Friday, February 27, 2009

Industrial Colors and Powder Coating

Hi, I’m Jen, this is my first time posting. I’m one of J.W. Winco’s customer service associates. In the course of helping our customers find solutions to their design problems, I answer different interesting questions every day.

Like the other day, when the issue was color. Our GN 300 zinc die cast adjustable levers are available in a variety of colored powder coated finishes. A customer of ours purchases these levers in orange, silver, red and blue. He needed to know the precise color names so another component of the machines he builds could be produced to match, and he needed the Pantone system names.

Pantone is a system of color naming originated in 1963, that is commonly used in the graphic design, printing, textile and plastics industries. (Our most frequent blog poster, our marketing coordinator Diane, tells me that the Pantone color for J.W. Winco red is PMS’s used in all our marketing stuff.) It’s not unusual for a company to need components finished in colors that match their corporate colors, which generally are named using the Pantone system.

But in the industrial sector, colors are usually named using a different system. The color standards for our products, many of which are manufactured in Europe, are typically the RAL standard. This system was developed in Germany in 1925 by an organization called “Reichsausschuss für Lieferbedingungen” (boy, those Germans like long words), which means “Imperial Commission for Delivery Terms and Quality Assurance.” Makes me want to say, “Alex, I’ll take ‘Color Standards’ for $200.”

I found this handy conversion chart that shows a number of RAL/Pantone equivalents. For example RAL 3027 is the equivalent of Pantone 200. Note though that there are not always precise equivalent from one system to the other. There are several other color naming systems in use, like Sweden’s NCS, Britain’s BS 4800 and BS 381C standards, and the U.S. federal standard known as FED-STD-595.

With metal machine components, the coloring is typically achieved using powder coating, like our GN 300 zinc die-cast levers. The powder is made of pigment and finely ground resins. The part to be coated will be electrically grounded, and an electrostatic spray gun is used to charge the powder as it is applied. After application, the part is heated to a temperature of 160-220 degrees C, which makes it a smooth, continuous coating.

Powder coating can be done in any color, so in large enough quantities, we can have components produced in custom colors. The other advantages are that powder coating is much tougher and more chip-resistant than paint, and doesn’t show any streaks.

Our red GN 300 adjustable lever is so attractive, it’s the “cover model” on our Product Overview Catalog, which you see in the upper right. It’s not precisely our beloved Pantone 200, but it’s really nice too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What Type of Knob Should I Use?

You've come to the right place to ask that question, because J.W. Winco’s knobs go all the way to eleven. Eleven types that is.

Diane posting, and today I'll be telling you about eleven different kinds of knobs, and the role each type plays in machine design. Let's get started!

Ball knobs. Use these for applications that require movement in any and all directions. These types of knobs are comfortable to grip. They are also easy to clean, but don't use them for situations involving moisture or grease; they become too slippery to handle. Shown here is our DIN 319-ST metric size steel ball knob, available in tapped or blind bore types.

T-handle knobs. The design of these knobs gives them strong control, in both in-and-out operations and rotating ones. Likewise, they can achieve strong clamping force. If your application involves a limited space where only one hand can reach, these knobs work well. (However, sometimes a prong knob is preferable, if there is the possibility of the operator being at an awkward angle.) Shown is J.W. Winco's GN 563.2 metric size aluminum T-handle knob, available in tapped or blind bore types.

Mushroom knobs. Tasty in knob stroganoff, this style also offers a good, comfortable fit in the palm of the hand, and works particularly well in two-finger operations. However, if the operator may be wearing gloves, make sure the configuration of the particular mushroom knob will accommodate. This design, like the ball knob, may not be suitable for wet or greasy situations. Pictured is the EN 597 metric size technopolymer plastic revolving mushroom knob with threaded stud.

Tapered knobs. The length of these knobs makes them great for side-to-side or up/down movements. They are particularly good for applications that operate by grasping and rotating from a 90 degree angle. But bear in mind that unless fluted or knurled, they can be slippery in wet or greasy environments. You see here the MVP metric size PVC cylindrical handle, which has a push-fit mounting.

Push-pull knobs. These simple knobs vary in style but generally speaking are easy to operate and control. Solid push-pull knobs are simple to clean; remember that open-backed styles can collect dirt or other contaminants. If the application will involve lots of use or stress, opt for a type made of metal or with a metal insert. Again, these knobs can get slippery, so you may want to consider a style that is knurled. Shown is the GN 676.1 metric size steel push-pull knob with tapped blind hole, available with plain or knurled rim.

Clamping knobs. This category of knob includes a number of styles--star, scalloped and lobed--designed to work in applications that require turning and clamping. The indentations in the rim allow for the achievement of mild to medium torque. These types of knobs are also easy to grip and work well in slippery environments. (Bear in mind that for higher torque requirements, a pronged knob or even a handwheel may be preferable.) Pictured is our VEG metric size, textured nylon plastic ergonomic hand knob with tapped brass insert.

