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Quick Actuating Closures

M.L. Snow
Elevator Inspection Section for the State of Tennessee.
Former member of The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors

54th General Meeting in 1985

Category: Design/Fabrication

Summary: The following article is a part of National Board Classic Series and it was published in the National
Board BULLETIN. (7 printed pages)

The following material represents the author only and should not be assumed to be the opinion or policy of
The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors or The American Society of Mechanical
Engineers administration, staff or membership, unless so acknowledged.

I would like to talk with you for a while on the subject of Quick Actuating Closures or, as more commonly
called, Quick Opening Doors. Quick opening doors are provided on certain types of unfired pressure vessels
to facilitate loading and unloading of materials, or products or goods which are being processed under
pressure and at elevated temperatures within the vessel. Depending upon the process, these vessels may be
called autoclaves, sterilizers, vulcanizers, reactors, retorts, treating cylinders, and I'm sure you may refer to
them by many other names. During this discussion, let's just classify and refer to them as autoclaves. These
vessels are used for countless processes such as: sterilizers in hospitals and laboratories, food processing,
curing of tires and many rubber-type materials, production of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, curing of brick,
concrete blocks and other concrete products, metal bonding, impregnating timber and wood products,
processing of textiles, and many other applications. Some of these processes require a comparatively short
time of less than one hour to complete while others require ten or 12 hours or longer to complete.

Quick opening doors are usually provided on only one end of horizontal cylindrical vessels in place of the fixed
concave or convex dished head, however, occasionally they are provided on both ends to further expedite
loading and unloading. Quick actuating closures are also used as the top head on vertical vessels. Although
they are more commonly used on cylindrical vessels, the quick opening doors are sometimes applied to use
on rectangular sterilizers and process autoclaves.

Quick actuating closures command a great deal of respect from boiler and pressure vessel jurisdictional
authorities, insurance companies, and owners and users. No doubt many of you have a small two or three
quart size pressure cooker which you use on the kitchen range at home. Many of these have lids which may
be referred to as quick actuating closure. Perhaps in your home you have experienced an accident whereby
the lid was not properly secured and blew off the cooker and through the ceiling. These incidents are not
uncommon. Simple calculation shows that a small pressure cooker, ten inches in diameter, operating at 15
psig exerts a load or force of 1178 pounds on the lid. That's a load of well over one half ton. Let's consider an
autoclave or tire curing vulcanizer ten feet in diameter and operating at a pressure of 100 psig. Again, simple
calculation shows this vessel to have an end force of 1,130,976 pounds acting against the quick opening door.
That's a 565 ton load carried by the door. That's why we must have respect for these quick actuating

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closures. Loads, such as this, in a conventional pressure vessel with dished and flanged heads properly
A Boiler: The Explosive Potential of a
welded to the shell would not worry us unduly. However, when the head senses the function of a door which
Bomb
gives quick and easy access for loading and unloading the vessel, and must therefore be held in position by
Acoustic Emission Examination of some form of locking mechanism, we have to be more concerned.
Metal Pressure Vessels
Review of the past issues of National Board BULLETIN and jurisdictional records of accidents in the states of
Anatomy of a Catastrophic Boiler the United States and provinces of Canada will disclose some of the catastrophic results of failures of quick
Accident opening doors on autoclaves. We have learned through bitter experience just how devastating such accidents
Austenitic Stainless Steel can be. Let's briefly review some of these.

Auto-Refrigeration We have a report of an autoclave failure in a brick manufacturing plant. An eight feet, six inches in diameter by
108 feet long brick curing cylinder had the door blown off just as the steam pressure reached its normal
Basic Weld Inspection - Part 1
working pressure of 145 psig at the start of a curing cycle. The door, after deflecting off a wall at the loading
Basic Weld Inspection - Part 2 pit, pierced another solid brick wall and continued through an adjoining section of the building. Other walls and
a large portion of the plant roof collapsed from pressure of the explosion. The 45 ton autoclave moved 150
Black Liquor Recovery Boilers - An
feet from its foundation destroying a delivery truck, curing racks and numerous stocks of inventory that
Introduction
blocked its path of travel. Miraculously no one was seriously injured. This incident was fully investigated and
Boiler Efficiency and Steam Quality: the cause of the door failure was attributed to reduced bearing area of worn edges and possible slippage of
The Challenge of Creating Quality the locking ring.
Steam Using Existing Boiler
Efficiencies Here is another report of a concrete block manufacturing plant that was leveled as a result of an autoclave
door failure. This vessel was 12 feet in diameter by 80 feet long and the report indicates that the door was
Boiler Logs Can Reduce Accidents blown off during normal operation. The roof of the plant was lifted ten feet into the air, one wall was knocked
Boiler/Burner Combustion Air Supply down, and steel plates and concrete blocks were hurled 150 feet from the site. The autoclave tore free from
Requirements and Maintenance its concrete supports and ripped across an empty lot into a children's club. The club, usually full of children,
was empty because the children were on an outing. The autoclave, after passing through the children's club,
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning continued for another 200 feet smashing three pick-up trucks and two cars before slamming into the wall of a
Preventable With Complete shop. One operator was killed and three others were critically injured. This was tragic, but it could have been
Inspection much worse. Just imagine the results had the children's club been occupied.
Combustion Air Requirements:The
We have another report where an operator was killed when the door of an eight feet by 30 feet metal bonding
Forgotten Element In Boiler Rooms
autoclave was blown open by residual pressure as he was about to open it. The door slammed the operator
Creep and Creep Failures against a concrete wall and he died instantly.
Description of Construction and Here is another report involving a ten and one-half feet in diameter by 124 feet long block curing autoclave.
Inspection Procedure for Steam The vessel was being vented at the end of a cycle and pressure was reported to be down to five psig on the
Locomotive and Fire Tube Boilers gage when the 17 year old operator, impatient at the delay in waiting for the pressure to dissipate, decided to
Ensuring Safe Operation Of Vessels open the door despite shouted warnings from a senior operator. The door flew open, hurling the youth against
With Quick-Opening Closures a wall killing him instantly.

