Podcast Episode 17

Flexible Dual-Wall: From Years of Product Development and Testing to ASTM F3390

Flexible Dual-Wall: From Years of Product Development and Testing to ASTM F3390

With Guest:
  • Trey Allis of Prinsco

Flexible dual-wall is a product innovation that has advanced our industry and given drainage contractors a strategic tool to increase safety, improve installation speeds and get into high water table areas. In this episode, you’ll learn about the product development journey which recently culminated in a new ASTM standard that ensures consistency among manufacturers and instills confidence among installers and their customers.

Episode 17 | 32:20 min
There's a lot to be said for having a product that is capable of working in a vast array of conditions."
— Trey Allis
Trey Allis

Guest Bio

Trey graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. In 2017, Trey joined the Prinsco team as an Application Engineer. Allis primarily focuses on Agricultural engineering. Growing up on a farm and in the Ag community, Allis has spent a lot of his career focusing on the Flexible Dual Wall product and the value it adds to the industry.

Jamie: 

This is the water table.

Kent: 

The chance to hear the agricultural side of these issues.

Jamie: 

A place for people to go find information and education.

Matt Helmers: 

Water management is just going to become even more critical into the future.

Jamie: 

How misunderstood, what we do is.

Kent: 

I would encourage people to open their minds, and listen to this dialogue.

Jamie: 

Welcome to the water table podcast. Today we’re going to talk about flexible dual wall. Probably the newest pipe product on the market and has really changed the game, especially in the agriculture arena. Today, as we talk about it, I have a guest with me and kind of an expert in that in the arena, Trey Ellis is an application engineer for Prinsco, focusing on the agricultural side for them. And Trey has vast knowledge of this product, because he has spent a lot of time in it. But before we get going with Trey, I kind of want to just give you a timeline of the product, flexible dual wall in North America. How long it’s been around, kind of how it got started and then we’re just going to ask Trey a bunch of questions about the product and in how it was developed, what kind of testing has been done, what he thinks future of the product is that kind of thing. So back in 2012, so almost 10 years ago, Prinsco led the way in North America, as far as introducing this product to North America. It was a product that had been developed and used in Europe, but probably in a little bit different application, then the agricultural drainage application. Prinsco sold, actually manufactured and sold over 100,000 feet that year, and just really had that in a tight box as far as who they were selling it to where they were selling it so they could manage it, watch it, make sure that they did testing on it right away. And then as months and years went by, they were still monitoring that product. In 2013, the next year, that was 15 inch pipe in 2012 and ’13 they kept going on fifteens in Prinsco introduced 12 inch to the market. Kept the testing ongoing and developed the product further there was some challenges with it, as far as mostly around just how it went in the ground and making it easier for contractors to use. So they kept developing the product. In 2017, Prinsco went to a full product launch, their launch at the time was called “The Future is Flex”. That’s at the time when other manufacturers start getting involved. So about five years after Prinsco started doing testing is when you start to see other manufacturers dip their toe in the water of flex and start to develop a product. In 2018, Drainage Contractor which is a kind of the “the” magazine if you’re in the in the pipe world, in the agricultural drainage world, did an article on on Prinsco’s flexible product, the Gold Flex and the generation two of that. And then getting closer to today in 2020, the industry finally agreed on an ASTM that that’s its f-3390, but that started I kind of forgot but back in 2017 is when Prinsco introduced that to the industry and there was some, what always happens in that I was gonna use the word shenanigans, that’s not the right word, there was just discussion and changes made to the to the ASTM. There was all the stakeholders had an opportunity to weigh in on that and to decide and then that ballot was finally approved in 2020. So the product does have an ASTM, we’ll talk more about that and what it was like before the STM and why it’s important and stuff like that. So like I like I said before, Trey is joining me so a little bit of a long introduction there Trey, but thanks for joining me and let’s talk about flex duel wall.

Trey Allis: 

Hey, one of my favorite topics. Thanks for having me on, Jamie. This is awesome, first first podcast experience, so let’s roll.

