Interview with Steve Rink, System Engineer at Wilson Company

SpaceCom held its annual meeting in Houston early this December where I had an opportunity to speak with Steve Rink about hydrotesting. Hydrotesting is just as important to the space industry as it is to the petroleum refining and petrochemical industries. If a system (vessels, connected piping and instrumentation) has a specified maximum allowable working pressure (MAWP), then it must be tested; and this is typically done with high pressure water. Traditionally, hydrotesting is carried out by an operator using fixed equipment, reading a pressure gauge, and modulating the pressure in the system with a hand valve.

The Wilson Company has changed all that by offering a product that does the hydrotesting via automation. Their unit comes on wheels and can fit on the back of a pickup truck. Steve mentions that “several industries utilize hydrostatic testing: aerospace, oil and gas production, compressed gas, fluid power manufacturers, etc. These operations require operator skill and attention. Manually controlled pumps offer no protection from over pressurizing the item under test. Exposing test items to pressure higher than the test criteria leads to scrap and repair.”

Here are some of the benefits of automated hydrostatic testing:

  • Repeatable results
  • Automated record keeping
  • Reduced time and costs
  • Is done by remote control
  • Increased operator safety
  • Uses PID control with set point variations of less than 0.1%
  • Hydrotesting is controlled by a sophisticated SCADA system
  • Internal web server allows access using a web browser

Steve closes the interview with the following insights, “In traditional hydrotesting, the operator is in close proximity to high pressure. Equipment failure can lead to injury, and injection injuries are life threatening. Automation increases productivity, repeatability, reliability, and return on investment. SCADA integration embeds the pumping system into the manufacturing and certification processes. Remote control separates the operator from harm and allows supervisory monitoring. The pumping system delivers results consistent with the expectations.”

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