KIME, Tony (., CA)
KOSSNER, Hubert (., DE)
PROFILEPIPE MACHINERY INC. (., CA)
UNICOR GMBH (., DE)
TOLIVER, Timothy (., US)
KIME, Tony (., CA)
KOSSNER, Hubert (., DE)
|What is claimed is:
1. A method of forming a bell on the end of a plastic pipe, the method comprising the steps of: providing a segment of plastic pipe having an inner layer and outer shell attached to the inner layer, a portion of the outer shell having a bell shape adjacent an end of the pipe, allowing the bell shaped outer shell portion to cool sufficiently to hold the bell shape, reinforcing the bell shaped outer shell portion with an inner liner substantially covering the inner surface of the bell by heating the inner liner and forming the inner liner to the bell shaped outer shell portion.
2. The method defined in claim 1 further comprising the step of attaching the inner liner to the bell shaped outer portion.
3. The method defined in claim 2 wherein the step of attaching the inner liner to the bell shaped outer portion comprises fusing the inner liner to the bell shaped outer portion.
4. The method defined in claim 2 wherein the step of attaching the inner liner to the bell shaped outer portion comprises using an adhesive.
5. The method defined in claim 1 further comprising the step of heating the inner liner prior to reinforcing the outer shell portion.
6. The method defined in claim 5 wherein the step of reinforcing the bell shaped outer shell portion with an inner liner is performed using a vacuum to expand the inner liner.
7. The method defined in claim 5 wherein the step of reinforcing the bell shaped outer shell portion with an inner liner is performed using a mechanical expander to expand the inner liner.
8. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the step of allowing the bell shaped outer shell portion to cool sufficiently to hold the bell shape comprises allowing the bell shaped outer shell portion to cool to the glass transition temperature of the outer shell base material.
9. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the outer shell portion further comprises an annular recess.
10. The method defined in claim 9 further comprising the step of positioning an annular membrane in the annular recess.
11. The method defined in claim 10 wherein the annular band is formed of a material having a modulus of elasticity at least 1.5 times as great as the base material of the outer shell.
12. The method defined in claim 11 wherein the annular membrane is formed of a material which is non-fusible with the materials of the inner liner and outer shell.
13. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the outer shell portion further comprises an annular bell stiff ener adjacent the end of the bell and wherein the method further comprises the step of fusing the inner liner to the bell stiffener, wherein the inner liner maintains a substantially cylindrical inner surface.
14. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the inner liner comprises a plastic cylinder, and wherein the method further comprises the step of positioning the plastic cylinder within the outer shell bell shaped portion, heating the cylinder, and expanding the cylinder, and attaching the cylinder to the outer shell bell shaped portion.
15. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the pipe further comprises an intermediate layer between and connected to each of the inner layer and outer shell, and wherein the method further comprises the step of removing a portion of the intermediate layer adjacent the end of the pipe.
16. The method defined in claim 15 wherein the intermediate layer is corrugated.
17. A corrugated plastic pipe comprising; an outer shell having a bell formed on an end portion, an annular recess formed in the inner surface of the outer shell bell, an annular reinforcing membrane positioned in the annular recess, an inner liner attached to the outer shell underneath the bell.
18. A corrugate pipe as defined in claim 14 wherein the outer shell bell includes an annular stiffening rib positioned between the annular reinforcing membrane and the bell end.
19. A corrugate pipe as defined in claim 15 wherein the inner liner is fused to the bell underneath the stiffening rib and the annular reinforcing membrane, and wherein the inner surface of the inner liner has a substantially cylindrical shape.
20. A method of forming a bell on the end of a plastic pipe, the method comprising the steps of: providing a segment of plastic pipe having an inner liner and outer shell attached to the inner liner, detaching a portion of the outer shell adjacent an end of the pipe from the inner liner, forming the detached outer shell portion into a bell shape, attaching the inner liner to the outer shell portion.
PLASTIC PIPE WITH BELL
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
[0001 ] This application claims the benefit of United States Provisional Application No. 61/186,871, filed June 14, 2009, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 This invention relates in general to plastic pipe, and more particularly to bell designs for plastic pipe and methods of making bell designs for plastic pipe.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Bell and spigot joints are commonly used to join pipes, including extruded plastic pipes. Bell and spigot joints typically have three components; a bell on an end of a pipe, a spigot on an end of another pipe, and a gasket. These systems typically form a water tight joint.