Jamie: 

Great, great. For those of you that have had an opportunity in the field, contractors, to meet Trey, a wealth of knowledge grew up on a farm. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that, Trey. Why don’t why don’t you start by telling us who you are, where you grew up where you went to college, and how you ended up at Prinsco.

Trey Allis: 

Yeah, so I like you mentioned, grew up on a farm down in southern Minnesota, by Wells, which is about halfway between Mankato and Iowa. So prime drainage area, a lot of farming, got corn and soybeans that my dad farms that we raised down there along with some cattle and some sheep as well. So a little diversified on a farm down there. So I had an agricultural teacher, FFA teacher that always said, there’s always going to be jobs in agriculture. So taking that into mind, along with knowledge and kind of a love for math and science, wanted to get into some engineering as well. So Agricultural Engineering is what I had my mind set on for the time being, and went to a two year college in northern Minnesota that has a good hands on engineering program, and then transfer that over to North Dakota State and Fargo, which, where I finished my degree there for Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. And then during that time, I had an internship with Duininck Gold, for summer doing golf courses down in Louisiana, and we put in the drainage system down there. And that rolled into a internship with Prinsco, summer of ’16. And coming out out of that, got to do a little bit of part time work throughout the school year there with Prinsco up in the Fargo plant, and then got hired on full time May of ’17 as an Application Engineer, and kind of the same position that I’ve been doing now. So got a lot of the background and Ag and then also got the school and done for the math and science part too. So kind of living out the dream right now.

Jamie: 

Yeah, great. Well, thanks for that kind of backdrop on who you are, and how you got here to where we are today. And I know it’s been a fun ride for you personally to, you know, start right out of college and not necessarily know where things were going to lead, but to where they’ve led to today has been pretty rewarding. I know for Prinsco and for yourself. So thank you for that. Also, just it’s good to mention that you’ve decided to also serve our country through the guards, and thank you for your service. And I know there’s a lot of that might be another podcast down the road of some of the stories you’ve had about basic training and a few of the situations you’ve got into.

Trey Allis: 

Right, no I appreciate that so far. My pleasure on that. And it’s been awesome so far.

Jamie: 

Good. Good. Well, thanks, let’s, let’s talk a little bit about the product. Our industry, you know, makes this product, I want to just give some education to the listeners here, we have some listeners that know quite a bit about flexible dual wall because they install it. And we have other listeners that you know our city cousins that are listening and don’t know anything about even what we’re talking about yet. So let’s explain it a little bit more. What is flexible dual wall and why is it important to our industry?

Trey Allis: 

There’s a single wall product that’s been around for a while, and then also the dual wall product that has a smoother inside diameter, so the water flows through it better. So you don’t need as big of pipe to flow the same, same amount of water through it. Installation wise, they get a little different. However, with flexible dual wall now, instead of installing in 20 foot sticks for your dual wall pipe, you can use the same machinery that you do for your regular single wall coils and kind of take advantage of always keeping the machine moving kind of continuous with the flow benefits that you see from the dual wall product and match that with the ease of installation from the single wall. So there’s that thin liner that kind of bridges the corrugations on the inside of the pipe pretty much strictly for hydraulic purposes. And that’s, you know, a good marriage of that single wall and dual wall he kind of get the best of both worlds on that.

Jamie: 

Yeah, yeah. And so, you know, mainly the reasons why somebody would buy it is speed of installation, and the application which is going in, right? I mean, like high water table, it’s really good because you know, the challenges that high water table brings for installation. But what else? What else? Is that right? Or what else would you see where people would want to use it?

Trey Allis: 

Yeah, and I would pair that in with the safety aspect of it as well. I know I was out on site here a few years ago. But that’s where I’ve seen the product shine the most was a high water table in sandy area. So there was essentially no way that you would be able to join dual wall pipe sticks together in an environment like that, but they are able to take a sub cut off and plow and flex and have that work just like it would. There was six from the installed condition but the means of being able to not have a person in the trench with unsafe conditions with a lot of soupy sand water all in there. That’s where I’ve seen it. You know, probably the prime example of where this product really shines is that high water tables sand, deep trenches, stuff like that. Just to keep people out of the trench, keep things safe. And then also with that speed of installation, ease of installation aspect of it as well.

