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FAQs

Flanges & Fittings

Can you use metal gaskets more than once?

It is likely that you can use a metal seal more than once, but most customers find that it is easier to replace the seals when they are opened, rather than risk leaks from re-used seals at a later time. Using a new seal is inexpensive compared to the cost of tracking down and fixing leaks.

What are the advantages & disadvantages of metal seals and elastomer (o-ring) seals?

Metal seals can achieve higher vacuum and higher bake out temperatures, yet they are single-use items. Metal seals are usually designed for semi-permanent installation where the seal is not frequently replaced. Elastomer seals are replaceable and can be used in dynamic sealing environments where the seal must be opened and closed on a regular basis. There are many types of elastomer compounds to accommodate many different processes.

What are the differences between formed bellows and edge-welded bellows?

Edge-welded bellows are made from separate round discs, welded together in segments. Welded bellows provide the greatest stroke and dynamic flexibility. Welded bellows hoses can have a virtually unlimited length and can be manufactured in a variety of different thicknesses and materials as special-orders. Formed bellows are made from a single piece of very thin tubing. They are designed to compensate for static misalignments where the tubing is not actively and repeatedly being flexed. The inherent design of formed bellows limits their length.

What are the different finishes available on fittings and tubings?

Nor-Cal offers Bead-Blasted finishes and Electropolished finishes on tubings and fittings. Exterior surface finish is usually a customer preference to cosmetically match other components on the system. On the outside of the tubing, the only difference between bead blast and electropolish is cosmetic. Bead blast has a dull “satin” finish. A bead-blast surface is generally only on the exterior, but in some cases, Nor-Cal flanges, fittings and elbows can be special-ordered with bead-blasted internal surfaces. Bead-blasted internal surfaces can aid in the removal of process deposits. Electropolished surfaces are closer to a shiny mirror finish, and incur an extra expense. Electropolishing also finishes the inside of the tube as well, so an electropolished internal finish reduces pump-down times.

What is the advantage of silver plated bolts?

Silver plating on bolts provides a thread surface which prevents seizing during installation or removal. Silver plated bolts are a convenient alternative to adding grease or anti-seize compound to regular bolts.

Why are there several different metal gasket materials available?

Copper gaskets are the most common metal gasket, and will work in most vacuum applications. However, some process applications which are corrosive to copper may need a gasket of a different material such as aluminum, nickel, or silver-plated copper.

Why buy a flexible metal hose when a PVC or short flexible coupling is available?

Flexible couplings are designed to correct small misalignments between close spaces. A flexible coupling has a thinner wall, compared to a flexible hose. A flexible hose is designed to span large spaces, or where a short flexible coupling will not work. Braided metal coverings can be ordered on hoses to protect the bellows. Our edge-welded bellow couplings and hoses can be compressed, bent or expanded to fit the application. PVC hoses with embedded spiral wire are available as a low-cost, flexible rough vacuum line, but they have higher permeation than metal bellows hoses, and PVC hoses cannot be compressed or extended.

Why would you need a plate nut?

A plate nut is used when there is not enough room to install a regular nut. A plate nut is much flatter than a standard nut, and spans two bolt holes - removing the need for a wrench to hold the nut in place while tightening the bolt. Plate nuts are perfect for those hard-to-reach (and hard-to-see) spaces often encountered during system assembly.

Chambers, Feedthroughs, Manipulation & Viewports

Can you add motor drives to manual feedthroughs?

Yes. To prevent fatigue from hand-winding long linear and rotary feedthroughs, as well as Z-Translators and manipulators, electric motors can be attached as options. Please consult a Product Manager for details.

How can I reduce the cost of a custom chamber?

Nor-Cal engineers will work with you to reduce the cost of a custom-made chamber. Two easy methods to substantially reduce costs are:

   arrow.gif Reduce the tolerances on the drawing. Tighter tolerances = more production time and higher cost. Simply changing the default tolerance values in your CAD program can reduce costs immediately.

   arrow.gif Use standard components instead of custom-drawn parts. Standard off-the-shelf parts cost less. Working with standard fittings, tubing, elbows and diameters will reduce the amount of custom work required on a chamber.

How do I prevent cracking my viewport?

Viewports can crack from mechanical stress and thermal stress. Thermal stress is caused by uneven heating during process, leading to uneven stress in the flange. Mechanical stress during installation can be reduced by tightening the flange bolts in small, even steps, in a cross-pattern.

What are double wall chambers?

Dual walled chambers are chambers with a gap between the inner wall and outer wall. This gap allows for chamber cooling fluids such as water or Liquid Nitrogen.

What are the advantages of a Nor-Cal chamber?

Nor-Cal knows Vacuum. All of our chambers are fabricated in-house by world-class vacuum welders. Because our chambers are manufactured in-house, Nor-Cal has control at every step of the fabrication: design, manufacturing, electropolishing, RGA scans, bakeouts, vacuum testing and shipping.

What Chamber shapes can Nor-Cal build?

Nor-Cal’s basic chamber shapes are spherical, cylindrical and rectangular. However, they can be combined together to form a chamber in just about any configuration that you can imagine.

