While it may not be the most visible system on a ship, piping systems are undoubtedly one of the most important. Ensuring the integrity of a leak-free piping system will usually focus on the fittings and for that, the worldwide expert — both for product quality and knowledge — is Viega LLC. At the past New Orleans Work Boat Show and with the help of Elwood Ide, Technical Manager, Marine for the West Coast, BC Shipping News was given a first-hand look at what makes Viega’s fittings a notch above.
Viega traces its roots to 1899 when founder Franz-Anselm Viegener began making beer taps for local breweries in Attendorn, Germany. Fast forward 120 years and, while the passion for quality and standards of excellence remain the bedrock of the company, the products and services have evolved exponentially. Drains and overflow fittings came first but the company quickly expanded to include copper connections and plastic products. Improvements in copper press technology were quickly followed with the invention of Smart Connect technology a long track record of first-time patent applications. Further growth was realized as the company began to expand into different industries, including the marine industry in the early 2000s. Today, Viega is now an international market leader in innovative plumbing technology with over 4,000 employees worldwide.
Elwood Ide joined Viega in 2016, bringing 50 years of marine experience with him. “I started out my career working on nuclear submarines in the 1970s and have worked on virtually every type of vessel you can think of since then,” said Ide. “I was the first engineer in the U.S. to specify Viega products on an ABS-approved vessel — an oceanographic research float being built at Dakota Creek Shipyards in Anacortes, Washington — and from the very beginning, was impressed with the quality as well as the extent of products offered.”
As the Technical Manager, Marine for the West Coast, Ide is the go-to guy for local organizations like Canadian Coast Guard, BC Ferries and Seaspan, to name just a few.
“We have more materials and more products with more approvals than any other manufacturer currently for the marine industry,” Ide said, “but our specialty is the MegaPress.” Viega’s MegaPress is the first press fitting system for carbon steel pipe suitable for water, compressed air and gas applications, and which now includes MegaPress Stainless, Viega’s newest offering for connections with Iron Pipe Size (IPS) stainless steel.
Viega’s innovative press technology joins carbon steel pipe or stainless steel reliably through the engineered design of the fittings and the use of the press tool. It can even be installed on not completely shut down, non-combustible/flammable lines, eliminating the need to fully drain a system, which shortens repair and installation time. And, since MegaPress fittings are equipped with patented Viega Smart Connect technology, the connection is secure.
“The MegaPress has been approved for more applications than any other carbon steel press fitting system,” Ide said. “It eliminates cleanup and reduces call-backs — and best of all, there is no more manual tightening.”
While noting that using Viega’s MegaPress will reduce call-backs, Ide was quick to add that Viega’s service network operates like a 24/7 support system. “We had a call from a client in Brazil who wanted IPS materials shipped to an oil patch rig and we had it to them within 24 hours,” said Ide, adding that: “Incidentally, it was one of the boats I helped design when I was a naval architect 10 years ago,” highlighting the experience of support clients can expect when needed.
Over and above providing experienced on-site support, Viega has a training regime to further assist clients. Upwards of 5,000 people are trained every year at one of Viega’s facilities in either New Hampshire and at their soon to open Broomfield Colorado training facility but frequently, Ide and his team will provide on-site training. “It’s quite a simple system in terms of training which takes about 45 minutes so it’s usually easier for us to visit the client’s yard,” Ide said, adding that training is usually provided roughly every two years to ensure new staff are trained directly.
Evident by Viega’s 120-year history, they’re not a company known for resting on their laurels. “We’re always looking at new products,” said Mark Brodie, Viega’s Director of Marketing. “Just recently, we did a soft launch of the Press-In Branch Connector Carbon Steel MegaPress. This tool allows you to drill a hole in the side of a pipe and put a fitting into the fixture, then into the hole and, by pulling the trigger on the pressing tool, the fitting will expand itself inside the pipe.” Brodie added that, once installed, the pipe will be oil-tight or water-tight and that, given it is a three-quarter-inch threaded female connection, it can be used for sprinklers or for therma-wells to add thermometers. Citing an example, Brodie described how shipyards will often use the system for pressure checks when assembling ship blocks.
Brodie also noted that in the future Viega launched Branch Adapter copper nickel products and will soon have a full range of copper nickel alloy fittings. “We launched the MegaPress XL a year ago and now have stainless XL as well,” Brodie said. “The MegaPress system is really tried and true. We know it functions really well and how it works so now it’s a matter of identifying additional alloys that can help us get into other applications. That’s why copper nickel is such a big deal for us,” he said, further noting that the addition of copper nickel has attracted the attention of the military who use it for virtually every system.
Brodie summed up the benefits of the Viega MegaPress line by noting that “once you have one set of tooling that will work on carbon steel, stainless steel or copper nickel, it is more cost-effective for the ship or the yard given that they have less tools to stock; fittings can be pressed into a live system so you don’t have to drain the system completely to make a press. It’s a huge advantage which means no time loss while at sea.” He added that the battery-operated tool is much safer for transport, especially on oil rigs where acetylene bottles can represent a hazard.