 Typical extruded multi-wall pipe includes a corrugated layer made using an extrusion process including corrugators. Bell and spigot joints are formed during the extrusion process using pipe corrugators incorporating pipe molds and a bell blocks. For example, see U. S. Patent 5,405,569. The preferred process is to apply a heated gas or fluid between the outer shell and inner liner extrusion layers to form the bell and spigot.
 There are two well known methods for forming a bell on the end of an extruded multi-wall corrugated pipe during the extrusion process. The first is a single extrusion layer bell, which is formed from the outer shell extrusion layer. Single layer bell extrusion processes often include complicated corrugators and extruder controls to help thin or thicken the bell, slowing down the pipe extrusion process.
 The second method for forming a bell on the end of an extruded multi-wall corrugated pipe during the extrusion process results in a bell comprised of two plastic layers formed from the outer shell and an inner liner extrusion layer being fused together. In this process, the bell is formed by evacuating the air from between the two layers during the extrusion process. This process is complicated and is also known to slow down the extrusion speed of the corrugators.
 Bell design involves several issues which have caused problems in the past. Control of the bell finish diameter is significant in the performance of a bell and spigot joint. For example, the bell must have adequate strength, through reinforcement or otherwise, to maintain a cylindrical shape during transportation and usage. The bell must be able to hold its shape during spigot and gasket insertion and subsequent pressurization of the pipe assembly.
 One method used in the past to add strength to a pipe bell was to use reinforcing stiffeners, such as annular ribs molded into the bell. These stiffeners add strength and help maintain roundness, but typically create undulations in the inner surface of the bell. Undulations or irregularities have been known to cause problems of gasket rolling when a bell and spigot joint are assembled, as the gasket may be caught on the reinforcing ribs.
 It is well known that plastic materials can have numerous variables affecting the shrinkage rates during processing. In both of the known methods of forming an inline bell discussed above, the sealing surface of the inner bell is subject to the shrinkage variability. This can cause significant dimensional control issues. For example, rapid cooling of the bell may create internal thermal stresses which may result in deformation. Differential deformation between the bell and spigot of the pipe joint may also result in leakage of a pipe joint.
 Controlling the circumferential strain in the bell is important to prevent deformation of the bell during the pipe joining process. Controlling bell strain is also important for bells subjected to internal pressure. Bell expansion caused by sustained internal hydraulic pressure, for example, may result in loss of gasket seating pressure and of a water tight seal.
[0011 ] In the past, hose clamps and other external devices have been used to reinforce bell and spigot joints as a field fix for problem or leaking joints. It is desirable to eliminate the need for such external sealing aids.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 A multi-layer bell is formed from the outer shell of a multi-layer pipe in a secondary process, thereby allowing the extrusion process to be conducted at normal speeds. The bell is designed with increased hoop or circumferential stiffness to alleviate deformation during the installation process. This invention may be used for dual wall, triple wall, or other multiple layer pipes. The bell design may include a strain limiting membrane mechanically secured between the outer shell extrusion layer and the inner liner extrusion layer, thereby enabling the use of a wider range of high strength membrane materials that are not necessarily compatible with the base resin of the pipe. This invention allows the extrusion process to be in its simplest form, with no adjustments to the corrugator or extruder speeds in an effort to control bell wall thickness. Production speeds may be increased by allowing a thinner outer shell extrusion layer at the pipe bell. The present invention may be used in conjunction with existing pipe extruding technology, minimizing the capital investment and reducing complexity of the pipe corrugating process as compared to current multi-layer bell forming technologies performed as part of the pipe extrusion corrugating process.
 Various aspects of this invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment, when read in light of the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 Figure 1 is a cross- sectional view of a typical prior art watertight bell and spigot pipe joint.
 Figures 2A-D are cross- sectional views of a pipe bell of the present invention during various stages of the forming process.
 Figure 3 is a cross- sectional view of mold blocks used to form the pipe bell of Figure 2.
 Figure 4 is a cross- sectional view of a first alternative embodiment of the present invention.
 Figures 5 A and 5B are cross-sectional views of a second alternative embodiment of the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS  Figure 1 shows a typical multi-layer extruded plastic pipe bell and spigot joint 10. The watertight joint is formed from two pipe sections 12, 14 having a bell 16 and spigot 18, respectively. Bell pipe 12 includes an outer shell 20 and an inner liner 22. A bell 16 is formed from the outer shell extrusion layer. The bell 16 includes annular stiffening ribs 17 near the pipe end to maintain roundness. The bell 16 also includes annular stiffening ribs 19 on its outer surface which are relatively small to avoid deforming the inner surface of the bell. Spigot pipe 14 includes an outer shell 20 and an inner liner 26. A hollow polyisoprene or thermoplastic elastomer gasket 28 provides a watertight seal between the bell and spigot. When assembled, the inner layers 22 and 26 preferably abut to provide a smooth inner surface, but this is not essential for most applications.