Prong knobs. Speaking of, here's a design of knob perfect for higher torque requirements. The protrusions on a prong knob are longer (certain star knobs may also fall in this category), increasing the leverage of the operator's fingers. In light torque situations, one finger may be all that is required to turn a prong knob. The downside of this style is the increased surface area, which makes it harder to clean. And if steady, unbroken turning is required, go with a crank or handwheel. Shown is our CKS inch size aluminum extruded four-prong clamping knob, which comes in tapped, tapped through hole, blind bore and blank types.

Wing nuts/screws. These knobs are basically a two-pronged prong knob. Consequently, they function in applications where the operator needs to apply torque using thumb and finger only. Metal or metal-insert wing nuts can achieve quite good clamping force. Here you see the EN 634 inch size, technopolymer plastic Ergostyle® wing screw with tapped brass insert.

Knurled rim knobs. This group encompasses a variety of knob styles (ball, push-pull, clamping, mushroom, tapered) but utilizes ridges or knurls at the rim to improve grip. The knurled rim is the answer for greasy or wet environments where slipperiness must be reduced. But knurling sacrifices easy of cleaning, so may be a problem in clean room and food applications, etc. Pictured is the KRSK inch size, stainless steel knurled rim knob, available with tapped or blind bore.

Control knobs. Control knobs are used for the fine control or adjustment of devices, and may be referred to as instrument knobs, electronic knobs, or electrical knobs. They come in a variety of styles, and may include a revolving handle and/or scale markings for measurement. Pictured is the VU phenolic plastic five-lobed control knob with steel hub, which can be used interchangeably for inch or metric.

Pointer knobs. This specific type of control knob is designed in a pointer shape. The design makes it easy to operate with thumb and finger. It works well when the application involves a few options (off/on, open/closed, etc.), or when it employs some sort of scale markings. You see here the MRI phenolic plastic pointer knob, blind bore type with set screw, which can be used interchangeably for inch or metric.

The MRI pointer knob certainly can go all the way to eleven. And this concludes our handy knob application review!

[J.W. Winco offers a huge selection of knobs. See our Section 4, Section 8 and Section 9 indexes for more options!]

Monday, February 23, 2009

Safety Lobed Knobs with Steel Tapped Inserts

This is Diane, presenting another new product recently added to our line. Our GN 5337.3 series plastic safety lobed knob is RoHS-compliant and constructed of special glass fiber-reinforced technopolymer plastic with a black matte finish. The tapped insert, screw, and spring are made of steel in a black oxide finish. The molded-in inlay is zinc die-cast.

Available in metric and inch sizes, these knobs are best suited for applications where any unintended loosening of the knob may lead to accidents. In non-operative mode, the lobe knob is not engaged with the tapped insert, so it may be turned easily. Only after axial pushing of the knob does it engage with the insert so that the knob may be tightened or loosened. After release, the serrations disengage by means of a spring. The five lobe design is visually appealing and also gives the operator the means to achieve higher torque.

These knobs are temperature resistant to 130˚C (355˚F). They are resistant to solvents, oils, grease, and other chemical agents. Versions with stainless steel inserts or with colored cover caps are available upon request. Need your knobs modified? We can provide modifications such as cross holes, set screw holes, and threaded studs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

British Standard Pipe Threads

Greetings from Diane, whose duty it is today to speak of British Standard Pipe Threads. You can’t tell on the web page, but I’m using my fake British accent as I type this. In fact, chums, this thread type has been adopted around the world as a standard for mating external and internal threads, and are common outside the U.S.

The two types of BSP threads are BSPT (British Standard Pipe Taper) and BSPP (British Standard Pipe Parallel). BSPT threads have a diameter that increases or decreases along the length of the thread. On the other hand, BSPP threads have a constant diameter.

For your enlightenment, blokes, here’s one of our GN 743.6 fluid level sight glasses that happens to be available in BSPP thread versions.

These two types of threads can be used to achieve two types of jolly good, never-wonky joints:

Joining threads joints: A taper male thread is used, in conjunction with either a taper or parallel female thread. The combination creates a pressure-tight joint.

Longscrew thread joints: In this case, parallel pipe threads are used, and the tightness of the joint is achieved by some sort of sealing ring (washer or O-ring) between the end face of the male thread and a socket or nipple face, incorporating the tightening of a backnut.

And while I’m getting really technical (well, for me), I’ll mention that BSP threads use the Whitworth threadform. Quite! That means:

--a symmetrical V-thread in which the angle between the flanks is 55° (measured in an axial plane)

--truncation at top and bottom of one-sixth of this sharp V

--threads are rounded equally at crests and roots by circular arcs ending tangentially with the flanks

--the theoretical depth of the thread is therefore 0.64 times the nominal pitch

I know that all sounded especially impressive in this British accent I’m using.

