I have updated this question with additional detail - it is not a high-pressure steam environment; it only operates at 115 PSI.

Apologies if this is off-topic here. It's less "home improvement", more "industrial breakdown", but the subject is pipework which may be similar to what this site covers - I'm hoping a steam pipe expert might see this here. Reading the "what's on topic" page though, and based on the tag, I think it's on-topic, but I have also posted it to Engineering.SE as was suggested.

A friend of mine that doesn't use the internet much runs a commercial laundry. They use an old 'Manlove Tullis' laundry calendar (c. 1980) that looks like this:

(click to enlarge)

I couldn't even find any photos on Google Images of a roller iron of this type/age; I had to dig through some photos of his factory I had.

Essentially, it is a machine with 3 rollers (2 visible in the photo) on a hot plate. Garments (e.g. bedsheets) go in wet, and come out ironed flat, and dry.

The hot bed runs on steam fed by 6 pipes (2 for each roller) underneath the machine, coming from a big boiler.

A couple of days ago 1 of the pipes broke off/burst under the machine with wear & tear over the years; where the pipe is joined by a coupling to the hot bed.

It is possible that over the years with repeated super-heating and cooling some metal fatigue has crept in, or it became so brittle that it finally failed.

After allowing the machine and the pipes to cool down for a day, he went under the machine to try to fix it; but the pipe is seized to the [possibly brass] coupling. The coupling affixes to the hot bed and it appears it cannot be removed because it is both seized and in an inaccessible part of the machine. It is a 22mm coupling.

The pipe is steel, and could be cut off and a new one joined by welding it or something, but because the working area is only 50cm in height at most, and the machine is 10ft x 15ft / 3m x 5m, there are some health & safety issues with operating a welding torch under there.

An additional coupling could be added, but this introduces another mode of failure.

He has just installed a copper stop end, temporarily, in the hope that it will be possible to use the machine with 2 out of 3 rollers functional come Tuesday.

The boiler operates at 8 Bar / 115 PSI — therefore the laundry calendar also operates at 115 PSI. From reading online I understand that the pipework is more than adequate. It is also regularly inspected and serviced.

My question is:

How can we get this pipe off and a new one on? Any above-board temporary fixes would also be of interest.

The person I'm posting this question for is extremely knowledgeable on the subject, but for the first time I've seen, he's stuck here. His usual engineer doesn't know either.

I've found the phone number for 2 companies that could possibly help, but it's currently a long weekend in the UK, bank holiday Monday coming up... He has called a specialist commercial laundry engineer but he unfortunately doesn't have any parts for Manlove Tullis machines.

He's given him a phone number for another engineer that might be able to give him some advice, but he can't call him til Tuesday when businesses reopen. He is also some distance from us.

Another engineer he has spoken to has said that it either needs to be welded or a proper coupling added; but it cannot be cut off because it is inaccessible.

Are there any plumbing / steam engineering experts on here that can help? I'll offer +100 bounty when the option is available in 10 hours.

Also if a UK expert in laundry steam operations sees this and you think you can fix this on-site for him, this is something he is interested in. He understands there is a cost involved, but the machinery is currently down and needs urgently repairing.

I will attempt to get a photo of the seized pipe/coupling on Monday when I go to his factory; although he tells me I will struggle to get a photo.

closed as off-topic by mikes, Michael Karas, Tester101 May 4 '15 at 11:20

  • This question does not appear to be about home improvement within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Engineering.SE may be helpful if it's OT here. – dsolimano May 2 '15 at 5:41
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it deals with commercial/industrial application. – mikes May 2 '15 at 10:38
  • It's actually stunningly unlikely that the steam in question is high pressure in this context - clothes/sheets would be scorched by the temperatures, and a licensed boiler operator would be required to run the boiler. Odds are it's good old 15 PSI 250F steam, especially if nobody got killed when the pipe burst. Start by checking that point. I think that also leaves it more on-topic as that's the same steam supply a typical home boiler provides. – Ecnerwal May 2 '15 at 11:47
  • @Ecnerwal I have clarified it; you are correct. I have updated the question with a more thorough explanation of what the issue is. – Danny Beckett May 2 '15 at 21:35

As stated in comment, it's really very unlikely that the steam supply is high pressure steam (per the standard nomenclature of the industry) for a multitude of reasons - too hot, requiring a dedicated, licensed boiler operator, and the commissioning and annual inspections would have failed the copper pipes before it was ever fired up. Also, someone would probably be dead following a burst pipe (which is why there are all those restrictions on it.)

The short answer for your friend with the down machine and a seized fitting is to call a real plumber or steamfitter and get his operation back on-line, if (we presume) this is costing him money by not running and he's trying to save money by fixing it himself. Down-time is expensive (since the machine is not making money) and the expertise of a professional can cut downtime, making it well worth the brief pain of paying for professional help.

  • Thanks for your answer, it is much appreciated. You are correct - it is not a high-pressure steam supply. It is 8 Bar / 115 PSI. Unfortunately he has contacted a number of engineers and nobody is able to assist. I have updated the question with a lot of additional detail. If you would be able to read through it again, and let us know what you think, he would be extremely grateful! Thanks again. – Danny Beckett May 2 '15 at 21:34
  • ...the problem is that he's called 3 engineers and nobody knows! – Danny Beckett May 3 '15 at 16:03
  • Here in the USA near pittsburgh ,Pa. this would be fixed right away Take a saw or dremel or similar device and slit the nipple or coupling and take it out. I have done this hundreds of times. By the way high pressure steam is any pressure above 15 psig. Hospitals used to use these machines all the time. – d.george Dec 22 '16 at 21:22

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.