 Referring to Figure 2A, a two-layer corrugated pipe 30 having an outer layer 32 fused to an inner liner 34 is extruded in a typical manner well known in the art. Preferably the pipe is made of high density polyethylene, but other materials may be used as well, such as polyvinyl chloride or polypropylene. A bell and spigot section is formed in the extruded pipe using a traveling mold block, again as is well known in the art. However, the mold block of the present invention (Figure 3) has cavities for forming the bell section with reinforcing or stiffening rings 36 adjacent the end of the bell section, and an annular reinforcing bell membrane recess 38 inward of the reinforcing rings 36.
[0021 ] A typical pipe has a forty-eight inch inside diameter, an outer shell wall thickness of about 0.100 inches, and an inner liner wall thickness of about 0.030 inches. Such a pipe may be extruded at a rate of about one foot/minute. The bell section length of a forty eight inch diameter pipe is about ten inches. With the present invention, there is no need to slow the extrusion process to thicken the outer shell bell section.
 The extrusion process is conducted with the material at a temperature of 270 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. The material must be cooled to the glass transition temperature of the base resin material of the pipe so that the outer shell will release from the mold and hold its shape. For example, a temperature of about 225 degrees Fahrenheit may allow the outer shell bell section to release from its mold. The exact temperature may vary depending on the base resin material of the pipe. Once the pipe is cooled and removed from the mold, a secondary bell reinforcing process takes place.  Figure 2B shows a high tensile strain limiting annular band or membrane 40 positioned in the bell membrane recess 38. The membrane 40 may be inserted into the recess 38 without difficulty when the outer layer 32 is still pliable from the molding process. The membrane 40 is preferably formed from a fiber reinforced polymer. Preferred fibers include but are not limited to nano carbon fibers, glass fibers, propylene fibers, and polyester fibers. Preferred polymers include but are not limited to high density polyethylene, polypropylene and polyvinylchloride (PVC). The preferred fiber reinforcement is long strand glass fiber. The membrane preferably is 10% glass fiber content by weight, but can be 5% to 25% of the membrane by weight for certain applications, with the remainder being the polymer resin. The reinforcing membrane has a relatively high tensile strength, with a preferred modulus of elasticity of 1.5 to 15 times the modulus of elasticity of the base polymer used to make the pipe. The glass fiber membrane has little to no creep, which is important in maintaining the circumference and diameter of the bell and in keeping associated gasket compression for long term water tightness.
 The preferred embodiment of the reinforcing membrane is an extruded polypropylene. It can be extruded in eight inch wide strips having thicknesses varying from 0.05 to 0.25 inchs and cut into a preferred width for various applications. The membrane strips are also cut to proper length, with the ends fused or mechanically joined together to form an annular membrane. Of course, the membrane may be formed of many other materials which are not necessarily fusible with the pipe resin. For example, a steel membrane could be used in certain applications.
 The width and thickness of the membrane may vary depending on the strength needed for any particular application, but it is preferred that the membrane width is about 40% of the bell length, or 4 inches in the present example. The membrane 40 provides a precise diameter, not subject to the shrinkage variability of the pipe bell during the extrusion process and minimizes bell strain during spigot and gasket insertion. The reinforcement membrane 40 will have significantly closer tolerances than that which can be achieved by manufacturing a single layer bell. When the membrane 40 is compressed between the outer shell and inner liner, closer tolerances can be achieved than what is capable with currently known processes.
 Figure 2C shows the inner liner 34 reformed to the outer shell 32 in a secondary process. After the strain limiting membrane 40 is inserted, the inner liner extrusion layer 34 is heated and formed to the contour of the outer shell extrusion layer 32. The inside diameter of the reinforcing membrane 40 is generally identical to the inside diameter of the outer layer adjacent to the recess 38 to provide a consistent inside diameter of the ring/outer layer assembly, and a smooth inside diameter of the inner liner after it is formed to the outer layer, even under the reinforcing ribs 36.
