Thursday, April 30, 2009

Conveyors: Industrial Slot Car Sets

It’s Diane again, here to reveal even more about my childhood cravings to be an engineer. The other day I blogged about tube clamping components, comparing them to Tinker Toys. Well, it’s one kind of fun to make structures, and another to make things that move. Even more than Tinker Toys, as I kid I liked toy trains and slot car tracks. What fun to lay out tracks and crossroads and drive little vehicles all over the rec room!

In the industrial design world, the equivalent of this childhood fun is conveyors. The industries that utilize conveyors are in every field you can imagine, but the theme is always the same: moving large quantities of items along a designated path.

The most common type of conveyor is the belt conveyor, which consists of a long belt mounted on a moving chain. The chain conveyor is a simpler version where the product being moved is affixed directly to the chain. A third method of conveying material involves trolleys and slats.

Sometimes conveyors use other sorts of apparatus to move material: a screw for dry bulk substances like grain...a vertical lift conveyor that behaves like a small elevator...roller and skate wheel conveyors for sliding crates along.

Along with the simple belts or chains, there are all the elements of the conveyor support structure: the adjusting rods, guide rails, clamps, brackets and support bases. Like the tube clamping components we discussed previously on this blog, these parts are industrial “Tinker Toys” which work together to make the track that contains and transports materials.

But wait, there’s more: you may also need sensing devices to add intelligence to your conveyor system. These include photocells, temperature sensors, pressure gauges and counters, all of which may serve to sense problems or trigger events.

The possibilities for designing conveyors are as endless as the industries that require them. However, if you know anything about conveyors, there is one common issue: wear and tear. Obviously these installations undergo constant use—sometimes 24/7—and they may be used to transport materials that are abrasive, wet, hot, or otherwise inherently destructive. That’s why any business that operates conveyors must have a source of replacement conveyor components. Kind of like having a hobby store where you can get new HO track, knowing your dog will occasionally chew on your train set.

And it’s also why the initial design of a conveyor system must be mindful of the wear-and-tear issue, both in terms of structure and in employment of components that have good enough quality to stand up to the demand.

The items you see in this post are some of the high quality conveyor components included in our product line. You can check out our catalog Section 17 to see our adjusting rods, cross blocks, clamps, brackets, support heads, and bases. We have access to far more products than these, including all the elements of standard conveyor systems, and our Technical Sales Associates would be happy to assist you in finding everything you need for your conveyor design.

When I was a kid, I used my train set, installed under the Christmas tree, to transport pine needles from place to place. The wear and tear of the pine needles was less of an issue than the disruption when track was displaced by our cat. Maintenance had to be constantly on site making repairs, but that can happen with conveyors.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Choosing the Right Hinge

Greetings, it's Diane, and I have an interesting factoid for you. Know what is the closest to a rhyme for the word "orange"? Door hinge. Yup, it's a fact.

That's all very well, but seeing as this is the J.W. Winco blog, of course we're going to take our topic a step further and actually tell you about door hinges. When you're building any sort of enclosure with access to it's interior, hinges will be a concern. So here are the factors to consider when choosing the right hinge:

Number one is the weight of the lid or door, which can determine both the size and material of the hinge. Our selection of hinges includes a variety of sizes of hinges in zinc die cast, steel, stainless steel, and plastic, and all of these options have their place.

A less obvious consideration is how the enclosure functions and how the door opens. Will it need to open fully, or just 90 degrees? Which way will it swing? Is there room for external hinges or must they be internal? Will the doors need to hold a particular position? Some examples of hinges with interesting functions from our line include the EN 160 Lift-Off Hinge, which is designed for easy unhinging of the door, and the EN 151.2 Lockable Hinge, with a built-in adjustable lever for locking the door into position.

Meanwhile, our GN 161 Hinges are designed specifically to join standard aluminum profiles, a unique but definitely desirable functionality.

