The naval origins of reusable insulation systems

Jul 29, 2021 | Shannon Blog

Before the advent of reusable insulation systems, when workers removed conventional insulation they discarded it, regardless of material. Consequently, components requiring regular inspection, service or repair for maintenance, would often remain uncovered. This was a simpler and cheaper option than to constantly cycle through and install new insulation. Machinists and crews on seafaring ships, naval and civilian alike, planted the seeds for reusable blanket technology in the early to mid-20th century.

“The concept evolved out of the maritime industry and the U.S. Navy in the 1930s and 40s, and it continues to this day. Today, they’re still using a removable, reusable system as the go-to technology for these applications,” said Frank Kovacs, CEO of Shannon.

The engine exhaust and steam systems on these vessels required insulation, but they also required regular service and access. Before the development of reusable insulation systems, this posed a conundrum for ship workers.

“Repairing and maintaining systems on these navy fleets required accessibility to these areas and systems for service, inspection and repair,” said Kovacs. “The challenge was, in order to maintain and also access these areas, insulation systems had to be removed, and they had to be reinstalled, because they did not have the luxury of using new materials when out at sea.”

The combination of equipment needs and limited materials onboard ships saw machinists and their mates remove insulation only to reapply makeshift versions.

“The idea that you can take what you remove and just simply reinstall it evolved into this concept of creating something removable and reusable,” said Kovacs.

While this concept existed in the 1940s, it would take until the late 1970s for this technology to see application in the industrial, and later commercial, sectors. That innovation would radically shift the way industry professionals think about insulating heavy componentry. It led to the development of new materials, manufacturing and testing methodologies, specifications, and standardization to maintain high quality, which ultimately created a self-contained insulation system.

Reusable blanket insulation is now the industry standard. If a mechanical system and or surface requires access, if a complex surface condition needs to be treated and if the customer must address a problem area, applying removable, reusable blanket insulation is typically the go-to approach. Applications include:  valves, pumps, compressors, liquid chillers, process piping, steam traps, extruder barrels, engine exhaust, kettles, fryers, instrumentation and much more. Systems from below ambient temperature to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.