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VMA's 75th Anniversary: A Timeline
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VMA and the Valve Industry:

The Timeline of a Rich History

The valve industry has a rich past. Valve standardization runs both a parallel and an intertwined path, dotted with stories of famous companies as well as great achievements in valve design. Valves go back as far as the Roman Empire. Like technology in general, valve engineering and design slept through the dark ages. Glimmers of valve technological advancement were brought forth by that famous artist and inventor, Leonardo DaVinci. However, the real change has primarily taken place in the past 150 years. Starting 75 years ago, VMA became an important and leading voice for the growing industry. Here’s a snapshot of this important history:


While most basic valve designs were conceived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the first valves as we know them can be traced back over 2,000 years. The very first patent for a valve in the U.S. was filed by James Robertson in 1840 for his gate valve, or "stop cock,” as it was called at the time. The invention of steam power propelled valve designs—primarily globe-type valves—in parallel with the steam-powered industrial revolution. Public outcry over frequent boiler explosions led to the formation of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), which created the first iteration of the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (B&PVC). The period from 1850 to 1900 also saw the birth of many iconic companies in the valve industry: Powell, Crane, Lunkenheimer, Walworth, Jenkins and Chapman. The 19th century was the era of bronze and iron valves and piping. At century’s end, rising power plant temperature and pressure spurred advances in irons—including cast irons.


The industrial growth during the first years of the 20th century highlighted the need for valve and piping standardization throughout the world of manufacturing. Cast steel as a valve material was introduced during the first decade of the century. The Henry Ford automobile assembly line techniques were adopted by many industries, including valve and fitting manufacturers, but there was no interchangeability between manufacturers’ products. The Committee of Manufacturers on Standardization of Pipe Fittings and Valves (later called the Manufacturer s Standardization Society (MSS), was formed in 1912 to address the interchangeability issue, shortly after publishing the first pamphlet on pipe schedules of flanges and flanged fittings. ASME’s 1914 edition of the B&PVC covered safety valves—the first time in ­history that makers of safety valves had agreed to common standards for their products.


The American Standards Association committee B16, Sectional Committee on the Standardization of Pipe Flanges & Fittings, was created in 1921. It would later spawn other B16 committees of great importance to the valve industry. MSS (Manufacturers Standardization Society) was officially formed in 1924, opening the door for many valve standards over the next nine decades. During that time, numerous standards originally developed by MSS would be adopted by other organizations, such as ASME and the American Petroleum Institute (API). A 1927 charter to create common end-to-end standards was beset by many difficulties, including the Great Depression.


In 1937, the group finally adopted an MSS proposal, which became ASME/ANSI B16.10, Face-to-Face and End-to-End Dimensions of Valves. The National Association of Fittings Manufacturers and the Valve Institute—both founded in the early 1900s—merged in 1933, creating the Valve and Fittings Institute (VFI). In 1936 API, in response to the huge growth in the oil and gas business, published 5-G-1, Pipeline Valves. Following the turmoil of World War II, API 5-G-1 would be expanded into the first edition of API 6D, at the time titled: Iron and Steel Flanged Gate, Plug and Check Valves for Pipeline Service. VMA was formed by 14 valve companies that broke away from VFI to represent the growing and increasingly specialized industry that underpins so many others. First published in 1939, probably the most familiar standard in the industrial valve business today is API 600, which covers steel valves for refinery service.


The valve industry played an important role in winning World War II through key chemical and petrochemical advancements and well-built valves for the war ships and machinery. VMA acted as a liaison between government and industry during WWII to efficiently fulfil the nation’s war needs and help address standardization issues. By war’s end, valve supply outgrew demand. VMA members faced a scarcity of raw materials. International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published its first standard in 1947; some of ISO’s standards are used regularly by U.S. and Canadian valve companies.



Between 1950 to 1960, new processes in the chemical industry were outstripping the ability of stainless steels to cope with corrosion, resulting in the development of higher grades of stainless steels for valve trims. During the late 50s, VMA tangled with issues such as tariffs, labor problems, freight rate increases and rapidly-developing technology involved in plastics and atomic power.



Growth and prosperity rules the valve industry in the 1960s. VMA responded with increased member services and more long-range goals. Export opportunities were growing and drawing the interest of VMA members. Members participated in VMA’s first overseas trade mission late in the decade. Until the late 1950s and early 1960s, valve pressure/temperature ratings were based on flange ratings, but the limitations warranted a new method of rating valves. Thus, MSS created SP-66, Pressure Temperature Ratings for Steel Butt-welding End Valves in 1964. In response to the lack of realistic testing standards, MSS created, SP-61, Pressure Testing of Valves in 1961, which was supplanted in 1968 by the most widely used testing standard in the U.S. today, API 598, Valve Inspection and Test.



In 1973, VMA moved to McLean, VA from New York City.

In 1974, the SP-66 document was expanded to form the basis of ASME/ANSI B16.34 – Valves – Flanged, Threaded and Welding End—the most referenced valve design standard in the world. In 1968, VMA adopted a new constitution and by-laws to help it adapt to the changing industry and world around it. Double-digit inflation and the energy crisis impacted the nation and valve industry during the early 70s, causing VMA to put more emphasis on government outreach VMA and its members were at the forefront of fighting subsidized imports and to prevent their increase.



The early 80s heralded a period of dramatic change and challenge for VMA as it struggled to meet the needs of an industry devastated by the oil crash and subsequent recession. Between the 1960s through the 1980s, many new valve standards were developed. These new standards covered a variety of valve types, including check, butterfly, ball and others. In 1982, VMA headquarters moved to Washington, DC to be even closer to Congress and federal agencies. In 1985, VMA switched focus from products and operations to end-users, restructuring the organization accordingly. VMA members participated in two trade missions with China between 1985-86 as the country began to open its doors to U.S. and Canadian valve companies. VMA revamped and expanded its quarterly publication, VALVE Magazine, in 1989 to better reach end-users.


2000 to Today...

The history of valve standards is still being written: Old standards are revised and new ones created. Twenty-first century valve manufacturers are still using the popular metals of the past 150 years, but newer materials are always under development such as the latest alloy steel called the "super 9 chrome,” which allow for valve working temperatures of 1200° F. VMA debuts its Valve Ed program, including Valves & Actuators 101, in 2009 in response to the need to attract and retain skilled workers, especially with the greying of the industry. VMA adapts to a more global, competitive industry by recently expanding its membership offerings to include distributors and channel partners serving the industry.


more Calendar

9/9/2020 » 10/12/2020
2020 VMA Virtual Annual Meeting

11/9/2020 » 11/12/2020
2020 VMA Virtual Valve Forum

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