Ever gotten to take a tour of a factory? It’s like watching Made in America or How It’s Made, just about a hundred times better because you can get up close and actually ask questions. You even get to put on safety goggles – it’s the complete experience. Since I’ve been writing about cable management, tech, and workplace safety, I’ve been lucky enough to visit 3 different manufacturing facilities on the East Coast, and see firsthand how they operate and crank out their respective products. It’s really cool.
One thing that I noticed in each of these places is how there are rows and rows of machinery, with each piece of equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars (at least). Between these rows of lasers cutters, press brakes and robotic lifters are aisles, down which forklifts often roam, delivering raw materials, carting away finished components, and traveling to and from the storage mezzanines. Here’s the thing: what if one of these zoomy little forklifts goes off-course and accidentally “bumps” into one of those machines? A big, fat repair happens, that’s what. And so, there are a couple of useful products known as bollard posts and machine guards.
Even if you haven’t been to a plant, you’ve probably seen them somewhere before. They’re all the rage in parking lots and near loading docks, where they keep vehicles out of certain areas, and away from certain things. They’re those stalwart metal posts that mean business, and will leave a nasty dent in anything on wheels that decides to challenge them (that’s a good thing). Ever wondered how bollards and machine guards get so tough?
Well, for starters, if they’re made by Eagle Manufacturing, they’re made of 1/4 inch thick steel, covered in a baked-on yellow powder coat finish that says “look out!” but still manages to survive in the event of a vehicle run-in. Next, you can bolt them right into the ground or a concrete floor, so they aren’t going anywhere. And last – they’re hollow, so you can fill them with cement for extra staying power (ohhhh, so that’s what those caps are for). No one’s getting past these babies. Take that, renegade forklifts.
Don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I love Velcro™. Ever since I was a shoelace-challenged 4 year old who found out that pressing and ripping was a lot less stressful than lacing and tying, I’ve been hooked. And you’ve gotta love that melodious tearing sound. But I just found out that Velcro goes beyond sneaker fasteners, double-sided tape and cable wraps – these days, it also comes in dots.
Yes, dots. Or spots, little circles, round blobs… whatever you want to call them, these things are cool. They’re basically little rounds of double-sided Velcro™ tape. They come in pairs: one dot of hook (the sharp stuff) to one dot of loop (the softer, fuzzy side). Stick one to a surface (like a wall) and the other to an object that you want to stick onto said surface, then just line up the dots, press, and let go – it’s stuck! Simple, I know, but definitely something to get a kick out of.
Velcro Dots are great for kids’ rooms, dorms, classrooms, even offices – anywhere that you might want to hang things on the walls, but have the flexibility to change them when you feel like it. What’s really great is that they don’t leave holes like nails and tacks do, so there won’t be any spackling for you down the road. They’re also not likely to run out anytime soon – with 200 to a pack, you can connect the dots like it’s going out of style.
Frequent presenters who don’t have the luxury of a permanent projector and whiteboard in all of their meeting rooms are about to get very happy. 3M’s V2 Mobile Presentation Stand is built especially for facilities where multimedia presentations are a regular occurrence, but small rooms don’t allow for an extra equipment. This intrepid cart is built to roam from room to room on demand, fully loaded with everything you need, including a close-range projector, whiteboard, a laptop, and maybe even some dry-erase markers.
Installing all of that equipment on one cart might sound kind of cumbersome, but actually, it’s not. Thanks to its compact and well-thought-out design, the V2 presentation cart can easily wheel down halls and through doorways, and won’t further cramp your space, even in a packed room. What’s really nice is that, with the optional laptop stand, it allows you to keep your eyes on your laptop throughout the entire presentation, instead of constantly turning around to refer to the screen.
Movement is no headache, either. Four casters help keep things balanced and moving smoothly from place to place, and then lock to prevent the cart from sneaking away once you get it where you need it. And then for the whiteboard adjustability, which is steady and jolt-free compliments of the V2′s pneumatic shock absorbers. Presentations can be stressful enough on their own. Make things easier on yourself with the right equipment management.
Now that I’ve taken a gander at ArmorKraft Decorative Post Sleeves, I’d like to bestow their maker, Eagle Manufacturing, with an honorary new motto: “We Make Crudely Functional Bollard Posts Look Gooooooooood.” Seriously, though – while bollard posts and vertical wooden railroad tie-style stakes may be extremely useful in keeping vehicles from going where they’re not wanted, they don’t look too hot. As a matter of fact, they’re pretty much blots on the landscape. And no one likes that.
