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Understanding pipe threads: types and designations

By Different types of screw threads have evolved for became knownas the British Standard
Mark Schmidt fastening, and hydraulic systems. Of special concern Pipe thread (BSP Taper or BSP Parallel
Applications Engineer are plastic-to-metal, taper/parallel threaded joints in thread). The Whitworththread is now used
Colder Products Company hydraulic circuits. A discussion and recommendations internationally as a standard thread for
are provided to create an awareness of different types jointing low carbon steelpipes.
of threads and how they are used.
The best known and most widely used
connection where the pipe thread
EVOLUTION
providesboth the mechanical joint and the
In the nineteenth century, many different hydraulic seal is the American National
types of screw threads were required for PipeTapered Thread, or NPT. NPT has a
hydraulic and pneumatic circuits as well tapered male and female thread which seals
as fastening components. As a result, withTeflon tape or jointing compound.
manufacturers started to devise their
own fastening systems. This resulted Pipe threads used in hydraulic circuits can
in compatibility problems. The English be divided into two types:
mechanical engineer and inventor, Sir
Joseph Whitworth devised a uniform Jointing threads: are pipe threads for
threading system in 1841 to address the joints made pressure tight by sealing
incompatibility problem. The Whitworth onthe threads and are taper external
thread form is based on a 55 degree thread and parallel or taper internal threads.
angle with rounded roots and crests. Thesealing effect is improved by using a
jointing compound.
In America, William Sellers set the
standard for nuts, bolts, and screws which Fastening threads: are pipe threads where
becamethe National Pipe Tapered Thread pressure tight joints are not made onthe
(NPT) in 1864. His 60 degree thread threads. Both threads are parallel and
angle, incommon use by early American sealing is affected by compression of
clockmakers, enabled the American asoft material onto the external thread,
IndustrialRevolution. These thread forms or a flat gasket.
later became the American National
Standard.
SIZES
The Whitworth thread form was selected Pipe thread sizes are based on an inside
as a connecting thread for pipes, which diameter (ID) or flow size. For example,
wasmade self sealing by cutting at
1/214 NPT identifies a pipethread with
least one of the threads on a taper. This
a nominal inside diameter of 1/2 inch and
14 threads to the inch, made according
to the NPT standard. If LH is added,

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the pipe has a left hand thread. The most is more convenient to knowhow many
common global pipe thread forms are: turns to make by hand and how many
with a wrench. A simple rule of thumb for
NPT: American Standard Pipe Taper installing taperedpipe threads, both metal
Thread and plastic, is finger tight plus one to two
turns with a wrench. Torque installation
NPSC: American Standard Straight
valuescan be determined per application,
Coupling Pipe Thread
but due to the variations involved in pipe
NPTR: American Standard Taper Railing joints such as disimiliar materials ofmale
Pipe Thread and female threads, type of sealants used,
and internal variations in product wall
NPSM: American Standard Straight thickness, a standard torquespecification
Mechanical Pipe Thread cannot be generically applied .

NPSL: American Standard Straight This table shows the distances and number
Locknut Pipe Thread of turns called for in the standard. A
tolerance of plus or minus oneturn is
NPTF: American Standard Pipe Thread allowed, and in practice threads are often
Tapered (Dryseal) routinely cut shorter than the standard
specifies. All dimensionsare in inches.
BSPP: British Standard Pipe Thread
Parallel

