THE HISTORY OF
As the Valve Manufacturers Association gears up to celebrate its 75th anniversary
in 2013, we present this series of articles on the history of valves, with the final
installment scheduled to appear in mid-2013. At this year’s VMA 74th annual
meeting (Sept. 20-23, 2012 in Half Moon Bay, CA), VMA will unveil plans for the
year leading up to the grand celebration, which will culminate at the association’s
75th annual meeting, Oct. 3-5, 2013 at The Breakers in Palm Beach, FL.
from the Need to
BY GREG JOHNSON
Most of us in the valve industry take for granted the interchangeability and standardization of the
valves produced today. Yet it wasn’t
that long ago that valves were individually produced in accordance with the
standards of each manufacturer.
Things like end-to-end dimensions,
flange sizes and bolt circles, and even
pressure ratings, were left up to the
engineering and production departments of each company. Such factors
were addressed in due time; however,
as with many drivers in the manufacturing world, the first valve standard to
be drafted covered something much
more important—life and death.
Back in the latter half of the 19th
century, boiler explosions were occurring at an alarming frequency, and
public outcry was heard throughout the
land—it appeared that the steam-fired
industrial revolution was threatening
to literally blow itself up.
In 1880, the American Society of
Mechanical Engineers (ASME) was
formed and over the next few decades
this group of engineers created the first
iteration of the Boiler and Pressure
Vessel Code (B&PVC). The problem of
inconsistent boiler integrity was high
on the group’s list of topics to be
addressed. While the code initially
dealt with a number of issues concerning materials and construction, it
wasn’t until the 1914 edition of the
B&PVC that safety valves were covered. It would be the first time in
history that makers of safety valves
had agreed to common standards for
Inspection personnel are checking dimensions of finished components to ensure compliance to newly published valve standards.
These groundbreaking safety valve rules and regulations would be honed over the
years and are still actively supported today by a group in ASME called the National
Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors.
A PUSH FORWARD
The industrial growth during the first years of the 20th century highlighted the need for valve and piping standardization throughout the
world of manufacturing. The Henry Ford automobile assembly line
techniques were adopted by many industries, including valve and fitting manufacturers. While products were flying off the assembly lines
at record rates, there was no interchangeability between manufacturers’ products. You only have to look at catalogs of the day—product
images show valves with blank flanges, devoid of bolt holes—to see
that something was missing. The something was flange standards.
Back then, it was up to the purchaser to provide the bolt-hole drilling
This lack of interchangeability resulted in a Committee of Manufacturers on Standardization of Pipe Fittings and Valves, which was
formed in 1912. The group would later become the Manufacturers
Standardization Society (MSS); it published its first pamphlet on pipe
schedules of flanges and flanged fittings in October of 1912 and additional flange standards over the next few years. The official creation
of MSS in 1924 opened the door for many valve standards over the
next nine decades. During that time, numerous standards originally
developed by MSS would be adopted by other organizations, such as
ASME and the American Petroleum Institute (API).
The American Standards Association committee B16, Sectional
Committee on the Standardization of Pipe Flanges & Fittings, was
In days past,
to specify the