Jamie: 

Yeah, we’re seeing a lot of people, you know, just switch into flex and using it instead of dual wall because of all of the reasons but that being a huge one. Challenging situations happen and difficult conditions and so, you know, when you talk about the safety aspect, when contractors are in situations in which it’s just difficult to go because it’s too wet it’s deep and sandy, all those things, they get tired faster, they lose their patience, frustration sets in, that’s when accidents happen. So a product like this is really helpful to them and important for them as everybody wants to stay safe, keep their staff safe and work the best we can with you know, I’ll go all going home the same way we showed up in the morning that evening. So sorry, I didn’t mention safety. It’s a huge piece of it. And it’s important. So thanks for that, as far as describing the product a little bit. So tell us a little bit about why somebody that a customer or does somebody listening should have confidence in this product compared to a product that’s been out for, you know, 40 plus years, 50 years? Why is why is flexible dual wall as good of a product from the standpoint of the quality of it?

Trey Allis: 

Yeah, so with flexible dual wall, one of the biggest things that we got through in that standard is the pipe stiffness of all of our flexible dual wall products has to be the same as the regular dual wall sticks. And that’s kind of one of the biggest questions that I get one of the most popular questions that I’ve gotten before is the crush strength through, you know, the installed strength of the of the product itself. And it’s, that’s going to be the same for dual wall. I also pair that with the research and development that we’ve done within our products, like you mentioned, it came out 2012, almost 10 years ago, now we’ve had product in the ground without much of any concern with it. So that’s been in the ground that’s been performing, you know, just like all the other pipe in the ground has been since since it came out back in the 60s or 80s, or whatever type of pipe they are looking at there. So you know, we have that history of putting this stuff in the ground for a while also paired with hey, we’ve been making advancements on it, we’ve been developing, we’re always looking for continuous improvement on this stuff. So it’s all a feather in the cap for for that contractor that’s putting the pipe in the ground to know that it’s a good quality product.

Jamie: 

For sure, for sure. Good answer. And you know, as you look at my want to talk about manning’s in flow rates, I want to talk about some different things, including ASTM and I kind of want to step off into the ASTM now as because I want to mention back, yes as Prinsco introduce the product and then did the full launch back in ’17 and then you had a handful of other manufacturers that got involved in and introduced a product themselves. In some ways, it was a little bit like the Wild West because there wasn’t a standard for the product. And you had claims out there of one company claiming to meet certain things, and other company being silent on it or claiming something else that you, everybody was all over the place on it and so I think that’s why Prinsco decided. And really, I’m asking you, but decided to lead the effort and say, you know, we need something that we can all rally around, which ended up culminating in 2020 with the ASTM. But can you explain a little bit more about what’s in the ASTM that the manufacturers all now, I don’t I guess I don’t know if they all meet, but that many of them the ones that stamp their product and say they meet with with the ASTM, what would be some of the things in there that there’s when they stamp the product, they’re saying yes, we do this?

Trey Allis: 

Yeah, so to back up and just talk about a little bit of what that ASTM standard is it essentially just defines the product. So like I said, when Wild West is out there anybody could call flexible dual wall product a flexible dual wall product. And what this ASTM does is it defines it into hey if you’re making if you’re making this pipe, it has to meet these certain requirements. And some of the biggest ones that we have is what I mentioned with the stiffness. Also with material blends that go into into the product as well as the liner. You know, there’s certain minimum requirements that you have to meet with this stuff. So those are some of the big ones with it. But the main thing is getting that consensus throughout the industry. And that’s a shout out to my predecessors at Prinsco here, within our engineering department is having that forethought to not only develop this project in the first place, but then also know, hey, it’s not going to not gonna really matter until we do have a standard for until there is something out there that is, you know, putting that stake in the ground of, Hey, this is what this product is.