BSPT: British Standard Pipe Thread


AMERICAN STANDARD TAPER PIPE EXTERNAL THREAD
Tapered
Nominal Actual OD Threads Length of Length of effective
Plastic injection molded thread forms are size engagement per inch thread
manufactured to ANSI B2.1 and SAE J476 (tightened
standards. by hand)
1/8 0.407 27 0.124 3.3 turns 0.260
The word tapered in several of the
above names points to the big difference 14 0.546 18 0.172 3.1 turns 0.401
between many pipe threads andthose 3/8 0.681 18 0.184 3.3 turns 0.408
on bolts and screws. Many pipe threads 1/2 0.850 14 0.248 3.4 turns 0.534
must make not only a mechanical joint
but also a leakproofhydraulic seal. This is 3/4 1.060 14 0.267 3.7 turns 0.546
accomplished by the tapered thread form 1 1.327 11.5 0.313 3.6 turns 0.682
of the male matching the thread form of
thefemale tapered thread and the use of
pipe sealant to fill any voids between the TAPER/PARALLEL THREADED JOINTS
two threads which could cause aspiral Despite the standards created to maintain
leak. The bottoms of the threads arent on uniform fittings, tapered pipe threads are
a cylinder, but a cone; they taper. The taper inexact andduring the course of use and
is 116 inch in aninch, which is the same as repair the threads canbecome damaged
3/4 inch in a foot. and susceptible to leakage. Thearea where
the crest and the root of the threadmeet
Because of the taper, a pipe thread can only can form a spiral leak path no amount
screw into a fitting a certain distance before oftightening will eliminate.
it jams. The standardspecifies this distance
as the length of hand tight engagement, the A pressure tight joint is achieved by the
distance the pipe thread can be screwed in compressionin the threads resulting
byhand. It also specifies another distance from tightening. Thiscompression and
the effective thread, this is the length sealing occurs in the first few turnsof
of the thread which makes the sealon a the internal thread. As wrenching takes
conventional machined pipe thread. For place,material from both the male and
workers, instead of these distances, it

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female threadsdeform into each port with 1 or 2threads. See figure


other. This ensures full threadcontact 1. Sealing is compromised bythe
which minimizes spiral leakages. lack of thread form control in BSP
Variationsbetween injection- specifications.Variation in crests
molded plastic and machinedmetal and roots may cause a mismatchin
thread forms can occur due to the thread and create a spiral leak.
differentmanufacturing processes. Thread sealantis required to seal this
combination.
Pipe threads were originally designed
as machinedthread forms. With the Using both tapered male and female
use of thermoplastics andplastic BSPT threadswould offer a better
injection molding in the manufacture chance of sealing since you arenow
ofplastic pipe thread forms, mold matching the taper of the male and
shrinkage andplastic sink make it female thread. See figure 2. This offers
difficult to insure leak freejoints. more threads achance of sealing
For this reason, the use of a Teflon against spiral leakage. Crestand
basedsealant is recommended on root control is still missing, but with Figure 3: NPTF, Hand Tight
all plastic pipe threads.The most threadsealant, a pressure tight joint
common form of sealant is Teflon would be easier toaccomplish. tightened intoan NPTF female hand
tapewrapped 2 to 3 turns around tight. You can see thecrests of both
the male threadbefore assembly. the male and female thread comeinto
Liquid Teflon based sealants arealso contact with the root before the
used successfully to ensure a pressure threadflanks meet.
tightseal. It is always important to use
care whenapplying sealants to avoid Figure 4 shows the NPTF male
introducing the sealantmaterial into and femalethreads tightened
the system flow path. approximately 1 turn pasthand
tight, and you can see the flanks meet
The following sections show examples andthe crests are displaced into the
of howdifferent threads are used and roots. Althoughthese threads are
issues that can arisein attempting to considered Dryseal, a Teflontape or
create a leak free connection. liquid is still recommended to aid
in theassembly process. The Teflon
When a BSPT tapered male thread works as a lubricantto avoid galling
is tightened intoa straight female of the material when tighteningthe
thread (BSPP) the seal can only two threads together and also fills any
bemade at the base of the female Figure 2: BSPT Male with BSPT Female voidsthat may cause leakage.

A number of variations of the NPT


thread havebeen introduced to
overcome the problem ofspiral
leakage and are known as Dryseal
threads(See SAE standard J476). The
best known is theNPTF (F for Fuel).
With this thread design, thereare
controls on the crests and roots of
both themale and the female threads
to ensure the crestcrushes or displaces
material into the root of themating
thread. The interference fit between
thecrest of one thread and the root of
the other,along with the thread flanks
matching, sealsagainst spiral leakage.
Figure 1: BSPT Male with BSPP Female Figure 3 shows an NPTF male Figure 4: NPTF, Fully Engaged (hand tight plus 1 turn)