You’ll find tables with all the specs for BSP thread on our Web site in the Technical Section here: British Standard Pipe Threads You might want to bookmark that page. I know how much engineers fancy it because it’s consistently in the top ten entry pages on our site and people find it via Google every day.

Which is why I can make the claim that our BSP tables are smashing, the dog’s bollocks, and absolutely take the biscuit.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Industrial Decor

Diane posting, and as a fan of engineering, I love shows like “Mythbusters” and “The Big Bang Theory.” But I have my artistic side too, and am addicted to home design shows like “Design Star” and “Colorsplash.” When a designer goes for a more industrial look, you’ll find me yelling at the TV, “Those cabinets would be perfect with GN 424 pull handles!”

Machine designers have a lot to consider: cost, functionality, ergonomics, safety. But when aesthetics is a consideration, an engineer gets to be an artist as well. To my mind, the right industrial hardware can really be attractive.

Fortunately, our product line offers a whole lot of good-looking components for just such occasions. Many of our products were designed as much for aesthetics as for other considerations, so they make great choices for equipment or machines that need to have consumer appeal.

Seriously, a designer like Vern Yip or David Bromstad could go to town on our Web site. And to prove that point, when our company renovated our facilities recently, our design firm used J.W. Winco components for all the kitchen hardware. They went for variety in our case, to showcase a number of different choices, but you get the idea from these photos. I can certainly picture Doug Wilson tricking out someone’s kitchen or study with some of these knobs and handles.

Another particularly attractive line we offer is our high quality wooden casters, like the LPA-HZ. These have been used on furniture, like rolling carts, to great effect. In fact, when I look at our caster section in general, I feel like putting my furniture on wheels just to make use of these cool-looking products.

Indeed, I can see using adjustable levers, U-handles, knobs, hinges, casters and leveling feet from our line in this capacity. I mean, if you want a true industrial look, why not buy true industrial parts? And just for the heck of it, I compared one of our stainless steel U-handles with a nearly identical one from a kitchen hardware company, and ours was 65% cheaper!

I realize a lot of you are designing things like case erectors, tray stackers, sawing machines, and such like...machines that will live out their lives in a warehouse, shop or factory floor. But for those situations where equipment will be seen or used by consumers--office applications, vehicles, hospitals, etc.--aesthetics becomes an issue. I’m no engineer, but I can tell a lot of our industrial hardware looks darn good.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Make That Design Ergonomic!

...What if that's the assignment? What if your customer has put "ergonomic" on the wish list for the machine you're designing? What qualities should you be seeking in the components?

Diane posting today, and I found some specific answers to these questions in Occupational Health & Safety magazine. Here's what I learned:

  • Look for handles that are smooth (as opposed to having grooves) so any size and shape of hand can use them. If the user's hand doesn't fit the grooves, it results in excessive pressure.

  • Use knobs and handles covered in soft material—they are more comfortable, provide a firmer grip and reduce slippage.

  • Design the machine so that operating components can be manipulated with the wrist in a straight position.

  • For operations that require force, look for components whose grips have handle or knob diameters that range from 1 1/4" to 2." This allows for fingers to wrap comfortably in a firm hold.

  • When precision is the requirement, choose components with grips in the 1/4" to 1/2" range. The smaller diameter prevents overexertion of fingers, knuckle joints, and hand muscles.

  • Keep in mind the position of the operator and space constraints when positioning operating elements. Avoid awkward work postures and wrist positions.

  • Whenever possible, design the operating components to be used without pressure on the palms of the hands, which are full of pressure-sensitive nerves and blood vessels.

The components we sell at J.W. Winco are high quality, smartly-designed parts. Many of our components and tools are specifically designed for ergonomic requirements, like the EN 5337.6 Softline star knob, the 6830-NI stainless steel horizontal action toggle clamp, and the No. 906GE ball-ended hex key, all pictured on this post. Just visit our Web site and use the search feature to look for "ergonomic" and you'll find plenty of fine examples.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mechatronics: The Future of Design

Diane here, with our engineering word of the day: mechatronics. The term "mechatronics" has been around since 1969, and it's hardly a new concept to engineers. Mechatronics is defined as an approach to machine design that simultaneously incorporates mechanical, electrical, control system, and embedded software elements.

It's not new, but its importance increases constantly. That's because most engineers find that they are given shorter times to complete the design process, while they are expected to do it for less money. Meanwhile, concerns about the final machine being efficient and safe are constantly likewise on the rise.

