Common materials for the bodies and
liners of plastic pumps are, clockwise
starting at top left: polyethylene
body, Viton liner; reinforced Teflon
body, Hypalon liner; polypropylene body,
natural rubber liner; Teflon body,
Nordel liner, carbon-filled Teflon body,
Neoprene liner; and polypropylene body,
Cut-away view of centrifugal pump shows
construction using Halar ECTFE
fluoropolymers, which extends service
life in extremely corrosive and abrasive
Grow for Plastic Pumps
Non-metallic Tank Pump Systems, CHEM-GARD Horizontal
Centrifugal Pump, FLEX-I-LINER Sealless Self-Priming
Peristaltic Pumps, SUMP-GARD Thermoplastic Vertical
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Reprinted from WATER/Engineering & Management
By Ken Comerford
No matter what design solutions engineers and construction contractors
devise to contend with the growing number of water and air pollution
regulations, they can't do very much without pumps. Gravity sometimes
may play a role in water and wastewater systems but pumps are,
without a doubt, the prime movers in the business of fluid handling.
And as water pollution control technology continues to develop to meet
the needs, it is becoming more evident that non-metallic pumps are
particularly suitable for many applications in the field.
Unfortunately, the quantity of published information covering the design
features, materials of construction, and applied experience of
non-metallic pumps used for water pollution control purposes is
meager compared with what is available in published form on metallic
pumps and other equipment. Plastic pumps have been around for
decades (our company developed thermoplastic pumps in 1950), but
the bulk of experience with them has been acquired in the chemical and
other process industries, where they have been applied in numerous
cases for handling corrosive and hazardous fluids.
As a result of government regulations affecting water quality and waste
disposal, municipal facilities now are seen as chemical operations
requiring the same degree of knowledge and sophistication associated
with manufacturing and processing plants. With this in mind, a review
of significant information on plastic pumps, and their design and
application, should be of interest and value. Three important aspects
• The non-metallic materials in widest use for pumps handling corrosive
and abrasive wastewater, water and wastewater treatment chemicals,
and corrosive fumes. Which materials for which service?
• Design aspects unique to non-metallic pumps in water pollution
control service, and how metallic contact with pumped fluids can be
• The expanding use of non-metallic tank/pump systems to handle a
variety of wastewater streams.
An additional area of increasing importance to engineers and managers
in the water/wastewater field is the control of undesirable atmospheric
emissions. The incorporation of thermoplastic pumps and other
components in the design of scrubbing and odor control systems has
solved a number of problems, and will be the subject of a future article
Materials of Construction
Let's look first at materials of construction. Several years ago a study
aimed at knowledgeable engineers and others involved with wastewater
treatment revealed that a large majority had used non-metallic pumps
for some purpose. But generally they were unaware of the range of
potential applications for them, and the specific reasons for selecting
non-metallic rather than metallic pumps.
Corrosion resistance was identified as the major attribute of non-metallic
pumps. But their abrasion resistance and ability to avoid metallic
contamination of the product they are pumping, thus preserving its
purity, also are important characteristics. Of even greater significance is
the inert chemical nature of the thermoplastics, which are suitable for
use over the full pH range. This property simplifies the choice of the
specific material, and extends the usefulness and service life of a given
pump in a variety of applications.
Several other attributes of plastic pumps, in addition to their being
chemically inert and resistant to abrasion, are worth taking into account.
For instance, they are light, being 25 to 50 percent the weight of the
metallic items they can replace. Since the plastic parts will not rust or
seize, they are easy to service, and their initial cost is lower than pumps
fabricated with exotic alloys.
The plastic materials of construction for rigid wet end components such
as casings and impellers, which received the most mentions in the
1. PVC/CPVC-polyvinyl chloride and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride.
These relatively low-cost thermoplastics are widely used for acids,
caustics and salts. PVC has an upper temperature limit of 140°F, but
CPVC can be used at temperatures to 210°F. Neither material is suitable
2. PP-polypropylene. This is the lightest of the thermoplastics and is
recommended for acids, caustics and organic solvents to temperatures
of 185°F. It is not suitable for use with strong oxidizing acids, chlorinated
hydrocarbons or aromatics.