Jamie: 

You know, the stiffness on the product is really important and it’s not necessarily easy to get to when you have a flexible product. So we need it to be flexible, so that it can do what you say it did and help with the safety side and the speed of installation to go into a trench through a boot of a tile plow on the agricultural side. But flexibility, combined with stiffness can be a challenge to get there that’s why you talked about the material and types of materials that’s needed. So sounds like small thing, but it’s not. And to get the industry rolling the same direction and all saying, Hey, we can do this is really a positive thing for the end user for the for the farmer that’s or the landowner that’s buying the product and having the confidence that they need to have that, hey, I can buy this from all these sources and know that I’m going to get get a good product from the standpoint of it’s going to meet the stiffness requirements, and still be flexible enough to perform.

Trey Allis: 

Yeah, exactly. And then also, what that helps us do is as long as we do have that standard, through ASTM is then it allows engineering firms or the NRCS, or some of the other agencies that are regulating what products go into what projects, it gives them that definition to hold out there too. Say hey, if we’re going to be using, again, this flexible dual wall project it has to meet ASTM-3390. And then that, again defines it, which is the overall benefit for the industry. Make sure everybody meets that specs so that we can you know, get into some of this other stuff within the other markets with any other applications and or the exact same application that is designed for as long as we are all talking the same language talking about the same product, now it’s defined. Now we can move forward with getting that out into other other spots.

Jamie: 

So the purpose of the water table podcast is really to bring education to the listeners to for them to have questions and for hopefully for us when they walk away from an episode to have learned something that helps them understand who we are, what we do. As I said in the very first episode of this back in November 2020, that the industry we’re in is really misunderstood. And as I look at this product, one of the questions I personally have gotten over time that people are really confused around is around the manning’s, we probably need to first start by explaining what manning’s is. So, as an engineer, I’m gonna let you you talk about what is a manning’s and then we’ll get into the questions I have there.

Trey Allis: 

There was a scientist way back in the day, last name Manning’s. He developed some equations to figure out the flow going through a pipe. And that flow is going to look a little different depending on what the inside of that pipe looks like. So he came up with the coefficient that has or that defines the smoothness of the pipe. So it’s also called a Manning’s roughness coefficient is what is heard, and it’s symbolized by the letter N. So if you hear, you know, the Manning’s N, what’s your Manning’s value, it’s all kind of the same thing relating to the smoothness of that pipe. And kind of the industry consensus has always been for dual wall sticks, or for dual wall pipe is .012. And that’s just how it works out in the equations that that’s has a little bit of a safety factor built in and there’s consensus on what that means or what that means value is. So, Manning’s helps define that flow characteristic of the pipe.

Jamie: 

Yep, yep. To get it right, you got to be at or to get to a Manning’s value it has to be at a .012 flow rate. So that being said, I know that because flexible dual wall is coiled, it’s not a 20 foot stick. So as you coil it you get closer to the inside wrap of that big coil we call Maxi coils in our industry, but you can get some roughness on the inside and can be a challenge to get to the right .012 Manning’s value of which is what the goal would be to be the same as dual wall. And we have some manufacturers that claim you know that they’re there. We have some manufacturers that that have gone kind of silent on that. We’ve got some manufacturers that have said you know they show testing on that from third party testing. Tell us a little bit about some of the testing and places that Prinsco has gone to to verify that. I asked that because I think Prinsco has also led in this area. And I think it’s good for listeners to know.

Trey Allis: 

Yeah, so, Manny’s does get complicated that way, as far as to define that number with flexible dual wall specifically for all those reasons that you mentioned. And we have done some testing on our product and to define you know what that is. And a lot of what we’ve found is, and it’s been a long learning process, is it’s difficult to quantify. It varies with the size, the diameter of the pipe, it varies with throughout the coil, you know, that line is going to look a little different depending on how that water is flowing. If the water is flowing faster, the flow acts smoother, the pipe acts smoother, so you kind of get a different Manning’s value based on the testing. So there’s it’s kind of a lot of nuanced things with that. So and then also just relating it on the Ag side, which is what this project is specifically designed for, is there’s always going to be connections, there’s going to be bends, there’s going to be taps in the side. So all those little factors add into the roughness of that pipe, or the roughness that that water feels so to say. So in order to come up with a hard number is something that we haven’t done, because there’s all these other factors out there. You know, that’s something that myself as an engineer, and not being confident with saying, hey, if you have this pipe installed this way, it’s going to have .01 whatever. Where we’ve always come out, kind of from the forefront from the start of this product, we’ve come out and said that it’s going to be a range, which honestly, we’d rather take that approach of Hey, be more honest than then come up with a number I know everybody wants a number to define it against. But it depends how you do that testing, it depends on on a lot of these other factors. So we’ve always come out with the with the safety factor of about 20% saying that, hey, we know that we’re going to be within that 20% of dual wall, we know it’s not going to be acting the exact same as that .012, there might be runs with that pipe that it is going to be acting smooth that liner is going to be looking good. But in order to you know, be honest, be accurate, with actually what’s going out in the field, we feel that it’s best to call it a range give you a safety factor to work in with that.

