‘Process conditions vary somewhat’
Sometimes a small change can be a big step forward. An apparently miniscule modification of a solenoid shut-off valve, for example, rendering it more resistant to high pressure. Solenoid shut-off valves, also called magnet valves, are located at junctions in pipes and can partly or completely block the flow of liquid or gas.
A valve that performs better under extreme conditions is invaluable, says engineer Jan van der Zee, until recently development engineer and project coordinator at ASCO Numatics. He developed the valve and recently devised the modification. ‘We applied for a patent. If you’re selling large numbers of these valves each year, it’s important to protect them.’
High patent production
Van der Zee has retired recently. Anyone examining his latest achievements would be more likely to think it was a young researcher. The reason for the high patent production is simply money, he explains. ‘If certain products generate a lot of turnover and you want to maintain your lead in the market, then it’s worth applying for a patent.’
Solenoid shut-off valves
ASCO Numatics is part of the Emerson Industrial Automation division. ASCO boasts over a hundred years of experience in the development of solenoid shut-off valves and is the holder of the first patent in this field. Throughout the world the company is a leading manufacturer of numerous solenoid shut-off valves, says Van der Zee. ‘In practice you come across thousands of types of valves. The fact is the process conditions can vary substantially.’
One of the most recent of Van der Zee’s achievements is the small modification of a so-called 3-way balanced valve. This valve is based on an extremely well-proven technology and functions in a pipeline network as a kind of T-junction: the flow of liquid or gas goes either straight on or branches off. The traffic regulator behind this is an electromagnet that is able to attract a moveable metal core. The core can be moved in front of one of the pipe’s openings, thereby closing it.
Egg of Columbus
The problem was just that a rubber sealing ring deformed under high pressure and was even able to pop out of the holder. The result was a leak or a loss of pressure. The problem was tricky because different solutions brought in a new disadvantage, says Van der Zee. A small rim against which the ring can press ultimately proved to be the egg of Columbus. The improved 3-way valve has recently been causing a stir in various industries.
The services offered by EP&C, with whom Van der Zee has been collaborating extensively in the past few years, were always bespoke. ‘They have a lot of know-how in-house and know how to formulate a strong patent application.’
April 2009 - De Technologiekrant