 The inner liner 34 is heated until its surface reaches a temperature above the glass transition temperature and below the melt temperature of the inner liner's thermoplastic resin material. The heating process will allow the reforming of the inner liner extrusion layer as shown in Figure 2D. Reforming the inner liner 34 is accomplished by applying radial force to the inner liner during or after the secondary heating process, forming the inner liner 34 to the outer layer 32. Alternatively, the pipe ends can be temporarily capped as is well known in the art, and pressure or vacuum can be applied to radially force the inner liner outwardly to engage and form with the outer shell. In any event, reforming the inner liner 34 in close contact with the outer layer 32 traps the strain limiting membrane 40 between the two layers in the bell recess.
 If the outer shell 32 is also heated until its inner surface reaches a temperature above the glass transition temperature and below the melt temperature of the outer shell's thermoplastic resin material, the reforming of the inner liner 34 to the outer layer 32 may result in a binding or fusion of the two layers. This is preferred for certain applications, but is not necessary. Alternatively, the inner layer 34 and outer shell 34 may be attached together by a bonding agent or adhesive, but this too is not necessary in all applications.
 It is clear from Figure 2D that the inner liner conforms to the shape of the inside surface of the outer layer/reinforcing ring assembly, except for the region under the reinforcing ribs 36. During the step of forming the inner liner to the outer layer, the force applied to the inner layer 34 to expand it against the outer shell 32 is not great enough under the stiffening ribs 36 to conform the inner liner to the shape of the reinforcing ribs.
 It is not essential that the inner liner 34 retains a perfect cylindrical shape underneath the reinforcing ribs 36. Even a small smoothing out the reinforcing ribs will alleviate previously known gasket rolling problems when a bell and spigot joint are assembled. The inner liner bridging the gaps formed by the stiffener ribs will enable the gasket to pass under the bell stiffener profiles, allowing bells to be designed with additional or more pronounced reinforcing stiffeners than previously used without affecting the inner gasket sliding and sealing surface.
[0031 ] Figure 3 shows the traveling mold 41 comprised of mold blocks 41a, 41b, and 41c. Mold blocks 41 and 41c include convolutions 42 for forming corrugations on the outer pipe layer. Mold block 41b includes a bell shaping section 44 having annular or spiral recesses 46 for forming annular stiffening ribs in the outer pipe layer, and an annular recess 48 for forming a reinforcing membrane recess. The continuously extruded pipe will be cut in the region generally near the abutment of mold blocks 41b and 41c.
 Figure 4 shows an alternative embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, the process is the same, except that the portion of the inner liner 34' adjacent the bell is trimmed or removed and replaced by a separate plastic cylinder 50 made of the same or similar material as the inner liner 34' which is bondable with the outer shell 32'. The process of heating, expanding and attaching the plastic cylinder 50 to the outer shell 32' may be accomplished in the same manner as previously described when the inner liner is used. The cylinder 50 will maintain a cylindrical shape after being joined to the outer shell 32' even below the reinforcing ribs 38' as previously described. Optionally, a reinforcing recess such as 38 may be formed in the cylinder 50 or the outer shell 32' and a reinforcing ring 40 may be applied as previously described.
 Figure 5A shows a triple wall composite bell 60 having an outer layer 62, an inner liner 64, and an intermediate corrugated layer 66. In this alternative embodiment, after the initial extrusion process and after cooling of the pipe and removal from the mold, the intermediate layer 66 is trimmed or cut near an end of the pipe section 68 as shown in Figure 4B. The outer shell 62 is then heated and formed in the shape of a bell, optionally with reinforcing stiffeners or ribs and a reinforcing ring recess similar to those shown in Figure 2A. The bell may then be finally formed by expanding inner liner 64 to conform to the outer shell in the same manner as previously described, with or without a reinforcing ring.
 This invention is useful for pipe diameters of 4 to 120 inches, although pipes having diameters of 60 to 120 inches are typically made by extruding flat multi-layer strips which are helically or spirally wound and bonded to form what is commonly referred to as profile wall pipe. The bells for profile wall pipe is generally roll formed, and such bells are commonly called roll formed bells.
 The outer shell of pipe may range in thickness from 0.070 to 0.250 inches, depending on pipe diameter, with the inner liner generally about 30% of the thickness of the outer shell. The reinforcing membrane of can vary in thickness from 10% of the outer shell thickness to 100% of the outer shell thickness and width from 10% of the bell length to 100% of the bell length depending on the pipe diameter and strength requirements.
 The bell design of this invention may be used with manufacturing methods other than those of the preferred embodiments. For example, the design may be used with injection molded bells, and with non-corrugated pipe.
 The principle and mode of operation of this invention have been explained and illustrated in its preferred embodiment. However, that this invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically explained and illustrated without departing from its spirit or scope.
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