Perils of look-alike products

Parker Instrumentation has teamed up with Plymouth University to produce a white paper showing how cheap tube fittings could prove costly

Parker Instrumentation, whose UK headquarters are in Barnstaple, has teamed up with Plymouth University to produce a white paper showing how cheap tube fittings could prove costly in the long run.

Industrial tube fittings are just one product in a globally competitive market that are easily copied and produced in volume by low-cost producers. The white paper produced by tube fitting designer and manufacturer Parker detailed tests made on these products.

As many fittings end up being used processing harsh media, or in environments that are corrosive, Parker said users need to be aware of the potential implications of choosing parts based mainly on cost criteria.

In conjunction with the Plymouth, Parker subjected an example low cost producer’s tube fittings to a test programme involving optical, scanning electron microscope and laser microscopy observations, plus traditional mechanical performance measurements and corrosion tests.

According to Parker, the results clearly demonstrated that the producer’s use of poor quality steel, which contained many inclusions and impurities, and the subsequent processing treatments, resulted in poor end products with little resistance to corrosion. One test, for example, showed the onset of corrosion after only 24 hours’ exposure to salt spray – a common problem in offshore environments.

Parker Instrumentation’s R&D director Spencer Nicholson said: ‘Buying goods on price alone can be an extremely poor decision. Tube fitting failure can have disastrous consequences in a large proportion of common applications. Parker views it as no less than critical that users carefully consider a fitting’s design and production process before making a purchasing decision.

‘Copying a design and producing a “look alike” part is easy, but that does not make it fit for purpose. The material for our own tube fittings comes exclusively from high quality European sources, and is subjected to an independent intergranular corrosion test before product manufacturing even begins. This is followed by a number of unique processing stages aimed at optimising reliability and corrosion resistance.’