Sanitary Pipe Fittings for the Instruments

Food processing, pharmaceuticals manufacturing, and biological research processes are naturally sensitive to the presence of micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae. It is important in these processes to ensure the absence of harmful micro-organisms, for reasons of both human health and quality control. For this reason, the process piping and vessels in these industries is designed first and foremost to be thoroughly cleaned without the need for disassembly. Regular cleaning and sterilization cycles are planned and executed between production schedules (batches) to ensure no colonies of harmful micro-organisms can grow.

A common Clean-In-Place (CIP) protocol consists of flushing all process piping and vessels with alternating acid and caustic solutions, then washing with purified water. For increased sanitization, a Steam-In-Place (SIP) cycle may be incorporated as well, flushing all process pipes and vessels with hot steam to ensure the destruction of any micro-organisms.

An important design feature of any sanitary process is the elimination of any “dead ends” (often called dead legs in the industry), crevices, or voids where fluid may collect and stagnate. This includes any instruments contacting the process fluids. It would be unsafe, for example, to connect something as simple as a bourdon-tube pressure gauge to a pipe carrying biologically sensitive fluid(s), since the interior volume of the bourdon tube will act as a stagnant refuge for colonies of micro-organisms to grow:

Pressure Gauge Tubing

Instead, any pressure gauge must use an isolating diaphragm, where the process fluid pressure is transferred to the gauge mechanism through a sterile “fill fluid” that never contacts the process fluid:

Pressure Gauge Tube Fittings

With the isolating diaphragm in place, there are no stagnant places for process fluid to collect and avoid flushing by CIP or SIP cycles.

Standard pipe fittings are problematic in sanitary systems, as tiny voids between the mating threads of male and female pipe fittings may provide refuge for micro-organisms. To avoid this problem, special sanitary fittings are used instead. These fittings consist of a matched pair of flanges, held together by an external clamp. An array of sanitary fittings on an instrument test bench appear in the following photograph:

Tube Fittings & gauges

The next photograph shows the installation of a pressure transmitter on an ultra-pure water line using one of these sanitary fittings. The external clamp holding the two flanges together is clearly visible in this photograph:

Flow meters Tube Fittings

Sanitary pipe fittings are not limited to instrument connections, either. Here are two photographs of process equipment (a ball valve on the left, and a pump on the right) connected to process pipes using sanitary fittings:

Motors Tube Fittings

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