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Figure 5 shows a male NPT tightened investigating a metal-to-plastic pipe


into a BSPP.Because of the smaller size jointfailure, two factors, chemical
of the BSPP and thepitch difference, attack and overtightening, need to be
the NPT tightens with only afew considered.
turns.
Chemical attack can occur when
Figure 6 shows an NPT tightened into improper threadsealants are used.
a BSPT. TheBSPT being wider at the Thread sealing is an attempt toblock
opening will allow theNPT thread the spiral leak path which occurs
to engage further, but pitchdifference when thecrests and roots of the thread
eventually causes a binding of forms do not match.Anaerobic thread
thethreads. Pitch and thread angle sealants should be avoidedwhen
differences willallow spiral leakage. sealing plastic thread forms. These
sealantscontain chemicals which may
attack plastics. Useof a Teflon-based
pipe thread sealant is a betterchoice
Figure 5: Male NPT in a Female BSPP with Different Pitch
for plastic threads.
A variation of the Dryseal thread is Over tightening of any plastic pipe
the NPSF(National Pipe Straight thread willhave adverse affects on
Fuel). It is used forinternal threads the function of the joint.The major
and a NPTF external thread difference between plastics andmetals
canbe screwed into it to provide a is the behavior of polymers.
satisfactorymechanical connection Injectionmoldedplastic parts continue
and a hydraulic seal. Thecombination to deform if theyare held under a
of a parallel and tapered thread isnot constant load e.g. creep. Creepis the
regarded as ideal but is widely used. continued extension or deformation
Highqualityplastic quick disconnect
of aplastic part under continuous
couplings typically use NPT threads.
load. Typically theplastic material
Figure 6: Male NPT in a Female BSPT with Different Pitch
Another tapered thread is the in an injection-molded plasticpipe
British Standard Pipe taper, or thread form will creep from being
The 1/2 and 3/4 sizes in the NPT overtightened into a female tapered
BSP, covered by British Standard
and BSP areall 14 threads per inch, port. Thedeformation of the parts
21.BSP thread is commonly used
and the NPT will engagethe BSP fairly internal features canlead to part
for low pressureplumbing, but is
well. failure.
not recommended for mediumand
high pressure hydraulic systems. This Although these threads are the
formuses the Whitworth thread with same pitch andengage well there
an angle of 55and a 1 in 16 taper. are still issues with the threadform.
It is not interchangeable withthe The thread angles and the crest
American NPT thread, though at the and roottolerances being different
1/2 and3/4 size, they both have 14 will allow spiral leakageas shown
threads per inch. in figure 7. These threads might
be usedeffectively together if
Problems arise when threading a NPT an appropriate threadsealant is
male threadform into a BSP female incorporated.
straight thread form. The1/16,
1/8, 1/4, and 3/8 sizes have a Many issues arise when plastic quick
dissimilarpitch, which causes a disconnectcouplings, with their
misalignment of thethreads. The flank corresponding injectionmoldedpipe
angles of the threads are alsodifferent thread forms are plumbed intometal-
between NPT and BSP. NPT has a piped hydraulic systems. Leaks and
60thread where the BSP has a 55 plasticthread form failures may
thread. occur if care is not taken.When Figure 7: Male NPT in a Female BSPT with the Same Pitch

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STANDARD PIPE THREAD FORMS COLDER PRODUCTS COMPANY PRODUCES


NPT (National Pipe Taper) Sizes: BSPT (British Standard Pipe Taper) Sizes: Virtually any thread configuration can
be incorporated into a CPC coupling
1/16 27NPT
on a custom basis. Some examples of
1/8 27NPT 1/8 28BSPT custom applications are NPSM (National
1/4 18NPT 1/4 19BSPT Pipe Straight Mechanical), BSPP (British
3/8 18NPT 3/8 19BSPT Standard Pipe Parallel), SAE flare fittings,
and a variety of ISO (Metric) and American
1/2 14NPT 1/2 14BSPT
Unified screw threads.
3/4 14NPT 3/4 14BSPT
1 11-1/2 NPT With over 30 years experience in the design
and manufacture of injection-molded
plastic quick disconnect couplings, CPC
knows about the shrink and sink of molded
plastic parts and how they can affect the
seal ability of pipe threads. CPCs NPT
thread has been engineered to add more
control to the plastic thread form to ensure
a leak-proof seal.

About CPC
CPC is the leading provider of quick
disconnect couplings, fittings and
connectors for use with tubing in low-
pressure fluid-handling applications.
Employed in a broad range of
applications, CPCs 10,000+ innovative
standard products allow flexible tubing
to be quickly and safely connected
and disconnected. CPC also engineers
custom solutions to improve the overall
functionality and design of equipment
and processes for life sciences,
bioprocessing, specialty industrial and
chemical-handling applications.

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