Jamie: 

Yeah, and I appreciate you saying that because you see, you know, everything plays into this from the standpoint of how long has that pipe been sitting in the yard after it was manufactured? How warm is it outside? What are the the ambient air temperatures? What has somebody it was it a windy day when they were delivering and they tighten the straps down on the truck and kinked the pipe at all. Things like that all play into it. So the reality of it is it’s a flexible pipe that has a smooth liner and there are variables in that. And you know, the other thing I know is, you know, Prinsco has done a lot of testing at university level and they’ve they’ve also tested competitor’s product and from what I understand you guys have seen variables and all the products that you’ve tested.

Trey Allis: 

Exactly, yeah. And that’s another part of kind of the the origin of our flexible dual wall pipe as well. We came out with a different, when we first came out with flexible dual wall, it was with a different profile. That liner laid within that pipe a little differently. So, you know, we’re not just looking at our 12 inch that we’re making now say we’ve also been looking at our previous pipe how that works and then we’ve been seeing that with all the manufacturers as well is it’s all it’s it varies. That’s one of the engineers favorite answer is hey, it depends. So but that’s honestly what’s going on that’s what we’ve been seeing and that’s why we haven’t come up with that clear cut number and it’s part of the factors is it’s how you run the test part of the factors is it’s what the pipe looks like coming out of the machine, isn’t necessarily what it looks like when you string it out after it’s been coiled, isn’t necessarily what it looks like when it’s sitting in the ground. So you know there’s all these other these factors nuances in there. So there’s we have testing we’ve come up with a number as well on something like this but we feel it’s more accurate to come up with that range come up with a safety factor and say you know, we can give you a guess but it’s going to be acting different throughout different spots in your field.

Jamie: 

Sure, and I think the point here is just to to share information so people can understand why there is some confusion I think when sometimes when there is varying information from manufacturer to manufacturer or some people are silent, it can raise a red flag and confuse people and so I think people should be incredibly confident in the use of flexible dual wall and in our industry and whoever’s product it is because it’s now at you know from from your perspective as an engineer at Prinsco, you’ve got nine years of installation, millions of millions of feet of it in the ground, and very few problems and our industry small enough that, you know, we hear about other people’s issues too. And they’re just as very few on this product. So, yes, there are differences, I think each manufacturer wants a difference, they want their differentiating factor, but our listeners, if their customer should have a lot of confidence in this product and be really excited, if for nothing else that can keep their crews safer, and they keep their people safer, is a huge factor. But also that can help them to go faster, help them to get into jobs and applications that they maybe wouldn’t get into. Until they have a period that’s really dry, like it is right now outside, things like that. But it’s a product that’s going to be around in the future, because of its attributes, it’s a great product. So expect to see more expect to, you know, we’d be happy, I know, you’d be happy Trey at Prinsco to any listeners to call and ask him more questions directly. And, you know, even travel out to their sites and watch it go in the ground and tell him what you know, which is I’d say, you know, an almost an expert level of the product.

