A Limited History of Tri-Clover Machine Co. and the C-Series Pump
Kent Clark | Mar 2, 2020
You’ve probably heard of Tri-Clover Machine Co, though maybe just in passing. An influential pump and fitting manufacturer across most of the 20th century, they were responsible for a number of unique improvements to the fitting, pump, and CIP industry. Their most well known contributions have to be what is now known as the “Tri-Clamp”, and the C-Series Centrifugal Pump, both cornerstones of the brewing industry - and liquid processing in general.
A couple of months ago I thought I would write a “fun” post on the history of Tri-Clover. I figured I would be able to quickly and easily find information about a company that seemed so instrumental to fluid processing. I was wrong. Not only are records sparse but there seems to be an entire product history kept only in the memories of people who worked in the industry at the time. However, some emails with various US historical societies did dig up quite a bit of history, and not being one to let work go to waste, here’s what I've found so far:
Tri-Clover was founded in 1919 at the corner of Prairie and Kenilworth (now 60th st. and 35th ave) in Kenosha, Wisconsin by Lars C. Thompson, Thorwald Jensen, and William Hinrichs. These three names would make up the J, T and H of the original Triclover logo.
In 1935 Ferdinand Hinrichs became the President and General Manager of Tri-Clover Machine Co. A couple of years later they moved to 2809 60th St., into a brick and cinder block building that can still be seen there today. Hinrichs stayed in charge of the company through the following years, gearing it into war production for World War II. By the end of the war, Tri-Clover was producing five million 40 millimeter shells and six million other shell parts.
In 1946 Hinrichs oversees a surge in growth, and begins purchasing other local companies. They buy Try Stainless Steel Products and then Specialty Brass Company a few years later.
Then, in 1953 the Tri-Clover Machine Co. itself is bought out by Ladish Co. Two years later, Ladish registers the trademark on “Tri-Clamp”. Some reports say that this was specifically in reference to the three flanged couplings, though the term would later dominate the language.
The following year, the Kenosha Evening News publishes “LADISH COMPANY TRI-CLOVER DIVISION TRI-CLOVER MAKES PRODUCTS FOR PROCESSING”, stating:
“...during the past four or five years, a revolution in milk processing methods has been going on in the entire dairy industry. With the advent of more efficient sanitizing solutions detergents and better equipment, it has been found that much time could be saved in the cleaning process by pumping cleaning solutions, sanitizers and rinse water through the lines without the necessity of taking them down.
Pumps Do Two Jobs Tri-Clover sanitary centrifugal pumps are used for the dual job of pumping the milk during processing as well as in the cleaning operation.”
During this time a number of gasketed clamp style systems are introduced, with the Tri-Clamps gaining a dominance that would grow throughout the decade.
As use of CIP increases, a number of patents on centrifugal pumps start popping up. In 1960 Ladish Co. patents the following:
While what this patent actually details is a “novel means for cleaning the seal around the pump shaft without disassembling the pump or motor” by “permitting the flushing of the pump and main seal while these parts are in place”, it illustrates the familiar designs of the pump that would become known as the series. This same year they patent a carbon mechanical seal:
In 1964 Ladish develops the shaft and impeller pin system:
Then in 1968 Bruno H. Werra, chief engineer of Tri-Clover, files for a patent on “Sanity Processing Pumps” on behalf of Ladish Co., using a familiar impeller and design:
These pumps would take over the centrifugal pump world. Ladish/Tri-Clover would release their “C-Series”, a series of centrifugal pumps that would take over the food and dairy industry.
Twenty years later, in 1981 Armco Inc. announced a take over bid of Ladish Co. The move was a bad one for Armco and a mere 4 years later they would sell Ladish, along with both Hitco and Oregon Metallurgical Corp. to the Owens Corning Corporation.
The next year, Corning would sell the Tri-Clover division of Ladish to Alfa-Laval, a European manufacturer looking to break into the American market. Alfa-Laval would keep Tri-Clover running for another 20 years until, nearly 80 years after their opening, Alfa Laval would close down Tri-Clover in December of 2000. The reason for the shut down would be the redundancy of opperating Tri-Clover and Alfa Laval Flow in the same market. Today, Tri-Clover exists as a range of Alfa Laval fittings.