Do you remember that episode of Sesame Street with the visit to the crayon factory? Or maybe you’re a fan of the TV show How It’s Made, where viewers are captivated by the manufacturing of pet-nail trimmers and mattress pads?
Yeah, us too.
That’s why you’ll love this peek at how Viega makes its PureFlow PEX and oxygen barrier tubing, from start to finish.
An important note about Viega’s PEX – and something that sets it apart from its competitors – is that Viega makes its own PEX resin. Other companies purchase resin that is used to make the PEX tubing, but by manufacturing the resin itself, Viega has total quality control of the product from the get-go.
“We control the quality of the incoming raw material to our process,” said Director of Manufacturing Eric Wicker. “We purchase railcars of polyethylene, then compound it in twin extruders. We make the PEX plastic pellets that are extruded into the pipe, and it’s mixed with a catalyst that initiates a cross-linking process (therefore making it cross-linked polyethylene, or PEX).”
Every pellet of PEX that is produced in Viega’s manufacturing plant in McPherson, Kansas, is 100 percent sorted for contamination. This visual inspection looks for any contamination that can come with carbon buildup that is inherent to the process and that could potentially affect the PEX pellets.
Once the resin is created, the product goes through an extrusion process to create PEX tubing. From start to finish, it takes about three days, beginning with creation of the PEX pellet to finished PEX tubing that is cured and spooled.
“Quality is huge for us,” Wicker said. “Every extrusion line is equipped with dimensional monitoring devices that monitor, control and adjust our machines based on the dimensions that they read. Then it automatically cuts the pipe if it sees something wrong, cutting it into small pieces for scrap, until the issue is fixed and the tube is back to normal.”
Tubing is wound onto large spools that hold about 35,000 feet of PEX. The spools are stored on site and can be cut into different lengths for specific orders. Wicker said that storing the large amounts of PEX gives Viega the gift of speed: PEX can be cut and coiled in approximately 30 minutes when a customer places an order.
Manufacturing in the United States
McPherson is home to Viega LLC’s U.S.- based manufacturing. All of Viega’s PureFlow PEX tubing is manufactured there, along with the creation of the resin. Viega also manufactures select MegaPress and ProPress items in other manufacturing halls on the McPherson campus.
While there is a lot of automation involved on the lines, human work is also vital to the process of overseeing machines as well as doing some of the work by hand. Tour-goers are captivated by the robotic machines and production lines, where thousands of fittings and miles of tubing are produced.
Quick facts about PureFlow
- The plant in McPherson will produce enough PureFlow PEX tubing this year to wrap around the Earth twice.
- Manufacturing of PureFlow PEX tubing runs 24 hours a day, five days a week, in McPherson.
- One spool of PureFlow PEX tubing holds about 35,000 feet – that’s more than six and a half miles.
- Approximately 100 spools of PureFlow PEX tubing are stored on site in McPherson, in different sizes and colors, to make sure orders can be shipped with 48 hours.
- Viega PureFlow PEX tubing has the highest ratings for UV and chlorine resistance, according to industry standards.
- PureFlow tubing is made from start to finish in the United States, with strict quality control through a vertically integrated manufacturing process.
- PureFlow is PEX-b, which has a higher burst pressure capability – often 10% or more – as compared to PEX-a.
- Connections in sizes 3/8” to 2” can be made in just seconds with Viega PureFlow System, compared to cold expansion, which can take several minutes to complete.