What is a differentially-pumped rotary seal?

A differentially pumped rotary seal allows 360 degrees of rotation through the vacuum wall of a UHV system. It can be pumped-down independently from the chamber, through a dual-port pumping system.

What is an explosion bond?

Explosion bonding is a method to combine dissimilar metals in a vacuum-tight seal. An actual explosive charge compresses and welds two metals together so that they become a single piece. Explosion bonds are useful for transitions between solid chamber walls and malleable sealing surfaces.

What is the difference between Vented and Non-Vented vacuum bolts?

Vented screws have a vent hole drilled through the length of the bolt. In applications where a blind bolt hole is needed (where the bolt hole does not go all the way through the metal), the vented bolt allows trapped gas behind the bolt to be pumped out. In applications where both ends of the threaded hole are exposed to vacuum, a non-vented bolt can be used because there is no trapped gas.

What is the maximum size of a chamber than Nor-Cal can build?

It depends on the shape of the chamber. It is also a function of what geometries have to be machined and welded. Finally, cleaning and EP requirements play a role in the overall size capability. Please consult a Product manager for details.

What metals does Nor-Cal use to construct a chamber?

Nor-Cal fabricates Stainless Steel and Aluminum chambers. Welded Stainless Steel chambers are Nor-Cal’s core competency and Stainless Steel has more advantages in chamber design. Aluminum weighs less and is generally less expensive.

Valves

Please explain "NO" and "NC" options on your valves.

   arrow.gif NO stands for “Normally Open.” When power is removed, the valve will go open. Open is a NO’s “normal” state. It achieves an open state through the use of springs. NO valves are also called “Air to Close, Spring to Open”

   arrow.gif NC stands for “Normally Closed.” When power is removed, the valve will go closed. Closed is a NC’s “normal” state. It achieves a closed state through the use of springs, and is sometimes called “Air to Open, Spring to Close”

Can a motor be added to a ball valve?

Not yet. Please consult a Product Manager for details.

Can I add a motor to my pneumatic isolation valve to make it control?

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Control valve components are held to tighter standards to enable accurate valve position control across their entire range. Pneumatic isolation valves simply open and close, and specifically concentrate on achieving a full-seal in the closed position.

Can Nor-Cal valves be used in liquid environments?

Yes: Bellows sealed valves can be operated at pressure up to 15 psig. Ball valves can be operated at pressures up to 45 psig. Leak valves can be operated at pressures up to 500 psig.

What is a "lockout" feature?

A lockout feature is a mechanical lock, often enabled by a solenoid, which mechanically locks the valve in a specific position (usually “closed”) when valve power is removed or the lock is engaged by the system. The lock must be positively disabled before the valve will be able to move. This feature prevents a valve from accidentally opening and dumping high-vacuum pumps when power fails, or when manual controls are being used.

What is the difference between ISO and JIS flanges?

ISO and JIS are different flanges, with different bolt patterns and different o-ring requirements. They are not compatible with each other without an adapter. Please consult a Product Manager if you are unsure which flange type you need.

Which valve do I need for my application?

Nor-Cal manufactures many different types of valves for use in many different types of process environments. Understanding your process environment will help determine the type of valve you need. Some basic questions to answer before choosing a valve are:

   arrow.gif Do you require a specific flange size, or are you limited by space?
   arrow.gif Do you require manual control, or do you need a pneumatic or motor-driven valve?
   arrow.gif Is your process heated or corrosive to certain types of metal?
   arrow.gif What are the flow rates, conductance, and pressures your process needs to achieve?
   arrow.gif Must the valve seal to atmosphere (“Isolation”), control vacuum pressure (“Throttle”), or both?

Why would I need a pump-out port?

A pump-out port or “roughing port” is a port to allow the valve (and chamber, if necessary) to be evacuated by a separate roughing pump prior to operating a high-vacuum pump.

Will Nor-Cal repair the leaky bellows in my valve?

No. A welded bellows cannot be repaired because it is difficult to determine the position of pinhole leaks, and large ruptures compromise the rest of the bellows. It is more cost-effective and reliable to replace a leaking bellows with a new bellows.

Pressure Control

Can Nor-Cal provide a complete solution which includes everything to control pressure in my system?

Yes. Apart from gas flow control (MFC), and vacuum pumps, Nor-Cal is a single-source for high-vacuum chambers, valves, gauges, components, software, and control systems. We can help you design a complete pressure control solution that meets or exceeds your requirements.

Are Nor-Cal Intellisys controllers CE compliant?

Yes. Nor-Cal Intellisys controllers are CE compliant for EMC emissions and safety standards.

Can I add Intellisys pressure control to a valve I already own?

Probably. Nor-Cal can work with you on the details of customizing Intellisys control systems to your application, or you can investigate at our Universal Valve Drive for a ready-made solution.

Can I improve the performance of my system by simply switching to Intellisys?

Yes. Retrofits and upgrades are two of our strongest markets. Patented Nor-Cal control algorithms and specialized control valves can often reduce defects and particles, and improve throughput without changing anything else in your system.

