Designer's Corner

Magnetic pitons

Facilities inspectors, rescue personnel, bridge painters, or adrenalin
junkies might want to add The Gripper to their gear bags. Grippers comprise
L-shaped aluminum frames with spring-oriented pivoting neodymium-iron magnets at
their vertex. With them, a user can scale the sides of iron or steel structures
like a human fly.

To use, place the frame vertex against the climbing surface and lower the frame handle. Uneven-length cams on either frame side gently seat the magnet as the frame rotates, and a hardened-steel pin on the frame end opposite the handle bites into the surface for security. To release, lift the handle. The cams' uneven pull on the magnet requires half the force otherwise needed to remove it. Dual-magnet hand Gripper models deliver 200 to 560 lbs of holding force. Foot models, with three magnets, can support 320 to 825 lbs.

Ross Meyer, Los Alamos National Laboratory , Los Alamos, NM 87544, (505) 667-3271.

Smart encoder

With LSI electronics and automated fabrication of its brushless variable transformer, the DuraCoder offers the durability of a resolver-based encoder at the price of many optical rotary sensors. The device can be programmed for absolute or incremental-encoding applications, reducing inventory needs. And its output can be configured as digital pulses or 4-20 mA analog, making it compatible with just about any industrial automation protocol.

Leo Brennan, AMCI, Plymouth Industrial Park , Terryville, CT 06786, (203) 585-1254.

Closed-field prox sensor

Proximity sensors abound in industry, measuring target distances by changes in capacitance as the conductive target approaches. Because the target forms the second capacitor plate, its electrical properties must be well known to calibrate the sensor effectively. Moreover, the "open" design is easily affected by electro-magnetic interference.

This closed-field design is relatively immune to interference since it measures changes in capacitance between its own plates. Its inventor foresees a number of variations, including load- and pressure-sensing applications where it would replace strain gauges and eliminate the need for elaborate signal conditioning.

Caroline Teelon, Technology Transfer Office , Westinghouse Savannah River Co., Bldg. 773-41A, Aiken, SC 29808.

Dry bearing

Substituting this spiral-jaw clutch for an oil-bathed wrap-spring clutch solved reliability problems for an agricultural-equipment maker. Key to the redesign: Iglide(R) G300 glass-reinforced polymer bearings supporting the clutch elements. Infused with a dry lubricant, the bearing reduces friction without attracting airborne contaminants. The bearings' resilience let them absorb coupling shocks without damage, and they're resistant to most industrial and agricultural chemicals.

Carsten Blase, igus, inc. , P.O. Box 14349, 50 N. Broadway, East Providence, RI 02914, (401) 438-2200.

Drum safety seal

Consumer products routinely come packaged with tamper-evident seals to protect the public. What about commercial products in bulk containers? One idea is to replace the bolts on 50-gallon drum-top draw bands with a specially designed fastener having a threaded portion and a non-helical "fretted" section. Users put the fastener through the draw-band lugs, then slip a steel sleeve over the exposed end before tightening the fastener with a conventional nut. Crimping the sleeve over the fretted area would prevent removing the band without destroying the fastener. Coded crimp

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