Hinges seem like a very elementary sort of component, but certain design innovations can make them pretty tricky and impressive. Our GN 127 Adjustable Alignment Hinges are available in three versions that make them adjustable in different directions. Their design provides for perfect alignment of a door in its frame.

Meanwhile, if security is an issue in your application, you may want to choose a hinge that mounts on the inside of the door, and/or is welded on, like our GN 128 Weldable Hinges.

And of course, the final element in hinge selection is esthetics. All other functions aside, sometimes you just want a hinge to look good. We offer a hinge that incorporates both form and function, the GN 238 Adjustable Alignment Hinge. It combines the adjustable feature of the GN 128 with cover caps that keep the hinge literally clean while also giving it a clean look.

So that's a quick overview of some of the options when you select a hinge. You'll note that we don't happen to offer a orange door hinge. You know, like in the poem:

An engineer, quite fond of orange,
Was trying to spec in a door hinge...

Yeah, you're right--that's not a real poem. Not much of a rhyme either, if you ask me!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

EN 5337.8 Safety Star Knobs with Keys

Diane here today, with our latest featured product, our new series EN 5337.8 Safety Star Knobs with Keys in metric sizes.

These RoHS-compliant star knobs were developed for applications where access by unauthorized personnel is not permitted. The shape of the keyhole profile is identical to the key profile, and the protruding part of the key can be folded so that releasing and clamping for the knob are not impeded, even when the key is in the lock.

Made of glass-fiber reinforced technopolymer plastic, the knobs have a tapped brass insert and are temperature resistant up to 100°C (215°F). The hand knob has a black, matte finish, and the underside plastic cover is ultrasonically welded to the handle body. The knobs are resistant to solvents, oils, grease, and other chemical agents. The keys are made of red plastic with a stainless steel stem. Several sizes are offered standard, and one with a stainless steel insert is available upon request.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

RoHS for Earth Week

Tomorrow is the big day, Earth Day, and we would be remiss in not celebrating the occasion in our own little way. It’s Diane here, greening it up this week with the rest of the J.W. Winco crew. And our timely topic this week is RoHS.

Maybe RoHS means no more than Roy Orbison High School to you, but to us, it’s something we deal with every day. That’s because engineers often need to know if the components they are considering spec’ing into their designs meet the requirements of the company that will sell the machine. And a lot of times, some of those requirements are environmental, and may involve RoHS.

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, or RoHS, was adopted in 2003 by the European Union, and took effect on July 1, 2006. While it is sometimes called “The Lead-Free Directive,” RoHS actually restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment: lead, mercury, cadmium, Hexavalent chromium (Cr6+), Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), and Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE).

The restrictions of RoHS apply to the following categories of equipment:

Large and small household appliances
IT equipment
Telecommunications equipment
Consumer equipment
Lighting equipment—including light bulbs
Electronic and electrical tools
Toys, leisure, and sports equipment
Medical devices (currently under moratorium and exempt)
Monitoring and control instruments (currently under moratorium and exempt)
Automatic dispensers

While RoHS applies to countries in the European Union, other countries have adopted similar regulations, or are currently debating whether they should. Meanwhile, specific manufacturers may require RoHS compliance or other specific requirements concerning the use of hazardous materials.

When we launched our latest version of our Web site last year, we made a point of saving engineers some trouble by addressing RoHS compliance for each of our 1,200 series of included products. Compliant or sometimes-compliant items have an appropriate logo on the page.

For other materials requirements, our Technical Sales Associates are proficient at finding out whatever engineers need to know about the components we offer.

The whole business can be quite complicated. I mean, “Polybrominated diphenyl ether”? That’s a mouthful! But it’s all for a worthy cause: cutting down on toxic materials in order to make the world a healthier place for industrial workers, as well as all of us.

Have a happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tube Clamping Components vs. Tinker Toys

Diane here, digging in our industrial toy box of parts for machine designers, and coming up with a handful of tube clamp components. Ooh, what can we build with these?