Luckily, ArmorKraft Post Sleeves give you a way to keep the traffic-controlling benefits of bollard posts without having to endure the sight of their ugly mugs. As a matter of fact, these sleeves can actually transform raw posts into things of beauty and sophistication. Just slip one over your bollard post, and suddenly you have a structure worthy of, say, a West London park or a country club. It’s like sending your bollard posts to finishing school.
ArmorKraft Post Sleeves have the look of high-end cast iron, but fortunately aren’t bogged down by cast iron’s hefty weight and price tag. Since they’re made of super lightweight HDPE, the post sleeves weigh in at only 8 pounds each, are resistant to chemicals, UV rays and, of course, water, and are more or less maintenance -free. And they’re available in several different designs to suit your taste and setting. There’s Classic, which is perfect for lending a park or garden-like feel to your property; Golf Traditions, which is great for roping off walkways at country clubs and golf courses; and Equestrian, which adds extra ambiance at stables and other horse-centric facilities.
Ladies and Gents, they’ve done it again. I don’t know what it is about rolled raceway that’s always blown my mind, but the stuff is cool. I really dig the fact that someone took a functional and versatile product that had a few dimension-based shipping and storage issues, and found a way to smoosh it flat, roll it up, and put it in a box. But now it’s gotten even better.
I just became acquainted with a new rolled raceway by the name of Wire Trak™. Unlike the other raceway-on-a-roll type products out there, Wire Trak puts itself together – literally. Whereas with other brands you dispense a length of flattened raceway from the box, cut it off and fold it into its intended 3D shape, Wire Trak has it all under control – all you do is pull out what you need, cut, and stick it into place.
The actual assembly/shaping is all left up to the packaging, believe it or not. Where you’d normally find a dispensing slot on most cut-to-length raceway boxes, there’s a patented raceway former built into the Wire Trak™ box, which pops the flat Wire Trak into shape as it’s pulled from the package. Sounds pretty cool, does it not? It’s a major time saver, because it frees you from having to painstakingly fold feet or yards of raceway into a perfectly rectangular channel. Origami for the sake of origami is one thing, but who wants to master the art of folding just to hide a few cables?
Filed under: Electrical, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
Ever had to paint or hang a picture up in an old house, just to have your simple plans complicated by that old-fashioned surface conduit that they used to use? I used to find the stuff really annoying, until I learned how it came to be. It turns out that surface conduit, at least in the United States, was largely brought about by Wiremold in the early 20th century.
By around 1920, Americans were catching the electrical gadget craze, and were buying and accumulating more electrical devices than they had outlets to plug them into. Back in those days, walls more or less all fell into the plaster and lathe category, which, if you’ve ever worked on an old house, are no picnic to cut into and repair. Even for people who were lucky enough to have homes with in-wall wiring, the existing number of receptacles just wasn’t enough, but ripping into plaster walls to add additional outlets was pretty much out of the question.
And so, Wiremold came to the rescue with metal-based surface conduit for electrical wiring. It allowed people to add extra electrical circuits and outlet boxes anywhere they wanted, without demolishing their fragile plaster walls in the process. And while these days we’re spoiled with retrofit-friendly sheetrock walls, Wiremold metal conduit is still coming in handy, albeit in a slightly different form.
Meet Wiremold’s Aluminum Surface Raceways - the hipper, sleeker next generation of surface conduit. Instead of being used in homes, aluminum surface raceways have now carved out a niche in offices, where they’re used to run power and data cables around the perimeter of a room, with stops for built-in outlet wherever they’re needed. And what’s really cool is that they actually have cutouts into which wires from existing wall boxes can be fed, to be spliced onto new wire runs. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
Covering up and routing cable runs has always seemed like such a no-brainer… just reach for a few sticks of raceway, right? Not so fast. What if the cables you want to cover up are running down an outdoor surface? That’s a little trickier. Raceway typically adheres to surfaces by way of an adhesive backing – one that only works in nice temperature-controlled indoor spaces. One look at a rain cloud or the beating sun, and it would wilt and fall right off the wall. Time for something tougher. Time for Wire Guards.
I really like it when I’m surprised by the simplicity of a very effective product, and that’s definitely the case with these. Wire Guards are basically just extruded plastic arch-shaped channels with flanges down either side. That’s it. The channels are laid over the cable or cables of your choice, and then the flanges, which are pre-punched for nails or screws, are fastened down to the surface. The cables are held in place, and get a layer of lightweight armor to boot, so they’re considerably more resistant to the unwanted advances of weather, pecking birds, and even bored kids in search of something to mess with.