Environmental Heat Exchangers Here is yet another report of a recent accident involving a five feet in diameter by 30 feet rubber curing
vulcanizer. The operator was in the process of securing the vessel after a curing cycle and apparently thinking
Factors Affecting Inservice Cracking
that all pressure had been relieved through the open vent line, was opening the door with aid of a "come-
of Weld Zone in Corrosive Service
a-long" winch when the door suddenly blew open. The operator was scalded by steam and hot water and the
Failure Avoidance in Welded last report was that he remains in critical condition.
Fabrication
The list of reported incidents goes on and on. I would suspect there are many, many "near miss" type
Finite Element Analysis of Pressure incidents involving quick opening doors that are not reported. Why do these quick actuating closures fail? In
Vessels almost all cases, its a combination of improper operation and poor maintenance.

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Fuel Ash Corrosion As you of course know, there are a number of different designs or types of locking mechanisms provided on
these quick opening doors. The main difference in design is the manner in which the door is locked and the
Fuel Firing Apparatus - Natural Gas method of obtaining a pressure-tight joint. Some of the more commonly used types can be classified as:
Grain Boundaries
the interlocking lug type door;
Heat Treatment - What Is It? expanding or contracting ring type door;
How to Destroy a Boiler -- Part 1 clamp type door;
How to Destroy a Boiler -- Part 2 cam latch type door;
bar locking type door;
How to Destroy a Boiler -- Part 3
swing bolt type door.
Identifying Pressure Vessel Nozzle
Problems At this time we won't discuss the design features of the various locking mechanisms. Most states and
provinces require ASME Code construction and stamping with National Board registration and we strongly
Inspection, Repair, and Alteration of
endorse this requirement.
Yankee Dryers

Inspection, What Better Place to Some of the general design features which should be considered for quick actuating doors are as follows:
Begin
Design the locking mechanism so that the failure of one locking element will not result in the release or
Laminations Led to Incident failure of the other elements.
Lay-up of Heating Boilers Arrange the locking and holding elements so that a visual external examination can be made of their
Liquid Penetrant Examination condition to determine that the elements are fully engaged in the closed position.

Low Voltage Short Circuiting-GMAW Where the locking mechanism or the closure is completely released by limited movement of the locking
mechanism or closure, and is hydraulically operated (or operated by any means other than manual), the unit
Low Water Cut-Off Technology
should be designed or provided with interlocking devices so that the vessel cannot be pressurized until the
Low-Water Cutoff: A Maintenance closure mechanism is fully engaged and the mechanism cannot be released until the vessel has been
Must depressurized.
Magnetic Particle Examination For manually operated locking mechanisms designed to release the vessel's pressure before the mechanism
Maintaining Proper Boiler Inspections has been disengaged, an audible or visible warning device should be provided to alarm when an attempt is
Through Proper Relationships made to pressurize with an incompletely engaged mechanism, or to alarm when an attempt is made to
disengage a mechanism while the vessel is pressurized.
Microstructural Degradation

