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Metal Bellows for Critical Industrial Applications

Oct 9, 2007
I built my first bellows 35 years ago from leather and wood. My father was a union sheet-metal man and enjoyed building small projects. Metal bellows for industry generally serve a different purpose than that one, even though they function the same. Still....there are metal bellows pumps that work in some very critical applications in industry.

Bellows, in general, enclose and seal the interior of the space yet allow for movement. They provide a hermetic, all-metal, pressure barrier and seal that flexes various directions.

In air ducting for buildings, often the air handling system will vibrate, and in order to avoid transmitting the vibrations to the rest of the system, bellows are used to reduce the vibrations. Metal bellows will often allow for alignment of one end of a plenum or air duct after the system is built. They are highly resistant to cocking as compared to mechanical seals with o-rings.

Sometimes expansion is expected due to changing temperatures, so a bellows is installed to allow for expansion without stressing the joints or connections. That is the most common use; allowing one section of a material handling system to move without causing stress to the mounting brackets. Over time, movement will tear at any strongly fastened joints and holes can develop.

Stress at joints is a major problem with highly engineered structures. Recently a vehicle bridge collapsed in Minnesota, and the cause might just be stress that built up over time and eventually the joints failed. Metal bellows serve to eliminate or reduce stress in various structures in your liquid or air handling systems.

Bellows are considered an expansion joint, and their design is often covered by standards set forth by the Expansion Joint Manufacturers Association. EJMA specifications are standards used to design a proper part that will perform to the specifications called for. This is both for safety and performance reasons. The amount of pressure that the system will contain is part of the system of specs.

There are generally two different methods of producing metal bellows. Some smaller bellows are formed on a machine that mass produces the parts on a large scale.

If you have any gas appliances in your home there is likely a section of formed bellows where the gas attaches to your appliances. This flexible piping contains the gas inside, allows for easy alignment, and most importantly, reduces stress at the connection points.

When containing flammable gasses in your home, reducing long term stress is a critical safety measure. Formed metal bellows are also used in larger applications such as HVAC, and large piping systems.

On the other end there are welded bellows that may need a custom fabrication for each situation. With this method, each piece, called a diaphragm, of the bellows is custom cut and welded into the bellows needed for a particular situation. This can be made from any metal able to be welded, but generally, non-corroding materials are used.

Obviously, this is a much more expensive process and has many applications in medicine, heavy industry, defense, aviation and aerospace.

Metal bellows are manufactured and sold by companies specializing in metal expansion joints and other piping systems. These couplings have proven to be versatile and to satisfy a variety of applications. They allow you to control fluid movement and containment in your system under a wide variety of pressures, thermal expansion and contraction, pulsations, vibration, equipment movement and convoluted routing requirements.
About the Author
Metal bellows manufactured by Expansion Joint Systems allow you to control fluid movement and containment in your system under a wide variety of pressures. We have only highly skilled engineers to design a metal bellows specifically for your system. Visit us at http://www.ejsus.com .
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