3. PVDF-polyvinylidene fluoride, most commonly known as Kynar, a
product of Elf Atochem. Fluoropolymers such as PVDF and a very
similar thermoplastic, ECTFE or ethylene chlorotrifluoroethylene, are
tough, abrasion-resistant materials which retain their mechanical
properties in the temperature range -40°F to 275°F. They are chemically
inert to most solvents, acids, and caustics, as well as to chlorine,
bromine and other halogens. Also, they are recommended for use with
ultrapure water and reagent grade chemicals–in fact, wherever freedom
from contamination is a key consideration.
4. PTFE-polytetrafluoroethylene, which is DuPont's Teflon. This also is
used for a variety of pump components, which must be chemically
inert, and withstand temperatures up to 500°F.
5. FRP/GRP-polyester, vinyl and epoxy resins reinforced with glass or
other fibers. These thermosetting materials are more like metals in
structural properties. They represent a group of composite materials,
which offer higher strength than thermoplastics, but limited corrosion or
abrasion resistance. Also, their use is not recommended above 240°F.
Clearly, choosing a material of construction for specialized water or
wastewater treatment pumping applications should be based on
checking the corrosion resistance of the material in terms of the fluids to
be handled and the anticipated temperatures. In many cases, a pump
manufacturer may have experience in dealing with identical or similar
service conditions. When it comes to handling waste streams
containing unknown or varying chemicals and concentrations,
engineering and operating personnel can be confident in the ability of
thermoplastic pumps to be up to the task because the wetted parts are
so chemically inert.
Spotlight on Pump Design
Some so-called plastic pumps on the market are misnamed. They are
basically metallic pumps with non-metallic casings and impellers. For
best results, plastic pumps should be designed to take maximum
advantage of the unique properties of the plastic material. If the
application requires non-metaIlic parts to be in contact with the fluids
being pumped, the following points are important:
1. Make sure the pump shaft is completely sleeved in a thermoplastic
material inert to the fluids. In a horizontal centrifugal design, the
thick-sectioned sleeve need only isolate the short section of the shaft
within the pump head.
2. In a vertical sump pump, the encapsulating sleeve should run the
entire submerged length and through the cover plate. A vapor seal
where the sleeved shaft penetrates the cover plate is required to protect
the external bearings and motor from corrosive fumes.
3. Horizontal and vertical pump designs should have an O-ring seal
between the thermoplastic sleeve and the impeller, and between the
impeller and the lock nut, to prevent metal-to-fluid contact.
4. In horizontal centrifugal pumps, the design should permit installing the
mechanical seal so that its non-metallic face is in contact with the fluid.
This reverse mounting avoids the use of expensive seaIs with exotic
alloy retainer assemblies or cages, and ensures no metal is exposed to
5. Since there is a significant expansion differential between a sump
pump's metal shaft and its thermoplastic column, the design should
incorporate a self-adjusting mechanism to compensate for this
differential if service conditions involve sudden or extreme temperature
changes. Without such a device there is a danger of impeller binding.
6. To provide a positive drive and prevent damage from reverse rotation,
thermoplastic impellers should be key driven. Another advantage is to
use an impeller with the metal key molded in. This offers additional
rigidity at higher temperatures and pressures. Also, plastic impellers
should be dynamically and hydraulically balanced at the factory.
7. For maximum service life, vertical pump designs should be furnished
with chemically inert sleeve bearings in the submerged area. Best
results appear to be achieved with ultrapure ceramic inner sleeves, and
silicon carbide, reinforced Teflon, or Vanite outer bearings.
8. Various sealless pump designs are being selected in response to the
tighter regulatory requirements, three types in particular.
This pump group with fluid contact parts limited to non-metallics
includes tube type and flexible liner type which trap the fluid
temporarily between an elastomeric member and a thermoplastic
housing. The latter type has been in industrial and municipal service
since the 1950s. Fluid contact is limited to two parts: the thick
thermoplastic body available in such materials as high molecular weight
polyethylene, polypropylene and Teflon; and the liner furnished in pure
rubber or an assortment of synthetics from neoprene to various Dupont
elastomers like Nordel, Hypalon and Viton (see photograph showing six
versions). The Flex-i-liner pump design makes liner changes easy to
accommodate a variety of chemicals.
