Only four years after the world’s first commercial production of PVC pipe commenced in 1935 in Germany using converted pasta extruders, Iplex Plastics Industries was established in South Australia as a fabrication business.

Over the eight decades that followed, this pioneering Australian company has been at the forefront of the development of plastics materials and processes, and is today an international leader in the manufacture and design of piping systems. Today, Iplex Pipelines supplies pipe ranging in size from 15mm to 3000mm in diameter but its range has expanded since those early days of PVC.

At the larger end of their size range, Iplex markets Flowtite® GRP pipe in sizes up to DN3000. Iplex first introduced GRP pipes to the Australian market in the 1980s, and drove the growth and market acceptance of GRP pipes in the Australian water industry. With the development of continuous filament wound GRP pipe advanced technology in Norway during the early 1990s, Iplex closed its plant to concentrate on modern technology through an exclusive distribution agreement to distribute Flowtite® pipe manufactured by RPC Pipe Systems.

The structure of the Flowtite® pipe wall optimises pressure and stiffness performance; with the precise position of glass filament for hoop strength and stiffening sand filler layers. Pipes are produced on a unique, continuously advancing mandrel, eliminating the length constraints placed on old technology GRP pipes produced in moulds.

Finite element analysis software is used to design the complementary range of fittings required to complete the system in pressure classes up to PN32. Rubber ring jointing and Flowtite®’s low weight ensures rapid installation rates, making it ideally suited to long-distance trunk water mains whilst for specialised applications involving high temperatures and highly corrosive fluids, high performance vinyl ester resin is available.

Over the past decade the Flowtite® range has been expanded to include jacking pipes for demanding trenchless applications. To date many hundreds of Iplex projects have been supplied with Flowtite® GRP pipe, including the recently completed Amaroo project undertaken by John Holland for Yarra Valley Water. At 7.5km in length, this installation is the largest jacking pipe project undertaken in the Southern Hemisphere.

Although PVC pipe remains a key line for Iplex, their product bears little resemblance to the early forms of thick-walled, relatively low-stress materials developed in the 1960s and 1970s. Today’s PVC pressure pipes feature molecular orientation in both hoop and axial directions, which not only more than doubles the material’s strength, it massively improves ductility, rendering the pipe virtually indestructible from impact damage.

This development has enabled oriented PVC pipe to assume the title of the lowest embodied energy form of pipe used for the conveyance of water. In late 2015, Iplex became the world’s first plastic pipe producer to publish a suite of independently verified Environmental Product Declarations covering its entire range of Polyvinyl Chloride, Polyethylene and Polypropylene pipe systems.

Although plastics are Iplex’s mainstay, they recognise that there remain applications that are best suited to ductile iron pressure pipe. Iplex stocks and distributes the Australian Standard range of DI pipe up to DN750 and can readily access ISO sized pipe in sizes as large as DN2000.

Iplex is currently supplying the 30km DN375 PN35 Nyngan to Cobar potable water pipeline to National Australian Pipelines. To complement its ductile iron pipe product range, Iplex operates a fitting foundry located in Innisfail, North Queensland, from which standard and specialised fittings are sourced at short notice.

When it comes to polyethylene pipe, Iplex is Australia’s sole manufacturer of pipe in sizes up to DN2000. This capability was critical in 2014, when flood waters inundated the Yallourn Power Station, threatening the power supply to 5.7 million Victorians. Iplex provided the solution by supplying 4km of DN1600 polyethylene pipe to temporarily divert the Morwell River, permitting dewatering of the mine.

Over the past five years, Iplex has partnered with polyethylene resin producer Qenos to develop a pipe that has 10 to 15 times greater resistance to slow crack growth than that required of standard PE100 pipe. This innovation, known as Millennium® pipe, is specifically designed for harsh trenchless installation methods where pipe surface damage is inevitable.

Equally, Millennium® pipe is also suitable for installation without the need to import granular embedment material, and can reduce pipeline construction costs by up to 25 per cent, and yield pipelines with much longer service life.

Whilst all these capabilities are testament to Iplex’s world-class status, it is their freely offered technical assistance and expertise that sets them apart. Iplex personnel have trained a generation of pipeline designers through their engineering design guides, and structural and hydraulic software. These services are presently being expanded through a suite of apps available freely via PocketENGINEERTM, which can be found on the Iplex website www.iplex.com.au.

To date PocketENGINEERTM apps include a buried pipe deflection estimator used to determine safe installation designs; a complete chemical resistance library for plastics piping material; the full PIPA technical guidelines library with a word search function; and the newly released flange bolt torque calculator.

Through its technical publications, design software, Australian and ISO pipe standards committee work, and involvement with the Plastics Industry Pipe Association, Iplex Pipelines ensure their customers are kept at the forefront of worldwide developments in pipe innovation and technology.

This partner content is brought to you by Iplex Pipelines Australia. For more information, visit www.iplex.com.au.

Lauren brings a fresh approach to content. While she’s previously written for publications as diverse as Australian Geographic, The Border Watch and Girlfriend, she’s found her true passion in her current role as an editor in the world of energy and infrastructure trade magazines.

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