Just like with Tinker Toys, the possibilities are endless. You see, tube clamping components are nifty devices that enable you to easily build jigs, fixtures, and operating systems using standard metric round and square tubing.

You have your two-way connector clamps, which connect pairs of tubes at right angles. And there’s your flanged two-way connector clamps, which connect those pairing of tubes to other surfaces. Then there’s your flanged connector clamps, which join a single tube to another surface. You can also connect two tubes in a T-formation, or end to end, or to a swiveling connector, and so on, and so on.

Our line of tube clamping components gives you other options, like connecting a large diameter tube to a small one, round to square, and all those permutations. As I recall, with Tinker Toys the holes were either small enough to hold the sticks tightly, or big enough so they could spin freely. It’s not like they’d work for a square stick!

Meanwhile, there’s the material issues. Unlike Tinker Toys, where your material choice was wood, wood, or wood, these tube clamps come in shot-blasted aluminum, plastic coated aluminum, or stainless steel. Fun!

I know you’re already envisioning the great race car, steam shovel, or windmill you could build with these, but wait, there’s more. Depending upon the requirements of your application, you can control the clamping function on these clamps with a socket head cap screw, a hex head cap screw, or an adjustable lever.

Okay, now for the final awesome element. (And Tinker Toys can’t touch this.) You can incorporate linear actuators in your design. A linear actuator is a guide tube that mounts to other surfaces or tubing and has an internal system that allows you to use a handwheel to move the tube in a linear direction.

Check out this illustration to see how some of these components work. Here you see two linear actuators, each with a handwheel (one has a nifty counter) mounted to each other by a connector with an adjustable lever. The entire contraption has a flanged base.

Way better than Tinker Toys--I know, right? All you need is tubing and tube end plugs (oh, and we have those too) and you have endless possibilities. And seriously, I’m not really talking about race cars, steam shovels and windmills…well, maybe windmills, come to think of it.

So check out our Section 16--Tube Clamping Components, where you can purchase the most popular of these components right online via our estore. We also just added a digital 83 page catalog you can view right on the website to see every possible permutation of tube clamp components and linear actuators we have to offer you, and believe me, it’s cool.

Well, that was fun! Of course, now I’ve got these parts strewn all over the J.W. Winco rumpus room and I have to put them all back in the industrial toy box....but it was worth it to share them with you!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

O-Rings for Online Purchase

It's Diane posting today. As you'd expect, at J.W. Winco we're always working on making our online catalog more complete. It currently contains almost all the components we stock (plus many others we sell), but in the past we have only shown a general sense of the hundreds of metric seals and fasteners we offer.

We hope in the months to come to add many more products in this category, in full detail. That means you'll be able to check pricing for seals and fasteners right online, and purchase them through our estore.

First in line is our OR 638 series of NB70 O-rings, and we want to give these simple but important components a big welcome to the site! We've got about 125 of the most popular sizes of these O-rings available for online purchase, and yes, they are in stock.

Meanwhile, you can still reference our immense online O-ring chart that shows you hundreds of available sizes of metric O-rings. Contact us and we can obtain any of these for you as well. This is a pretty handy chart, by the way, and includes British and Japanese cross references and dimensions for a plethora of O-rings.

You gotta love it when you can use "plethora" and "O-rings" in the same sentence.

We'll be letting you know of more products in this category (our Section 19 – Fasteners and Seals) as they go online.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Joe Grand and DIY Engineering

Diane here, to talk to you about a guy named Joe Grand. I feel like I am the last person in America to learn about him, so I'm making up for that by offering him the stupendous honor of joining the J.W. Winco Blog's growing pantheon of Engineers We Love.

I learned about Joe from a little piece in the latest issue of Product Design and Development. His subject was how engineering innovation nowadays occurs not only from within the corporate industrial community, but more and more often from hackers and do-it-yourselfers.

And Joe himself is a prime example. As a young guy, he and a group of other hackers who dubbed themselves "the L0pht" made big news by (1) being called upon to testify to Congress about government computer security issues, and (2) claiming they could bring down the Internet in a half hour if they so chose.

