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The Development Of PVC Pipe

Jul 9, 2008
Polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC is one of the most widespread thermoplastics used not only in the construction industry but in everyday life. The construction industry predominantly uses PVC for pipe and window fittings. But where did this wonder material come from? Who have we got to thank for this jewel in the construction industry's crown?

Fundamentally it was the work of the B.F. Goodrich Company, who throughout the twenties discovered new ways to use PVC plastic. Before this work was carried out PVC was generally regarded to be a brittle and unworkable plastic that would not have many uses at all. Thanks to the introduction of plasticizing agents however, the malleability and usability of PVC was improved, now pipe, containers, and fixtures could all be manufactured from this material.

The combination of plastic and vinyl that makes PVC makes items made from this material extremely durable. This is why it has been adopted for use as pipe in the construction industry, ultimately it is difficult to damage and will not need replacing for a lifetime. PVC pipe cannot rot; it will never rust and is hard wearing in extremis. Pipe made from PVC is used for water systems, sewerage and also wiring applications underground.

Even after the work of B.F. Goodrich, PVC was rarely used for around another decade due to the fact that many industries found it difficult to find suitable applications for the plastic. After the amazing strength of PVC was understood however, industries started to embrace its use. The first uses were not strictly in construction, originally the strength of this plastic made those in tyre manufacturing realise its benefits.

During the nineteen fifties the PVC pipe was born, the construction industry rapidly realised the benefits for water piping systems as it was cheaper as well as more durable than the widely used copper pipe. The reason piping became a reality was due to the invention of the extruder; this machinery allowed PVC to stretched and formed into pipe. After this stage PVC pipe became the material of choice for those in construction, especially for building water systems in residential and commercial properties.

The main benefits of PVC over copper are its strength and durability. Not only is it strong but it also has the ability to cope with stresses and tensions that metals simply cannot handle. This made it the ideal piping material in areas prone to earthquakes, as even in earthquakes, ruptures were a rare occurrence.

Being a smooth material, it is also resistant to the build up of bacteria as there is little for organisms to cling to. This once again made PVC the ideal choice for water systems, especially in drinking water applications. Understandably, as the quality of tapped water became better in the latter half of the last century, a means of transporting this water hygienically was needed; PVC pipe filled that criterion perfectly.

Without PVC pipe it is doubtful that building projects today could be plumbed as quickly. Its ease of assembly over copper is startling while the benefits of strength, durability and longevity make it the ideal building material. Strong enough to stand up to the rigours of everyday life whilst being long lasting enough to ensure that refits are not a common occurrence. Whatever can be said about this material, it has changed the way we look at construction.
About the Author
Industry expert Thomas Pretty looks into how PVC pipe has been developed and used in the construction industry.
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