Wire Guards are terrific for exposed outdoor power cables, speaker wires, and the Cable TV coaxial cable running down the side of your house. They would even be great for use in semi-finished basements, if you need to run wire along a wall surface. And as far as size goes, you can take your pick – Wire Guards can be narrow enough to provide cover for just one wire, or wide enough to fit over an entire cable bundle.
Wire splices are pretty easy to knock out, especially if you’re using twist-on wire connectors. You just strip the wires, give them a light twist, and screw on the connector, right? There’s just one thing… you always need to have different-sized wire connectors on hand for different wire gauge ranges. Forget about carrying around one box of tiny loose parts – you have to carry along two or three, just to make sure you’re covered. Annoying.
Well, Wire Splicing’s annoyance factor has just been taken down quite a few notches by Ideal‘s Twister® 341® wire connectors. Unlike the usual gauge-specific wire nuts out there, these babies are practically one-size-fits-all, but they’re a heck of a lot cooler than those tacky $5 tourist t-shirts that bear the same description. Twister 341s are designed to accommodate wires ranging anywhere from #22 to #8 AWG, which, in regular speak, means most common wire sizes, whether they’re thin or on the chunky side.
Aside from their versatility, I also really like the fact that Twister 341 wire connectors have two built-in wings, which help you to get a better grip for easier twist-ons. Inside, the splice spring is actually square-shaped, which gives you a sturdy connection that won’t shake loose from vibration over time. And then they’re the extra long strip of plastic “skirting” along the bottom edge, which gives you improved dielectric coverage to contain possible flash-overs.
I like double-sided tape. Really, I do. But up to now, all I’ve had the guts to use it for is making collages and picture boards. Sure, I know that it’s a good way to hold light duty cord covers down on the floor, but knowing me, I’d give one good unintentional kick, and the whole thing would come loose. Let’s face it – there’s an awful lot of double-sided tape out there that just can’t stand up to a klutz. But I just found one that can.
It’s called Pro 500 Tape, and if that doesn’t sound tough, I don’t know what does. I think it’s an unwritten rule that all things serious and industrial-strength have to have alpha-numeric names, and this one fits the bill. But it’s not just Pro 500′s name that means business – its epically strong adhesive and almost-impossible-to-rip-backing aren’t joking around either.
To put it in a nutshell, this stuff is trade show strength. You can walk/stomp across whatever Pro 500 tape is holding down – be it carpet, a cord cover, or wire duct – and said object will stay in place. This is all thanks to a hyper-aggressive adhesive that achieves 2½ pounds worth of adhesion per square inch, which happens to be coating a woven cotton fabric that takes a quite a bit of trouble to tear. The result? Rock-solid carpet and cord cover tacking that won’t give up and run home after a few clumsies trip over it.
And then there’s that rule of thumb that says if a product is used in aircraft construction, it’s generally pretty sound stuff. Pro 500 tape is both. Suffice it to say, I’d trust it with my cord covers.
Not too long ago, I made the transition from desktop to laptop, and for the most part, it’s been great. The laptop is much smaller, leaves me with more space, and I can pick it up and take it with me whenever (and wherever) I want to. The only time that I miss my old desktop PC is when I’m having a really mouse-heavy day – man, can that touchpad get tedious. It works fine, so I can’t complain about that, but like many others out there (you, perhaps?), I’m sort of hardwired to use a regular mouse. In the sort of way that when I have to, say, navigate to and click on a few hundred links, I can start to feel a little fried.
That’s why I’m planning to get my hands on this little number in the very near future. The Mini Optical Mouse. It’s tiny, cute, and unlike the old roller-ball mouse that I used to wrestle with (sound familiar?), it uses optical laser technology that doesn’t jam up on you. Oh, and one more thing – its cord is also retractable, so everything packs up nice and easy when it’s time to ready the old laptop bag for an adventure.
I have a friend who’s quite the business jet-setter, and she swears by this thing. She does an awful lot of work perched at hotel room desks and airport laptop stations, but having the Mini Optical Mouse along for the ride helps her hit a level of productivity that’s much more on par with a regular day at the office. The faster she can work on the road, the less time she has to spend slogging through backlogged e-mails and reports when she’s back in the office. I’d shell out $30 for that.