Giant state-of-the-art ceramic tile plant chooses safety- conscious reticulation system

One of the world's most advanced ceramic tile manufacturing plants is installing Australian-manufactured pneumatic and water reticulation systems to achieve pressure and heat tolerance with energy efficiency, adaptability and safety.

National Ceramic Industries Australia' state-of-the-art tile manufacturing plant will employ world's best technology to produce 12.8 million square metres of ceramic tiles a year, equivalent to 720 tonnes a day.

Project managed and engineered by Multiskilled Resources, the huge, 488-metre long plant will commence production after June this year using Australian-made CalAir Pro-Pipe II polymer piping systems to carry both compressed air and water to glazing lines and mixing tables, as well as carrying compressed air to clay preparation areas, stackers and packers.
Operating through two four-inch (101.6mm) and one 2.5 inch (63.5mm) ring mains, the fully welded system fabricated by CalAir Pipe Systems (N.NSW) was used because of advantages such as its permanent colour-coding for safety and because of its ability to cope with elevated temperatures and pressures.

"The fact that polymer can also be easily adapted to expanding production needs was also a factor, because National Ceramics plan to expand the facility considerably in four stages over three years," said CalAir Pipe Systems (N.NSW) Manager Mr Graham Robins. Unlike traditional galvanized piping alternatives typically weighing eight times as much, the CalAir system can be readily cut and reconfigured by non-specialist labour as production needs change. Compressed air and water reticulation
"This will increasing be a factor as National Ceramics gear up to supplying as much as 85 per cent of Australia's floor and wall tile needs, as well as exporting as much as 10 per cent of production," said Mr Robins.

More than 350 metres of CalAir's Pro-Pipe II system has been installed in major areas of the plant, which, at up to 28 metres high and 40 metres wide, is built to accommodate ongoing expansion within its 3200m area. CalAir's blue coloured Air-Pro is fed by twin Atlas Copco 75 kW machines, the larger of which has a maximum capacity of 13 bar at 212 litres per second but is pre-set at 7.2 bar. The backup machine, also of 75kw, runs at a maximum of 7.5 bar, and 236 litres a second, pre-set at 6.2 bar. CalAir's green coloured Water-Pro and violet coloured Water-Pro pipelines carry fresh water and recycled water respectively.
"The permanent colour-coding of pipelines is of increasing importance to sophisticated manufacturing plants, which want operational and maintenance staff to be able to immediately identify what is being carried by the pipelines they are working around. This is highly important both for time-saving efficiency and for safety, both of which were important to meeting Multiskilled's brief of using world leading technology and achieving best international practice for operational, environmental and safety aspects," said Mr Robins, who worked with Multiskilled Project Manager and Director Mr Ken Hipwell.

Compressed air and water takeoff points

Recyclable Pro-Pipe II is manufactured from an especially formulated CXPP40 high performance block co-polymer polypropylene, which exhibits outstanding pressure capability characteristics at elevated temperatures. Being more than a third stiffer than standard polymer piping, Pro-Pipe II can carry air, other gases and water at temperatures from -20 deg C up to 100 degrees C - levels typically 40 degrees higher than earlier types of piping. This also means it will carry compressed air and liquids efficiently across a wide range of temperatures, making it more suitable for use in areas with big ambient temperature fluctuations.
Ongoing costs are also reduced by ProPipe's permanently smooth internal bore, which imposes lower friction drag on airflows, so the compressor uses less power to push its load. In service, the polymer won't rust and drop flakes into the pipes, or clog them so air or other fluids have to fight to get through. Also, because polymer insulates better than metal piping, it isn't as prone to condensation in the first place as hot air meets cold pipes, says Mr Robins.

"Given the considerable investment National Ceramics have made in the very latest equipment - ranging from the huge high-efficiency clay preparation area right down to laser-guided forklifts - they have a very big stake in achieving maximum reliability. The plant employing 69 people, it will operate 24 hours a day for 340 days of the year."