Trey Allis: 

We’re getting there. And there’s another aspect of that, too, is the application side of it. Like you mentioned, it’s a fairly new product. So we’re still getting questions. And I’m still getting calls into our department of weird applications that you know, we haven’t heard of for running some like geothermal vent heat type thing. And, you know, something that where you don’t want many joints in your pipe, or you know, you want to go through long runs, you want that smooth liner, but you don’t want to have connections all the time. So we’ve seen seen a lot of that stuff, which is also an exciting part of this product is say there’s stuff that on the forefront of the design work that back in 2012, when we’re designing this stuff, and thinking about it is a drainage and in the fields on mains, but it’s kind of cool to see how other people have gone into, hey, this would work in what I’m doing here in Michigan or working what I’m doing up here in Canada and some other stuff. So that’s been a fun, new thing to see. New kind of benefit from it.

Jamie: 

For sure. And you know, we’ve got enough experience in our industry now. And I know you know, because I’ve talked to you at different times that you’ve been on jobs where it’s been below zero, and you’ve been installing it and you’ve been on jobs, or it’s been, you know, almost 100 degrees, and you’ve been installing. Those are, those are that sounds you know, bookends, that sounds funny, but it’s real life training in real life laboratory, there around our product, plastic pipe, flexible plastic pipe is, you know, when there’s elements like that it does react differently. So the fact that it performs is really, I think, a feather in the cap of our engineering teams in our industry to be able to develop something like that.

Trey Allis: 

Yeah, absolutely. There’s, there’s obviously considerations that you got to take when you are working in extreme hot or extreme cold or some of that stuff. But yeah, that’s that’s a good way of saying that, hey, there’s, there’s a lot to be said for just having product that is capable of, of being able to work in those that vast of conditions, that variety of conditions.

Jamie: 

I think it should give people confidence in how it will perform. And really in any application in any I shouldn’t say any application, but in any conditions given what we know from the testing we’ve done in the real life installation. So Trey, it’s been fun to interview you. We’re gonna continue this in other aspects of product and engineering as we go. Here at the water table, we’d like to, we’d like to do what we call the water table takeaway. And that says the guests give you kind of last word and today it’s really what would you like to leave the customers with when it comes to flexible dual wall and also we do have some female listeners so if you want to leave your phone number, you can do that too. But in regards to flexible, dual wall, let’s start there. How would you like to?

Trey Allis: 

Yeah, maybe we’ll limit the scope of that. Yeah, so that’s one thing with this product, and I like to own the history of it, is it came from from an idea of Hey, let’s kind of merge single wall and dual wall and get the benefits of both. You know, we started that and did some testing on it developing for a long time to make sure that we were confident in that product before we brought it out to the market. And then along with that there was always continuous development. We came out, invested a lot in a new profile into materials into a lot of different forefronts with this product to make sure that we don’t just come out there with something and call it good enough, we modified that product, we were always looking for improvement. We’re taking that same stance within the industry as well within that ASTM standards and getting stuff rolling on that front, too. So kind of the the biggest, kind of the most exciting part about this too is that improvement process. You mentioned, that goal is to get down to that mains of .012 and you know, that’s where our sights are set on as well, and be able to do that confidently with further testing for the product development, understanding more of how our customers are using this stuff, as well as all of our products. And I think that’s, that’s something that the customer can always also have confidence in and say we’re, we’re really comfortable with where we’re at now. But that doesn’t mean that this is going to be where we’re at in the future. So we’re taking all the feedback that we can get to keep moving this product in the right direction.

Jamie: 

Yeah, yeah, I appreciate that. And, and that is a goal that I I’d like to see for the whole industry that everybody gets to that .012 and gets there confidently that every foot of pipe is in the ground. I know. I’m very confident that and because I’ve heard this from you that, you know, there’s pipe, lots of pipe in the ground, that Prinsco has manufactured that already meets that standard, but maybe not all of it does. And that would probably be the case for all the industry because it also has to be installed correctly. And as people are learning how to install it and do it right. There’s variations. So we’re gonna get there as an industry. And again, thanks for being with us. Thanks for what you’ve done in the industry. It’s been, you’ve been impactful already in a short career and I know the industry is grateful and owes you a debt, debt of gratitude and your engineering department. So thanks, Trey, for being with us today.

Trey Allis: 

Thank you, Jamie. It’s been my pleasure.

Jamie: 

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