Since then, Joe (also known by his handle, "Kingpin" or "KP") has been a renowned inventor, entrepreneur, and author. He also appears on the Discovery Channel's "Prototype This" show, developing inventions like the wearable air bag.

Back to the PD&D story. Joe made the point that the economic downturn has set a lot of engineers loose on the world with mad skills and plenty of free time. As do-it-yourself hobbyists, these folks are congregating on sites like Hack-a-Day, MAKE, and Joe’s own Grand Idea Studio, comparing notes, sharing information.

And what are these DIY engineers up to? Well, they're tweaking existing consumer products into new versions. And they're also devising completely new stuff, like stationary bike book holders and robots with 3D heads modeled of your face. You could spend all day checking out these great inventions! (No, Boss, I didn't spend all day doing that...I wrote this post, for one thing!)

At J.W. Winco we have a history of supporting DIY-ers by supplying them with standard components that, while simpler than a servo, can be essential parts to home engineering projects. For example, over the years we have sold lots of our DIN 6335-TP star knobs to folks who have downloaded this great plan for making your own drafting table, designed by a customer of ours named John Petersen.

Our Technical Sales Associates work with engineers from huge corporations, but they are just as happy to assist hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers. And we'd love to help you out sometime, Joe Grand! I can picture our adjustable levers incorporated into something like your Gamecaster Cybercam, for sure!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What Type of Leveling Device Should I Use?

Diane here, trying to resist the temptation to pun on today’s subject. You know, stuff like "in today's post I'm going to level with you." That's because today's post is all about levelers, aka leveling pads or feet or mounts. These simple devices support your machine, and therefore, are as varied in design as machines themselves.

Will the equipment be motionless or will it involve vibration that needs to be controlled? How much weight must the feet support? What type of floor will the machine stand on, and will the environment be wet, hot, caustic, sterile? Let's talk about some of these considerations and how they affect your choice for best leveling device. I promise not to "pad" this post with non-essential info. I will put my best "foot" forward. Ooh, the suspense "mounts." Sorry. Let's begin.

First, the two basic styles are:

Tapped type: These are mounts that have a tapped hole for attaching to a threaded fastener, i.e, the "female" style. Your advantage is a lower profile, but what you lose is the ability to adjust the height, as you would with a stud type. Pictured here for illustration is a tapped version of the Ny-Lev mounts we manufacture right at J.W. Winco.

Stud type: These types of leveling feet have a threaded stud for both attachment and leveling. The stud is easy to attach, and the position can be locked using a jam nut, typically included. Standard stud lengths are available, and you also have the option of cutting the stud to length. Shown here is the stud version of our Ny-Levs. We offer tapped and stud Ny-Levs in inch and metric sizes, in many base sizes, stud lengths, and different threads.

Second, choose your materials. In the interest of strength, in most cases the socket (tapped type) or stud is made of metal. However, the base material varies:

Plastic base: Pros are the lighter weight and reduced cost. Also can add vibration control. Cons are reduced load tolerance and durability. Shown is the GN 343.3, a technopolymer plastic base alternative to our Ny-Levs.

Metal base: Supports heavier loads and provides greater durability. Downside is you are adding more weight than with a plastic base. Also, you'll have poor vibration control unless you also add an elastomer pad. Here you see the GN 340 steel base leveling mount, offered with or without a pad like so many of our levelers.

Stainless steel: For food industry, medical, and other sterile applications, you may need a stainless steel base or all-stainless steel leveling mount. Many of our levelers are offered in stainless steel versions. We also have a special mount for sanitary applications, the GN 341.4 that you see pictured here.

Now consider some special features:

Non-skid: If slipping and sliding of the machine is a concern, you may want to add a non-skid pad to your leveling foot. Many of the mounts in our offering include this option. We also offer the Snap-Lock mount, pictured here, which is designed with a special snap-on non-skid pad that resists peeling off.