Miracle Fluid?
Provide at least one safety device that would verify that the pressure in the vessel has been reduced to
atmospheric before the door locking mechanism is released.
Organizing A Vessel, Tank, and
Piping Inspection Program Provide a pressure indicating device on all units that is visible from the operating area.
Paper Machine Failure Investigation:
Inspection Requirements Should Be As was stated earlier, investigation shows that in most cases the failure of quick actuating closures is caused
Changed For Dryer Can by a combination of improper operation and poor maintenance. Training and supervision of operators is of
Pipe Support Performance as It utmost importance. Every operator should be adequately trained in the proper operation of an autoclave. He
Applies to Power Plant Safety and should be made fully aware of the potential for accidents involving these vessels and of the tremendous forces
Reliability acting on the quick opening doors. He should be made aware of and understand the importance of insuring
that the vessel is completely vented before attempting to open the door. He should understand the function of
Polymer Use for Boilers and all operating controls and door interlocking devices and the danger of interfering with or bypassing any safety
Pressure Vessels device. An operator who has not yet acquired sufficient knowledge and experience with autoclaves utilizing
Pressure Vessel Fatigue quick opening doors should be closely supervised by a trained and experienced person.

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Pressure Vessels: Analyzing Change Qualified management or supervising personnel must establish safe and proper operating procedures. The
operating instructions provided by the manufacturer should always be strictly adhered to. After definite
Preventing Corrosion Under operating procedures have been established, they should be prominently displayed and followed by all plant
Insulation personnel. These procedures should insure:
Preventing Steam/Condensate
that special care be exercised in loading the autoclave to prevent damage to the vessel, the door gasket
System Accidents
and the gasket bearing surfaces;
Proper Boiler Care Makes Good
Business Sense:Safety Precautions closing of the door must be done only by authorized personnel who are thoroughly acquainted with the
for Drycleaning Businesses locking mechanism and safety devices,
Putting a Stop to Steam Kettle Failure the gasket and contact surfaces must be clean and free of any foreign matter;
Quick Actuating Closures
should any binding or poor fit-up be encountered during closing of the door, the trouble must be determined
Quick-Actuating Door Failures and corrected. Under no conditions should the door or locking mechanism be forced into position. The use of
"cheaters" or "jimmy" bars to pry doors into position or to apply additional leverage to locking mechanism
Real-Time Radioscopic Examination
should be prohibited;
Recommendations For A Safe Boiler
Room at the end of the cycle, no attempt must be made to open the door until the operator is certain that all
pressure has been dissipated.
Recovering Boiler Systems After A
Flood In any type of quick opening door, one of the chief hazards is the door being opened while there is still some
pressure within the vessel. Various designs of safety devices have been developed to prevent this from
Rendering Plants Require Safety
happening. One device is a pressure actuated unit that prevents the admission of pressure into the vessel until
Repair or Alteration of Pressure the door is fully closed and locked, and prevents opening of the door until the pressure within the vessel has
Vessels been reduced to atmospheric. Another simple safety device is a pin design which prevents closing of the vent
valve until the door is in the completely closed position. The hole in the flange lines up with the pin, permitting
Residential Water Heater Safety
its inward movement and the rotation of the valve stem to its closed position. Conversely, disengagement of
School Boiler Maintenance the end closure is prevented by the pin unless the valve has been turned to the wide open position, thereby
Programs: How Safe Are The venting the vessel. Still another simple safety device that can be made in the plant if desired consists of a vent
Children? valve of the rising stem type with an arm attached to the stem of the valve. A pin on the end of the arm
prevents closing of the vent valve unless the door is properly closed and locked so that the pin can enter holes
Secondary Low-Water Fuel Cutoff
in the door ring and door which are aligned only when the door is in the fully closed and locked position.
Probe: Is It as Safe as You Think?
Conversely, the door cannot be opened unless the vent valve is fully open.
Short-Term High Temperature
Failures There are a number of other types of mechanical interlocks available as well as electrical, hydraulic and
pneumatic safety devices. Safety interlocks are occasionally interconnected into process control systems. In
Specification of Rupture Disk Burst some instances the vessel should remain closed until flammable, toxic, or other hazardous material in gaseous
Pressure or liquid forms have been removed and the vessel purged. These materials may be in the vessel under
Steam Traps Affect Boiler Plant essentially atmospheric pressure conditions.
Efficiency
Regardless of the safety devices and interlocking systems provided on quick opening doors, the human
Steps to Safety: Guide for Restarting element cannot be overlooked in prevention of accidents with these vessels. All too often, even key operating
Boilers after Summer Lay-Up personnel have a tendency to become overconfident after a long term of trouble free operation.
Stress Corrosion Cracking of Steel in A continuing preventive maintenance inspection program is required. Periodic inspections of quick opening
Liquefied Ammonia Service - A door assemblies should be made by properly trained personnel. The general conditions of the moving parts of
Recapitulation the door assemblies and safety devices should be checked at least on a monthly frequency. A more thorough
Suggested Daily Boiler Log Program inspection should be made of the entire vessel annually. Nondestructive testing of critical elements should be
considered on units subject to severe service.