For designers of industrial equipment, vehicles, or other machines that include moving parts and electronically-controlled actuators, mechatronics is particularly desirable. There is so much interdependency between the mechanical elements of the machine, its electronics, and the software that runs it, that any decision made by one member of the design team is bound to impact the others in a critical way. There needs to be close communication between the disciplines. No longer can the mechanical engineer simply complete his work, pass it on to the electrical engineer, etc.

The only solution to these pressures on the industry is for design to happen in the realm of software. Tools such as National Instrument's LabVIEW allow teams of designers to do simulated prototyping and testing as the design process evolves. It's a much better approach than building a real-life prototype only to have it fail and require costly revisions.

As a writer, I can grasp this concept easily by comparing it to writing a book with or without word processing software. When I wrote my first novel back in the late 70's, I typed it on paper. I then had to "revise my prototype" by making the edits with pen (and sometimes tape and scissors) and then retype the entire manuscript. It sure is preferable to do it all digitally! I can, for example, change a character's name without trepidation using that great tool, the global replace.

It's all about letting the software do the work for you--quickly, accurately and cheaply. And J.W. Winco understands the importance for engineers to be able to build and test their design in software as much as possible. That's why we started offering 3D CAD ahead of most of our competition, and why we strive to provide more accurate and detailed models than other companies do. If the motion system you're designing requires a rotary table, and our GN 900.6 meets your requirements, the 3D model can be downloaded in a couple minutes into your design. Sure beats going through the time and trouble of getting a sample and building a prototype.

For a 12 minute free intro course to mechatronics, visit TechOnline.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Economical Nylon Plastic Threaded Tube Ends

Diane posting, and sharing with you another new product introduced recently to our line. Our SN 992 series of threaded tube ends for round tubes are composed of black polyglass-filled nylon and are RoHS-compliant. The great thing about these components is that they support more weight than traditional brass insert tube ends but cost a fraction of what you pay for the brass versions.

Tube ends are an easy way to attach leveling mounts and glides to tubes and pipes that are commonly used to construct frames, conveyor bases, and industrial machinery. We offer various inch sizes in stock, with additional inch and metric thread sizes available upon request. Using square tubing? Check out series SN 993.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Are You Earning What You're Worth?

It's Diane posting today, and I don't know about you, but with the headlines lately I'm very thankful to be gainfully employed.

That said, it's still important to know you're earning the salary you ought to be, and I recently came upon some information for engineers who are curious about that. There is an ongoing survey being conducted online by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) that is tracking salary data for engineers organized by sector, experience, education, age, geography, and other factors.

The survey has been underway for about a year and to date over 20,000 engineers have taken part. Engineers who participate are entitled to a free report with salary data for the relevant professional level and geographic region. Individuals and companies can also purchase reports for a fee.

According to current data, the national average compensation (including bonuses, commissions, etc.) for U.S. engineers is $94,556. The highest median salary of $115,200 went to engineers in the petroleum and natural gas sector. Companies with fewer than 200 employees paid a median salary of $77,000, while those with over 20,000 employees paid a median of $98,684.

If you'd like to participate, click HERE.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Those Hard-to-Find Metric Components

John posting today, with a story for anyone who has faced a challenge when looking for metric machine components.

We sell parts to all sorts of customers, from engineers to purchasing agents at small and large manufacturing companies, and occasionally, to the everyday home hobbyist. Some of our most interesting sales stories involve those "little guys," who sometimes find it hard to acquire what they need until a web search leads them to us. Most of the time the difficulty is due to their need for metric components.

A few years back we learned of such a situation. A gentleman named Greg Smith, who owned a Downeast 38 yacht, had the boat's engine fail catastrophically. A complete rebuild was in order, and Greg found the challenge to that was finding the metric-sized studs, nuts and washers. He tells the tale on the Web site:

"Each piece of metric hardware that is removed gets cataloged, as none of the old stuff is going back on the engine. With list in hand, I now search for a vendor. This was probably the most frustrating part of the whole rebuild process. The mom-and-pop places that deal with folks like us don't stock the stuff and aren't willing to do much to solve the problem. The big guys have the stuff, but a two-bit order like mine is a thorn in their side. Just as I was about to lose faith in the American entrepreneurial spirit, I found J.W. Winco, Inc. up in Wisconsin. These guys were willing to supply everything I needed at a reasonable price...."

It's interesting how sometimes it's the simplest parts that prove to be the biggest challenge in a project. Not to toot our own horn, but we do specialize in metric components and stock a big selection, so Greg came to the right place.

We really enjoy it when we can solve this sort of problem for a customer, be he big or small. If it's metric components that are your problem, visit our site at to see our offering. Even if you don't see what you need, call us at 800-877-8351; metric components are our specialty and we can probably locate what you need.

Oh, and while I'm horn-tooting: I just have to share some good news. We were recently voted the Leadership in Engineering Winner in the Fastening and Joining category by readers of Design World magazine. A proud achievement for our team!