Metal hoses are a necessary solution in many industries, especially those that are subject to high-pressure & temperature applications or volatile media. To ensure the safety of the end user, knowledgeable specialists are crucial for ensuring the best asset for the process is chosen and recommending materials and fixtures that will make for the best product.
Stainless Steel World Americas was pleased to speak with Joseph Levitsky, Product Manager and Metal Hose Specialist for Echelon Supply and Service about the importance of metal hoses, his insight on welding techniques, and the need for hose maintenance.
By Charlie Evans
Wealth of Experience
Beginning his professional career in the manufacturing of hoses & expansion joints, Levitsky gained a well-rounded knowledge of the industry from the onset. “After several years working on the manufacturing side, I moved into inside sales. Having gained an understanding of how the product was constructed, and first-hand experience with all the components and processes that lead to the final product, I could engage with customers at new lev-els; I became a resource to my customers and colleagues,” said Levitsky.
When Levitsky started at Echelon Supply and Service he took on the role of a Product Specialist, working in sales. Since then, his role has transitioned to include product management. “I still work with the sales team as a specialist and now have been introduced to the marketing side of the business. However, as Product Manager, I am now also involved with product promotion and lead prospecting while still aiding in solving customers’ technical problems, and more. It has become a very diverse role.”
“Every day is different,” continued Levitsky. “Some of my daily responsibilities consist of working with the production department and ensuring they have the necessary components needed to assemble customer orders, quoting customers, and supporting the inside and outside teams with any metal hose requests. I also review all technical inquiries & customer specifications/drawings.”
Working with Metal Hoses
Metal hoses are typically used for higher pressure and higher temperature applications where a rubber or other non-metal product simply will not last. “It is all about those extreme environments and chemical applications where there is the likelihood for failure that makes a metal hose the best fit,” explained Levitsky.
Depending on what the hose is used for, and the dynamics in the application, a decision is made based upon what will be the best fit for that specific customer. Varying styles of hoses are therefore supplied to, and used within, a wide variety of industries. “We have customers working in the steel industry, chemical, power gen, oil & gas, and bulk material handling. Each industry has its own application extremes and that can make for a difficult hose selection process, with our product expertise we can help with any application,” said Levitsky.
Levtisky’s niche hose is primarily composed of 300 series stainless steel. “Two of the most used materials are 321 and 316 stainless steels. However, we can supply hoses of other materials, such as C276 or other exotic alloys that may be required for the application.”
Chemical plants often have a variety of chemicals that are stored and transferred throughout the process. 300 series stainless steel can offer some corrosion resistance to many applications but not all chemicals. Moving to a C276 hose assembly can offer greater corrosion resistance and a longer life cycle to the hose assembly. It is critical to perform a chemical compatibility check for the media being transferred to ensure the proper hose alloy is selected.
Of course, a metal hose is not a one-size-fits-all product. “There are different subsets of metal hoses within our product line that are better for some applications than others,” he continued. “Users may need a corrugated hose, an interlock hose, or may require expansion joints. Decisions are really made on an application-to-application basis.”
Metal Welded Fittings
Fittings, as opposed to couplings, are generally used on a metal hose. “As a significant amount of pressure is typically applied to the media being trans-ported through hoses, there is always the potential for a hose fitting to blow off a crimped hose during a pressure surge. The strength of a welded fitting mitigates the risk of this issue,” said Levitsky. Depending on the fitting type that is used on the equipment, the mating fitting is welded onto the hose assembly and a pressure test is performed to test the integrity of the weld and check for any leaks throughout the assembly before shipping to the customer.
To weld a fitting to a metal hose, a tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding process is often used. This process uses a tungsten electrode that sends the current to the welding arc, and then an inert gas that cools and protects the tungsten as it welds.1 “Typically with an industrial hose, there is a crimp collar and a shank on the fitting that will be inserted into the hose and crimped to secure,” explained Levitsky. “However, with a metal hose attachment, there is not a shank on the fitting rather a butt weld style fitting is used with a braid collar. A cap weld is used to combine the three layers, hose, braid, and collar.” After the cap weld is finished, the fitting can then be added using an attachment weld to complete the connection. Along with the cap and attachment welds on a hose, there can also be full penetration welds needed whenever there is a pipe-to-pipe connection.
The materials used for metal hose fittings vary depending on the kind of industry the hose will be used in. “Stainless steel and carbon steel are the most used. For air and water service, customers tend to go with carbon steel fittings, however, whenever there is any sort of process fluid, carbon steel may not be the best choice.”
The Houston, Texas location of Echelon Supply and Service has its own welding department to ensure that the correct fittings are used for the correct applications, and to guarantee that the fittings are welded correctly. “Our metal hose assemblies are welded in-house by ASME IX-certified welders. It is incredibly beneficial to have in-house welding capabilities as we can offer shortened lead times, custom-made-to-order assemblies, and versatility when it comes to fittings. Our ability to weld any fitting to a hose is limitless.”
As hoses are used in a variety of applications, there are an endless number of challenges that can pop up. What may be an issue at one plant, may not necessarily be an issue at another. “For example, two customers using a hose for essentially the same process: moving high-pressure air through the hose.
In each process, however, there is something different going on,” explained Levitsky. “Temperature differences, external environments, and risk for external corrosion due to chemicals within the atmosphere depending on the plant are just some of the possible differences that may cause an issue.”
Often, documents and visuals surrounding maintenance practices are given to those working with hoses to help them get an understanding of what signs to look for that would indicate premature hose failure. “Every application is different and there are multiple variables to consider. You could think everything is in perfect working order and then you may have a hose failure tomorrow,” said Levitsky.
Preventative maintenance is the most common maintenance practice for end users working with hoses. Many companies utilize annual or even quarterly maintenance programs to inspect their equipment, including piping and hoses. Levitsky continued, “It is important to offer onsite assistance with inspections, as well as providing documentation to help aid with identifying potential issues.”
“We like to encourage our customers to perform those regular preventative maintenance programs to inspect hoses before the shutdown takes place,” said Levitsky. “As a product expert, it is crucial to give the customer reassurance that we are here for them when needed, and we can help solve any issues they may run into. End users should be able to focus on running their equipment and let experts handle the errors,” continued Levitsky.
“There could be a corrosion issue at one plant that the other does not deal with. So, if one hose fails and the other does not, you want to ask yourself why?” Levitsky said. “We are always going to try and figure out what works best, and that involves working through their problems and finding a solution to the best of our ability.” When presented with a challenge or issue, an investigation must be completed to determine the best maintenance path moving forward.
The outlook on the future of the hose industry is clear to Levitsky. “Hoses are always going to be needed. In the manufacturing world, there are always fluids/media that will need to be transferred, steam services, and high-pressure applications requiring a flexible hose and not a rigid pipe. Creative thinking is a plus in this industry, as not all learning is always visual. One must think: what are the connection points and where are they in relation to each other? How will the hose configuration move while in service given the space it is in? Always ask for S.T.A.M.P.E.D information to ensure the offered solution meets all needs of the application.”
“Everyone must start somewhere and start learning about a process, even if it seems daunting. Many people in the industry have intense knowledge as they have been doing it for 30+ years. My advice for anyone interested in starting a career in the hose industry is do not hesitate and do not be afraid to get your hands dirty, so to speak. At some point, everyone is new to their industry/field and requires help from others. Asking questions is a must. After 16 years in the industry, I am still learning and asking questions every day to ensure our customers get the very best solution available to them,” concluded Levitsky.