Category Archives: St. Louis Facility

Autopsying Membrane Separators (Part 1)

The Autopsying Concept and Benefits

The goal of our autopsy program is to learn about membrane failure modes both in mid service and at the membrane’s end of life. “The process is mutually beneficial for us and the customer,” said Mike Dobby. “We observe ways to improve the membrane quality and make system operation recommendations to users- to achieve the best possible performance and long membrane life.”

For years, our autopsy group has assisted in improving the quality of our membranes by indicating various findings which have led to product development strategies. See the photos below and check back with our blog next week for part 2 of the autopsying article.




70 Membrane Support Resources Available

Have you ever wondered what the inside of our membranes manufacturing plant looks like?  Do you ever wonder how to properly dispose of membrane separators? How many models of membrane dryers, nitrogen generators, or hydrogen separators do we really offer?

The answers to these questions are located in our online membranes resource center. With 11 videos and 59 membrane data sheets in our library, we cover topics like the weight restrictions of our aerospace membrane products, the differences in our biogas upgrading membrane products, and the proper way to pretreat the gas upstream of the membrane.

How Long Does the Membrane Last?

Bill Phelps, Senior Business Manager, on length of membrane life.

“I always tell my customers that it depends on the quality of the gas that they’re feeding to the membrane. We expect the membrane to last ten to fifteen years, but that’s based on the fact that they’re maintaining their compressor, maintaining filter replacements, and maintaining pretreatments to the membrane. Our product can tolerate hydrocarbon vapors, but one thing that will kill the membrane is oil being deposited on the fibers. It’s very important to super heat the feed stream to keep any hydrocarbons in the vapor stage. That influences the length of the membrane life.”



Explaining Our OEM Preferred Partnerships

In our building, the terms OEM, Preferred Partner, and Customer are used interchangeably and we just can’t help it. The OEM (or preferred partner) approach to our business means that we manufacture reliable, long lasting membrane separators…and then we sell them to companies who build their gas membrane systems with our product inside. Examples of these specialty systems include controlled atmosphere systems for food preservation, nitrox systems for scuba diving, pneumatic air dryer systems, and biogas upgrading packages. We don’t build these smaller, specialty systems, we sell our membranes to the experts who incorporate them in their system design.

Let me repeat, we don’t build these smaller specialty systems, because we’re not the experts in all these different fields. We partner with the most experienced and well versed OEMs in each industry and leave the niche expertise to them- and they like that. That means that at Air Products PRISM Membranes, we can put all of our efforts towards perfecting the membrane products. This relationship of specialization with our partners is what makes our business successful.

What we offer Preferred Partners
-preferred membrane pricing
-technical support
-priority lead times
-occasional end user inquiries for system quotes

The Preferred Partner’s Job
-frequently build innovative gas generating or gas purifying systems using Prism Membrane separators
-sell or rent completed systems to end users or distributors

We are currently accepting new partnerships and we encourage you to inquire via email.



Fiber Management

The fiber inside our Prism membrane separators is very valuable. It’s also really difficult to manufacture perfectly. Since the late 1970s, we’ve learned more and more about what to do and what NOT to do in the fiber spinning process. One thing that always helps, is to manage the fiber through measurements.

Our Spin Line Operators take fiber samples from the spin lines and measure dimensions under the microscope to see if they are within the passing range.  They can also see if the fiber is nonconcentric, which means that the hollow hole is off centered. They look for macro-voids, which are gaps, bubbles, or large pores in the fiber that cause a disruption in the permeation behavior. When abnormalities in the fiber are identified, we can focus on resolving the issue to ensure that only the highest quality of fiber makes it into the final membrane product.

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…and don’t call us Permea!

Somehow, after nearly twenty years, we are still having an identity crisis. The name of our business unit used to be Permea, but in 1991, we were acquired by Air Products and eventually changed our name to Air Products PRISM Membranes…or APPM for short.  Yet, we are still commonly referred to as Permea, and I think there are two reasons for that. One, we actually do have a small sales and engineering branch in Yantai, China that goes by the name of Permea China Limited (or PCL). The Yantai branch chose to stick with the Permea name even after the acquisition due to its longstanding brand traction and reputation in China. The second reason, I think, is that we are a small business unit within Air Products, so there are probably not many conversational chances for people to say “hey, those folks in Saint Louis are actually called PRISM Membranes, not Permea.” And probably a third reason, I know I only said I had two, but really a third reason is this…we probably won’t correct you. Regardless of our name, we’re still the same group of folks who’ve been bringing you long lasting, reliable membrane separators since the early 1980s.

Inside our Membranes Manufacturing Plant

PRISM Membranes VideoIn under two minutes, this video reveals how our membranes separate compressed air into streams of high purity nitrogen and oxygen enriched air. We also disclose common membrane applications such as biogas upgrading for vehicle refueling, and nitrogen generation for the aerospace industry. If you’ve never been inside our membranes manufacturing plant, then you’ll want to watch this video.

Our Company is Obsessed with Safety

Our former chairman, Ed Donley, once said “There is no higher priority than safety. Not sales, not productivity, not quality, not profit. All of these things are critical to our success, but none come before safety.” That was over thirty years ago, but even today, almost every single Air Products employee could recite that quote back to you. That’s how focused we are on safety. Here at our membranes manufacturing plant in Saint Louis, we focus on safety via ongoing observance sessions, training requirements (as shown in the photos below), open discussions, and safety rewards programs. We have some potentially dangerous parts of our membranes manufacturing plant, and we are dedicated to providing the protection and awareness needed to keep our employees safe. After all…“We are committed to sending each one of our employees home every day, just as physically sound as they were when they arrived at work.”

Our Biggest Wins This Past Year

At Air Products, our fiscal year ends on the 30th of September and a new year begins on October first.  Here in the membranes division, we throw an annual site celebration to wrap up the year’s accomplishments. Of course, the best way to celebrate anything is with cake and games, so our employees enjoyed some well-deserved play time at a local arcade. We celebrated big wins of the past 12 months like breaking ground on our new OBIGGS manufacturing area, receiving PED certification on our Biogas membrane, and establishing this fantastic blog- the first WordPress blog companywide. Big things are in store for next year too, new membrane product ideas, partnerships, and leadership. So here’s a goodbye toast to fiscal year 2015, and a warm welcome to fiscal year 2016!

What is a Spin Line?

Spin LineThere is a LOT of secretive information that we don’t disclose about our spin lines, but we can hint around the topic a bit to give you an overview. A spin line is our term for the manufacturing equipment required to produce the hollow fibers inside our membrane separators. It’s a little bit similar to carpet fiber manufacturing. Polymer squeezes through a tiny funnel jet, and then cools in a series of water baths.  All of these steps happen in a harmonized sequence managed by our Spin Line Operator experts. These folks also monitor fiber quality throughout the spin line by carefully taking measurements and performance calculations. The exclusive fiber inside our membrane separators is the key to our long lasting, reliable membrane products…and it all begins on the spin line!