Can Nor-Cal provide a pressure control evaluation demo for me to try out?

Yes. Please consult with an Intellisys Product Manager for details.

What is DeviceNet?

DeviceNet is an industrial communications protocol for electronic devices. It is a communications system that makes it easy to install and configure complex industrial electronic devices. In a semiconductor environment, DeviceNet is used on gauges, flow controllers, valves and pressure controllers. DeviceNet standards and compliance are regulated by ODVA. Nor-Cal is a registered ODVA member, and our pressure control systems are DeviceNet compatible.

What pressure range will Intellisys valves control to?

Different valves control in different pressure ranges. Please refer to the table above. Nor-Cal Intellisys pressure control can accurately control pressures below 1 millitorr. The quality of the gauge and noise on the gauge signal are usually the defining factors in the quality and range of accurate pressure control.

Which pressure control valve do I need for my application?

Nor-Cal manufactures many different types of control valves and components for use in many different applications. Understanding your application will help determine the type of control valve you need. Some basic questions that Nor-Cal will ask you when choosing a control valve are:
     arrow.gif What are the flow rates, conductance, and pressures, your process needs to achieve?
​     arrow.gif Does your process need to meet a specific cycle time?
​     arrow.gif Do you require a specific flange size or o-ring compound, or are you limited by space?
​     arrow.gif Is your application heated or corrosive to certain metals or materials?
​     arrow.gif Do you require manually-activated touch control, or do you run from a host computer?

A table of general valve characteristics is below:
Valve Type Construction   Resolution (Steps) Actuation Time*
Butterfly Valve 316 Stainless Steel 0-25 Torr Up to 1.5 Million 125 – 250 ms
Sealing Butterfly Valve 316 Stainless Steel 0-760 Torr Up to 1.5 Million 125 – 250 ms
Throttling Pendulum Valve 356 or 6061 Aluminum†† 1 mT – 30 Torr Up to 30 Million <4 Seconds
Throttling SoftShut Valves 304 Stainless Steel 1 mT – 760 Torr 6 Million <4 seconds
* Actuation time is full-stroke, open to closed.
Gear-driven butterfly valves between 6 and 10 inches require ~850ms to actuate.
†† Aluminum Pendulum valves can be brite-dipped bare aluminum, or hard anodized type III
 

Heaters

Are your heaters cleanroom compatible?

Yes. Nor-Cal’s closed-cell silicone heater jackets have a 150°C breakdown half-life of 25 years, and are class-100 cleanroom compatible.

Are your heaters UL listed?

Nor-Cal Heater controllers are UL listed and CSA approved. Our Gasline heaters are UL Listed, and our standard thermal jackets are fitted with UL-listed connectors. Custom jackets for specific agency compliance (CE, NEC-427, etc.) are also available.

Can I use my existing controller with your heater jackets?

Yes. Nor-Cal heater Jackets integrate with standard controllers.

Can I wash heater jackets?

Jackets must be unplugged from heater supply and cool, before being wiped-down with damp cloths. Jackets must be fully dried before re-installing. Do not immerse jackets in water or cleaning solutions.

Do your heaters heat the valve plate?

Nor-Cal’s heaters do not directly heat the throttle plate in butterfly or gate valves, but thermal transfer through the valve will keep the plate warm as well.

Does Nor-Cal make custom-designed heater jackets?

Yes. Nor-Cal can help you design a heating system for your application. In addition, our trimmable jackets allow for up to 1 inch (25mm) to be trimmed to meet your specific requirements and ensure 100% line coverage.

How long does it take for heaters to stabilize?

The time required for stabilization depends on three factors:

   arrow.gif The thermal conductivity and of the material being heated (Aluminum, Stainless, etc.)
   arrow.gif The amount of material to be heated
   arrow.gif The energy consumed by the process gasses and the ambient room temperature
   arrow.gif For example, a large Stainless foreline running a cool process in a cool room will take longer to heat than a short Aluminum elbow running a hot process in a heated room.
 

What is the accuracy of your heater controllers?

Nor-Cal PID Thermal controllers can maintain a +/- 2°C setpoint temperature. They are remotely configurable for setpoint, temperature ramp, over/under temperature alarm, and system performance through RS232 or RS485 serial communication.

What is the hottest / biggest / smallest / heater you provide?

Nor-Cal provides closed-cell silicone heater jackets for applications up to 200° C. Clothbound, fiberglass insulated options are available for applications up to 400° C.

What types of products can Nor-Cal heat with thermal jackets?

Nor-Cal has standard jackets for tubing, flanges, valves, elbows, forelines, Y-joints, conical reducers, ball valves, and gate valves. Some Nor-Cal valves have integrated heaters, and passive jackets are used for insulation.

What voltages can I run heaters from? (Alternate question: What is required to run heaters?)

Heaters are standard at 120V and 240V, and are interconnectable up to a 10-Amp or 1200 Watt circuit.

When do I need a heater?

You need a heater if process gasses condense on cool system components. Keeping system components heated keeps condensable particles from depositing in your system until they can be properly removed by a particulate trap.