Ball Valves and Their Role in Aerospace

Valves are devices that serve the purpose of regulating the flow of a fluid, which may either be in the liquid or gas phase. With numerous design and size variations, it is helpful to understand which valve type works best for a given application. In the aviation industry, in particular, ball valves have become an integral component in vessel construction due to their long service lives and precise control capacity. In this blog, we will discuss the several nuances associated with ball valves and their use in the aerospace industry, highlighting their function and design variants.

Like many other valves, the ball-type sits inside a valve housing, which contains and protects the functional components. Extending from the top of the housing to the bottom is a valve stem, which is operated by either electrical or pneumatic means. Connected to the valve stem is the ball, which is supported by a specialized seat and o-rings. Most commonly, the stem is designed to operate with quarter turns, either permitting or preventing media flow with each.

Although 3-way and 4-way ball valves may be used in some circumstances, the overwhelming majority only feature two ports, particularly in aerospace. For most applications, the valve is manually operated by a user through the use of a lever, although some are fitted with an internal transmission. In general, when the lever is in line with the pipe, the ball allows media to flow, with the opposite being true if the lever is perpendicular. In the case of a 3-way valve, the bore will be manufactured in an L- or T-shaped manner, allowing the user to control media flow and direction.

Depending on operating environment demands, the housing may either be one-, two-, or three-piece. The one-piece assembly is the cheapest and most lightweight, but it is less durable and cannot be disassembled to be cleaned. As a result, they are typically reserved for low-output applications. Two-piece housings are commonly threaded and may be disassembled to support maintenance operations. Finally, the three-piece bolted housings are the most durable and simplest to remove for cleaning. Because of these factors, the three-piece variant is also the most expensive.

If the valve does not rely upon a lever or other twisting mechanism in its operation, it is considered to be automatic. These devices instead utilize an electric or pneumatic actuator to manipulate the valve stem. Such configurations allow for energy conservation and act as a fail-safe mechanism. Higher performance actuators can even provide modulation control, which enables the user to choose a precise level of opening.

In the aerospace industry, ball valves are implemented to accomplish precision fluid control. The most common media types transported are hydraulic fluid, water, coolant, and fuel. One place in particular where ball valves shine is turbines, where they are explicitly designed to handle the high-pressure and high-temperature environment. Another benefit of ball valves is their lower purchase cost and much longer lifespan compared to other designs. When choosing a ball valve for aerospace applications, it is important to select a reliable distributor such as ASAP NSN Hub.

At ASAP NSN Hub, we have all the ball valve components you need to support operations. With immediate availability on over 2 billion items and around-the-clock expedited shipping, our lead times remain unrivaled. We invite you to browse our expansive and diverse offerings today, keeping in mind that you may initiate the purchasing process at any time using our simple Instant RFQ form. With account managers available for customers 24/7x365, you will receive a customized solution within 15 minutes or less from the submission of a completed form.


February 19, 2020

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