THE EARLY HISTORY OF PVC PIPE
Robert Walker, P.E.
Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association
(Published in Summer 1990 Edition
Uni-Bell PVC Pipe News)
“Many of you have expressed a curiosity about the historical development of PVC pipe. In response to your requests, we provide you with this brief early history of PVC pipe and fittings.
PVC was discovered as early as 1835, but the first definite report of the polymerization of vinyl chloride did not come until about 35 years later. At that time, the material was reported to be an off-white solid that could be heated to 130 degrees C without degradation.
PVC remained a laboratory curiosity for many years, probably because of its intractable nature. The polymer was inert to most chemicals and very tough (strong). These properties eventually led scientists to consider PVC for applications where durability and toughness were desirable.
In 1912 the first industrial developments were initiated in Germany. Throughout the 1920’s, attempts were made to use PVC copolymers that easier to process than PVC. These early attempts were only marginally successful.
By 1932, the first tubes made from a PVC copolymer were produced. Nearly three years later the first PVC pipes were produced using a roll mill and hydraulic extruder. This two step process involved melting the PVC powder on a roll mill and rolling the sheet produced up to a billet. The PVC could then be processed in a discontinuously working ram extruder to make pipe. This process was adapted from that used for celluloid and was really ill-fitted for PVC. As a result, the products were often of dubious quality. Never-the-less, these early PVC pipes were deemed suitable for drinking water supply piping and waste water piping because of their chemical resistance, lack of taste or odor and smooth interior surface. From 1936 to 1939 over 400 residences were installed with PVC drinking water and waste pipelines in central Germany. Various test pipelines of PVC were...
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