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What Is the Difference Between a Ball Valve and a Gate Valve?

In piping systems and applications that require the flow of fluids through a system of tubes, valves are used to control the flow of liquids and gasses by creating impenetrable barriers. With many materials and sizes of valves on the market available for different temperature and pressure ratings, on/off valves will typically be one of two configurations: ball valves or gate valves. Both are mainly intended to stop or start flow, but each has its own benefits, so your choice of which to use for your applications depends on the nature of your operations. As such, this blog will provide a brief overview of both ball valves and gate valves, as well as their unique characteristics and the settings in which each should be used.

The main difference in design between a ball valve and a gate valve is how they shift from an open position to a closed position. A gate valve has a solid or rectangular piece that lifts up and down, resting in a “seat” to block the flow and lifting by means of an actuator to allow the flow to continue. Meanwhile, a ball valve maintains its position in the pipe, but pivots 90 degrees in place to either expose or block the flow from its hole. As a gate valve is solid all the way through, it is designed to be either fully open or closed; therefore, it cannot be used to regulate flow. Gate valves also close significantly slower than ball valves because they require more than a simple 90 degree turn to shift from open to closed. Typically, gate valves are controlled manually by turning a handwheel, but they may also be operated electrically or pneumatically; all of these options require greater than a 360 degree turn to stop or start flow.

Meanwhile, the 90 degree rotation of a ball valve is used to align the bore, also referred to as a port or a hole, with the pipes to allow for flow. Interestingly, ball valves are not limited to a single port, with multi-port ball valve styles also available for different purposes. A two-way port is a single hole used for basic on/off operations, while a multi-port ball valve may be used to divert media in different directions. Given this design option, ball valves are wise choices for applications that require immediate shut off because gate valves are unable to act as quickly. This makes ball valves a smart choice for applications where fast cycle speed is required. At the same time, this can potentially cause water hammering in high-pressure applications. This could cause the pipe to weaken or even break, which is why users of manual ball valves should turn the levers slowly to avoid water hammer.

Some common applications for gate valves are high pressure applications like wastewater plants, power plants, mining, large water supply lines, and more. Meanwhile, ball valves are a popular choice in specialized industries like oil & gas, food & beverage, power processing, and more. Typically, gate valves are less expensive than ball valves, but they are also less durable and will require more maintenance, while ball valves are designed to be maintenance free. Aside from cost, the main factors to consider when procuring include the media you will be using, the amount of ports you will require, and the intensity of your system. Once you have determined your needs and you are ready to begin the procurement process, turn to Fulfillment Domain for all of your NSN parts.

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