These pumps isolate the pumped fluid so that there is only non-metallic
contact. Carefully chosen for a specific application, and closely
monitored, they provide good service, but have three drawbacks. First,
they are noisy devices, being driven with compressed air, and indoor
application can present problems for nearby workers. Second,
diaphragm failure can lead to difficult-to-handle spills. If hazardous or
toxic fluids are being pumped, this is a serious concern. Third,
atmospheric oil emissions can be troublesome, but manufacturers are
attacking this shortcoming.
Magnetically driven non-metallic centrifugal pumps
These pumps have a number of attractive characteristics. In addition to
being inherently sealless, they permit the use of devices for leakage
monitoring, and avoid the emission of hazardous and toxic fumes.
Polypropylene, PVDF and Teflon are commonly used in these designs.
When severely corrosive, hazardous or toxic chemicals are present,
Teflon appears to be the material of choice for the containment can in
direct contact with the fluids, since it offers the broadest range of
chemical resistance. One design approach has a dual containment
system, with one can of Teflon for fluid contact, and a secondary can of
a high strength thermoset composite. The non-metallic materials
provide corrosion protection, and the design permits incorporation of
leak and temperature monitoring devices if called for.
Non-Metallic Pump/Tank Systems
The traditional below-grade concrete sump with a mounted pump of
some style is no longer the best way to contain and deal with hazardous
liquid wastes. Regulations now require these to be lined with
corrosion-resistant coatings to prevent chemicals, oils and other
materials from leaching into adjacent groundwater. But concrete sumps
are difficult to seal completely, and keep sealed. Coatings are typically
125 mils thick since sump service is considered immersion service, and
anything less might not last long and also be inadequate. Regular
inspections are necessary to ensure continued integrity of the coating.
When chemicals penetrate it through constant immersion, patching is
possible but difficult, and seldom acceptable. In many cases the coating
must be completely stripped off and the concrete surfaces recoated.
Packaged non-metallic pump-tank units now available often can provide
economical solutions to some of the problems described above. These
are standard or customer-engineered self-contained tanks containing
not only pumps, but level controls, control panels and related piping as
well. Welled parts machined or fabricated from a number of
thermoplastic or thermosetting materials, for instance the five families
of plastic compounds discussed earlier, make the systems suitable for
handling a broad range of corrosive or otherwise hazardous materials
up to temperatures of 275°F. Installation usually involves only electrical
and influent/effluent connections. In most cases they are free-standing
and require only a concrete pad, but some have been installed in
existing concrete basins.
To sum up, plastic pumps and plastic sump systems have established a
dependable service record over the last few decades that points to their
suitability for many fluid-handling duties. They are particularly capable
where corrosive and hazardous liquid wastes or chemicals have to be
contained and pumped. As a result they are being applied increasingly
for such tasks in the water/wastewater field. Their development
A thermoplastic resin will repeatedly soften when heated and harden
when cooled. Decomposition occurs only at higher temperatures.
A thermosetting resin cannot be melted or remolded without changed
its chemical structure.
Each of these three Vanton Polypropylene
pumps delivers 20 GPM of 50% caustic at
108°F against a 46-ft. total dynamic
The sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide
required for the ion exchange
purification process is stored in these
large tanks outside the processing
building. Note the concrete containment
vault to catch any spillage.
This vertical centrifugal pump fabricated
from plastic materials is equipped with
a proprietary seal which prevents the
escape of corrosive or toxic fumes and
liquids from pressurized tanks and sumps.
In the 1950, Vanton developed a revolutionary all-plastic pump for use in conjunction with the first heart-lung device. The design limited fluid contact to only two non-metallic parts: a plastic body block and a flexible liner. This was the birth of our Flex-I-Liner rotary pump. Its self-priming sealless design made it an industry standard for the handling of corrosive, abrasive and viscous fluids as well as those that must be transferred without contaminating the product. Vanton now offers the most comprehensive line of thermoplastic pumps in the industry.
Stay in touch
(+44) 01260 277040
Vanton Pumps (Europe) Ltd.
Unit 4, Royle Park
Congleton CW12 1JJ