Swivel-ability: Whether tapped or stud type, these types of levelers include a bearing surface or other means for the base to swivel up to 15° off axis on uneven surfaces. This allows the leveling mount to adjust to uneven surfaces for maximum surface contact and greatest possible stability of equipment. Many of our levelers offer the swivel feature, like the Level-It mount, shown here.

Anti-vibe/heavy duty: Of course your choice of leveler will be determined in part by the weight of the machine it must support. Our leveling mounts dimensional tables also include load information. A corollary issue to load is the amount of vibration the machinery generates. If vibration is a concern, look for mounts designed to be "anti-vibration," like our Anti-Vibe line, sample pictured here.

Got an extreme situation like drill presses, CNC equipment, stamping presses or injection molding equipment? You may require a mount designed for super high vibration, like our "Mighty Mount" levelers, example shown here.

Anchorable mounts: All types of levelers can offer lag bolt holes, enabling the leveling foot to be secured to the floor or platform with bolts. There is also the option of a specially configured base (teardrop shape) with hole for mounting bolt, like the PolyMount shown here. The advantage of this type of foot is that it prevents "walking" of the machine. Disadvantage is that more effort is required if you want to move the equipment. Also, if you are dealing with high vibration levels, holes can add additional stress to the base and possibly result in failure.

There are also a variety of types of levelers geared for particular requirements, including:

Glides: These are designed with a pad or base material that allows the supported equipment to be easily moved by sliding. This type of foot permits easily movement and relocation. Glide base material is typically harder and more abrasive-resistant than an anti-vibration base. Downside is that vibration can cause walking and movement. Shown here is one of our Glide-Rite mounts, which offer a nylon or elastomer pad.

Low-profile design: This type of mount is used when equipment height is restricted, and permits equipment to sit lower to floor or platform. Con is that weight distribution in the pad may be limited due to thinner material. Our LP 100, illustrated here, is a low profile mount available in many variations.

Low-cost: Sometimes weight, vibration, and unevenness are not worries, and you simply need an inexpensive foot to do the job. In that case a simple leveler of one-piece design can provide cost savings, like our Rattle Mounts.

Well, that gives you a mounting number of issues to consider in selecting the right leveling device for your application. Check out even more options in our Leveling Elements section. And if you have special issues or concerns, by all means contact our Technical Sales Associates (800-877-8351) and we'll be glad to assist. We'll do everything but "foot" the bill, and that's on the "level."

Okay, now I'm even driving myself crazy with these puns!

Monday, April 6, 2009

GN 115-NI Stainless Steel Door Locking Mechanisms

Diane reporting, with our latest featured product, our new series GN 115-NI Stainless Steel Door Locking Mechanisms in metric sizes.

These RoHS-compliant locks are an economical design and offer a straightforward locking action, rather than a locking and clamping action. The knob, lock housing and hardware are all constructed of stainless steel, making this lock an excellent choice for corrosive environments. The choice of nine differently-shaped catch plates provides a range of latching distances from 6 to 28 mm or .236 to 1.10 inches.

For more door-locking mechanisms, please see our catalog Section 3, which features pull handles and access hardware.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Nuts and Bolts and Pitch, Oh My!

Sometimes it's the little things, as all engineers know. The functionality of the most immense, complicated machinery can be compromised by failure of something as small as a nut.

Diane reporting today, here to share with you some more helpful information we provide in our Web site's Technical Section. If you're struggling with spec'ing in metric fasteners and need to know about size options, pitch, and drill sizes, we've got the table for you: check out our Metric Thread Pitch Table.

And while you're at it, take a look at our Limits for Metric (Standard) Coarse Threads for bolts table. It has everything you need to know about the specs for metric bolts, including normal engagement length, major diameters, pitch diameters, and minor diameters for standard metric thread sizes M 1-M 39.

Meanwhile, we have an equivalent table for metric nuts as well.

Just a reminder that you can see all the treasures available in our Technical Section HERE.