Pressure vessels have been utilized for over 300 years.

They’re used for a variety of purposes, including mining, chemical plants, nuclear reactor sites, submarines, space exploration, compression chambers and storage vessels.

Pressure vessels are tanks or containers that are specifically designed to safely operate under pressure while accommodating gases, liquids, or other materials that are inside.

Purchasing an autoclave or ASME tank is a big deal.

You need to feel confident that the equipment you buy is risk-free.

Here’s how manufacturers ensure that your team and building will be safe.

Safety first

Because pressure vessels are in use under high pressure, the design and safety features are very important for the vessels themselves, the workers who operate them, and the communities surrounding the locations that are utilizing the pressure vessels.

There have been numerous fatalities associated with the use of pressure vessels, which is why the design, manufacture and use of pressure vessels are highly regulated by engineering authorities and governmental laws and restrictions.

Strict design codes must be adhered to in the manufacturing process and certain steps taken to ensure that pressure vessels are safe once they leave the manufacturers’ hands.

Here are a few of the ways in which they’re making safety a priority.

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One way that industry and governing bodies assure pressure vessel safety is by an inspection process – both during the manufacture of the vessel and after the vessel is placed into operation.

Non-destructive testing

Non-destructive testing of the vessel's material is just one of those processes.

As the vessel is being built, non-destructive testing can be used to verify that the materials used meet the required thickness and to inspect for defects within the vessel’s welds.

Pressure rating

After the vessel is placed in operation, the owner of the vessel can inspect its material’s thickness to verify the amount of useful life left at the vessel's current pressure rating.

Once the vessel's material thickness diminishes past the required amount for its rated pressure, it either must be used at a reduced pressure rating or replaced.

Failure to do so could result in failure of the vessel and a release of its contents.

Overpressurization Devices

Every pressure vessel is equipped with some type of overpressure safety device, such as a pressure relief valve, rupture disks or vacuum breakers.

The sole purpose of these devices is to prevent the vessel from overpressurizing which could result in catastrophic events.

Below is a photo of one such event.


NDK Crystal damage after the incident. The force of the explosion blew out most of the wall panels. Credit: CSB

All too often these devices are neglected or forgotten about once the vessel has been placed into service.

Some state’s and/or province’s laws require that these devices be inspected periodically, but not all.

Proper periodic inspection of these devices should be part of your facility’s maintenance program.

The National Board of Pressure Vessel Inspectors has a great document on how these devices should be inspected.

Are your pressure vessels up to the standards required by your state?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 6/20/17 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.

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Topics: Autoclave Systems, Tank Manufacturing, Autoclave, ASME tanks, ASME Code, ASME tank repair, pressure tank, ASME standards, ASME Vessel, pressure vessel, autoclave maintenance

Author: Jeff Lippincott