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Suggested Maintenance Log Of course, records should be kept of all tests, maintenance and repairs. Some of the features which should
Program be inspected include:
System Design, Specifications, All bearing surfaces should be carefully checked for evidence of excessive wear.
Operation, and Inspection of
Deaerators Gaskets should be checked for wear, damage and leakage. Replacement gaskets should always be in
accordance with the manufacturer's specifications with no deviations. Door hinge mechanisms should be
Tack Welding
checked for proper alignment and to insure that adjustment screws and locking nuts are properly secured.
Temperature And Pressure Relief
Valves Often Overlooked Door and locking ring lugs should be examined carefully for evidence of undue stress and for cracks at the
junction of the lug and door or locking ring. Locking ring and door wedges should be checked to verify full
Temperature Considerations for engagement when closed and for proper bearing surface contact, wear patterns, and condition. For
Pressure Relief Valve Application replacement of missing wedges or securement of loose wedges, the door manufacturer should be consulted.
The Authorized Inspector's
Doors using the contracting ring locking device should have the ring checked for loss of springiness,
Responsibility for Dimensional
cracks at the points of attachment of the operating lugs, evidence of undue wear on the ring and shear on the
Inspection
pins in the lugs and the operating mechanism.
The Effects of Erosion-Corrosion on
Power Plant Piping With clamp type doors, the surfaces of the clamps should be checked for wear and the clamps should be
examined for distortion at the portions overlapping the shell ring and door ring. Hinge pins and locking device
The Forgotten Boiler That Suddenly parts should be checked for wear and evidence of shear.
Isn't
With bar type doors, all bearing surfaces should be inspected for undue wear and the various parts checked
The Trend of Boiler/Pressure Vessel
Incidents: On the Decline?
for indications of undue stress as well as for distortion. Arm pivot pins should be checked to be sure they are
securely held in place and are not bent. Pivot pin mounting brackets should be checked for cracks at the point
The Use of Pressure Vessels for of attachment to the head and evidence of undue stress in line with the pin holes. Threads of the operating
Human Occupancy in Clinical screw should be checked for wear and fit in the nut or handwheel hub.
Hyberbaric Medicine
Closures of the swing bolt type should be checked for missing bolts. If any are missing, they should be
Thermally Induced Stress Cycling
replaced at once. Bolts should be checked for soundness, particularly at the eye, and the threads should be
(Thermal Shock) in Firetube Boilers
checked for evidence of stripping or excessive wear. The bolt washers should be flat. Washers that are
Top Ten Boiler and Combustion distorted to a dish shape tend to allow bolt movement out of the slot when nuts are improperly torqued. The
Safety Issues to Avoid closure should also be inspected when closed to be sure the nuts are fully engaged. The pins should be
examined for distortion and for secure fit.
Typical Improper Repairs of Safety
Valves At each inspection of the vessel, the door safety locking appliances should be checked and tested to be
Wasted Superheat Converted to Hot, sure that they are operating properly and are in good repair.
Sanitary Water
Any time a locking ring binds or catches at some point during its movement. The point becomes a fulcrum
Water Maintenance Essential to and the entire ring tries to rotate around it. This may result in shifting of the ring's position and causing unequal
Prevent Boiler Scaling overlap on the lugs. Therefore, it is important that any safety device that determines the positioning of the
ring, such as microswitches, manually operated pins with two-way valves connected to steam signals, or any
Water Still Flashes to Steam at 212
other type of device, be located at four equal quadrants of the ring. One safety device at one point is not
Welding Consideration for Pressure sufficient to properly indicate the position of the ring. The four devices should be tested.
Relief Valves
The door and the locking mechanism should be checked both in the closed and open positions. The
Welding Symbols: A Useful System position of the locking ring, the amount of overlap, and any shift in the ring's position should be observed.
or Undecipherable Hieroglyphics?
The opening to the vessel should be checked for out-of-roundness at the outer edge. This is the difference
What Should You Do Before Starting
between the maximum and the minimum inside diameter at any cross section. Under no condition should it
Boilers After Summer Lay-Up?
exceed one percent of the nominal diameter of the cross section under consideration and preferably it should

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Why? A Question for All Inspectors be zero.

In conclusion, quick actuating closures are in widespread use throughout industry; because of this, owners
and operators are often unaware of, or complacent to, the deadly potential of these devices. It is up to the
designer to insure that his autoclave door offers adequate protection against the maximum pressures carried
by these closures and to further insure that interlocking devices are provided which will prevent the door from
being opened while the vessel is still pressurized. It is up to vendors, inspectors, and all of us here to drive
home the importance of planned maintenance and strict operational procedures to owners, management, and
operating personnel.

Editor's note: Some ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code requirements may have changed because of
advances in material technology and/or actual experience. The reader is cautioned to refer to the latest
edition and addenda of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code for current requirements.

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