Made to give plastics the blues
Many years in the making, Saint-Gobain PAM's new ductile-iron pipe - Blutop - could be set to revolutionise the industry. Lightweight, thin-walled, and made in small diameters, Blutop has its sights on challenging the dominance of plastic pipes.Think of Saint-Gobain PAM and most people would describe it as a major supplier of large ductile-iron pipes. But this perception is about to change, thanks to the company's latest offering - Blutop - and as it sets its sights on challenging the dominance of plastics in the small-diameter pipe sector.
Blutop is a small-diameter, lightweight, thin-walled ductile-iron pipe combining the "traditional values and long-term performance of ductile iron with the modern values of plastics".
According to French-based company Saint-Gobain, this combination of materials ensures leak-free reliability, easy handling, reduced installation costs and high water quality.
The pipe, which will be available in the UK during the first quarter of 2009, has been designed to be longer lasting even at a high operating pressure of 25bar. Available in diameters compatible with plastic pipe systems, Blutop is easy to lay, and does not require any special equipment.
Saint-Gobain says Blutop, which can be laid shallow and deep, features a new Ductan interior lining that provides "excellent water quality properties", and with a zinc aluminium coating similar to its PAM Natural pipe system, says the company, makes them suitable for use in a variety of ground conditions.
The company says Blutop is "revolutionary". It is also the first time that it has introduced a product that features both a newly-developed lining and coating.
Available in 90mm, 110mm and 125mm diameters, Blutop's light weight means it can be carried by two people.
It can also be recycled which, says Saint-Gobain, is an advantage over plastic pipes. Even the Ductan lining can be recycled. Saint-Gobain is clearly excited by the prospects of Blutop.
David Smoker, business development director at Saint-Gobain PAM UK, says the product "will generate new markets for us".
He says Blutop can "challenge polyethelene. It's a big innovation for us". He adds that the product is attractive to water companies and contractors because welding is not required. "You just cut and joint, saving time and effort. You can save an engineer three hours."
Blutop will be available in the UK during the first quarter of 2009. In the meantime, it has undergone testing with research group WRc and is being trialled "all over the place".
Water companies are now taking an increasing interest in the product, reward enough for Saint-Gobain, which spent "a lot of time" getting Blutop right.
"The zinc aluminium coating took 15 years to develop," says Smoker.
Paul Minchin, managing director of Saint-Gobain PAM UK, says most of the water companies have been approached to trial the pipe. These trials have been designed to show how Blutop can fit into water companies' networks, and how contractors can benefit.
Minchin says that Blutop brings another choice of product to the market, especially as ductile iron is seen as a "very versatile material" in the market place.
And he adds that new innovations, such as Blutop, "help bring ductile product into contention".
According to Smoker, bringing Blutop to market is about adding value to clients while taking cost out at the same time.
He estimates that savings of 10% are achievable. It is Minchin's aim for Saint-Gobain PAM to become customers' first choice for pipes and other products. He says this can be achieved by aligning products and processes.
"Contractors and product solution providers need to work together to generate savings for the water companies," he says.Smoker, explains: "An engineer designs a project but this may not be the best cost-effective solution.
"Saint-Gobain can take the designing cost out using our software tools such as PAMcad."
This process can remove an estimated 7% from costs.