Taking an inventor from his garage to the market
One of Elect Air’s customers is a small one-man business that manufactures a fire break designed for wildfire prevention. A private inventor, working out of his garage, developed a unique concept capable of saving thousands of dollars in property damage. The fire brake is comprised of ten-inch-wide strips of woven fire-proof fiberglass material secured in a lattice pattern using brass grommets. The complete assemblage is laid down on the ground in the path of the brush fire, and will scale down and ultimately extinguish it. It can be easily and quickly deployed before evacuation, preventing fire from reaching and damaging personal or business property while the owners seek a safer location.
This diagram shows how the fire breaking material is deployed before evacuation. By surrounding the house completely, it will dissipate the flames before damage can occur.
Build a machine that can crimp multiple grommets through the blanket strips in the quickest and most efficient method possible.
Key Business Challenges
- Providing enough force to crimp grommets through two layers of fabric consistently
- Actuating multiple grommet presses at the same time to speed up production
- Operate within budget
Together, the customer and Elect Air started with a Bimba FLAT Multiple Power air cylinder to press a single grommet. This approach was abandoned when it did not provide the force needed. On the second attempt, inspiration was drawn from the design of the initial gear-driven lever crimper. The new design used a machined shaft and gears to move multiple lever crimpers at one time using two large bore cylinders. Eventually, a third cylinder was added to provide more force and stability. This solution functioned to expectations and was more economical, crimping ten grommets with only three presses.
The end result was a pneumatic machine capable of successfully crimping ten grommets at a time through two layers of the woven fiberglass blanket consistently.
Brass grommets seen up close. The machine had to be able to crimp many of these grommets quickly if the fire break had any hope of being mass-produced.
The following products were key to the success of the project:
- Parker Air Cylinder: 4MA Series NFPA w/ 4” Bore
- Parker Inline 3-Position Hand Lever Valve
Prior to working with Elect Air, the customer was using a hand-lever crimper to manufacture his product. Because of the time and manual labor that required, he would have been unable to produce product efficiently without Elect Air’s assistance.
The final machine is capable of producing 250 sq. ft. of the fire break product per hour, which allows the customer to make a 100 by 13 foot blanket in roughly six or seven hours.