unmatched resistance
to all classes of chemicals, except fluorinated solvents. Continued use at
temperatures to 550°F is possible, and intermittent use to 600°F. The
material neither creeps nor flows, and it becomes more elastic rather
than embrittled with heat aging. The major disadvantage is extremely
In addition to the structural thermoplastics and the elastomers,
thermoplastic-pump manufacturers sometime employ ceramics in seal
components. Two of the most common are a ceramic-graphite
composite with a silicon carbide surface that stands up well against
abrasion and heat, and a sintered silicon carbide that offers extremely
high corrosion resistance to aggressive liquids and solutions, such as
Assuring quality and reliability
The engineer should insist that the supplier test every pump before
shipment, rather than relying on random sampling. Testing should in all
cases include output flowrate, head pressure, and energy input.
Centrifugal pumps should also be hydrostatically checked for leaks up
to the rated seal pressure. Hydraulic Institute (Cleveland, Ohio)
guidelines should be followed for all testing.
Routine vibration testing can be carried out by sound and touch, but the
findings should be checked with a vibration meter if they appear to be
borderline. Shaft straightness and runout should be examined, and
runout of impellers and similar circular parts should be assessed by an
indicator on a motorized fixture.
Be sure to specify that the pump impellers be dynamically balanced.
Forestalling shaft vibrations not only makes for accurate flowrates and
long seal life but also can help the pump meet workplace-noise
limitations, such as those of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health
Administration. Pump buyers' concerns about erosion stemming from
surface grinding or hole drilling required for balancing are unwarranted.
Edited by Nicholas P. Chopey
PLASTIC PUMPS' PROGRESS
Plastic pumps came into prominence because of their early use as a
mechanism for transferring human blood without contamination or
destruction of the cells. The original pump used as an artificial heart was
of the flexible-liner design, having a pure-gum-rubber liner and a
transparent polymethyl methacrylate housing.
Like the industrial versions that have since grown out of it, this rotary
heart pump operates by means of an eccentric shaft within the liner. A
rotating eccentric lobe pushing against the liner creates a progressive,
compressive force that propels the liquid between the wetted side of
the liner and the inert pump casing. Some 150,000 industrial plastic
pumps of the flexible-liner design are in service today in the U.S. alone.
They can handle gases or liquids, including viscous fluids up to 8,000
These pumps are often mistakenly confused with two types of
progressive cavity pumps, each also available in plastic. One is the
progressive-cavity screw pump, employed mainly to handle highly
viscous materials such as toothpaste, glues, grease or sludge. The other
is a peristaltic pump of flexible tubing design, often used for corrosive
or flammable fluids. Gear pumps are available in plastic. And the use of
plastic diaphragm pumps has risen recently.
Horizontal centrifugal pumps employing plastics were already appearing
on the industrial scene 30 years ago. At first, pump manufacturers
merely re-created the design and configuration of the standard metal
pump, using plastic components where possible for fluid contact areas.
But as the market grew, pump designers started to take advantage of
the superior chemical inertness, abrasion resistance, low weight and
precision moldability of the newly emerging engineered plastics. This
led to nonmetallic pumps with many design components that were
radically different from their metal counterparts.
It was only natural that the vertical centrifugal or sump pump would not
be far behind. Stimulated by the tremendous growth in the municipal
and industrial water- and waste-treatment fields, engineers have been
designing sump pumps with unique characteristics. For example, as
waste-gathering sumps have become deeper, vertical centrifugal
pumps have been redesigned to be suitable for depths of 20 ft. and
Magnetic pumps with plastic components have also been undergoing
much development. State-of-the-art versions make wide use of
fluoropolymers for housing linings, are of rugged construction, and
offer almost universal chemical resistance, in some cases to
temperatures of 300°F. The housing linings may be of thick-walled PTFE
or PVDF, and are supported by shells of ductile iron.
Back to Articles
In the 1950, Vanton developed a revolutionary all-plastic pump for use in conjunction with the first heart-lung device. The design limited fluid contact to only two non-metallic parts: a plastic body block and a flexible liner. This was the birth of our Flex-I-Liner rotary pump. Its self-priming sealless design made it an industry standard for the handling of corrosive, abrasive and viscous fluids as well as those that must be transferred without contaminating the product. Vanton now offers the most comprehensive line of thermoplastic pumps in the industry.
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(+44) 01260 277040
Vanton Pumps (Europe) Ltd.
Unit 4, Royle Park
Congleton CW12 1JJ