ORLANDO, Fla. — As you sort through the various segments of the HVAC industry, a common thread quickly emerges: Products are connecting in ways many never thought possible or necessary. Seemingly basic tools like drills, hammers, and band saws are acclimating themselves nicely into a world where customers want and demand Wi-Fi availability and digital precision.
Throughout the 2016 AHR Expo show floor in Orlando, manufacturers displayed tools that are becoming smarter, less cumbersome, and altogether easier for consumers to use and manage.
“For several years now, equipment and tools have been getting smarter, more automated, and more connected,” said Aidan Niggel, director of tools and alternative materials, Victaulic Co. “Last year at AHR, there was a trend surrounding the Internet of Things and connected devices. That will almost certainly continue and become more prominent as manufacturers recognize and respond to industry demand for such products. As consumer products get smarter, we also expect the devices we use on the job to be smarter. So, industry demand is certainly a driver of this trend, but so is the evolution and cost of the technology embedded in the products.”
Victaulic’s RG5200i roll grooving tool is one such product embracing the IoT. It’s a fully automatic, intelligent grooving tool that provides instant feedback on the quality of the pipe groove.
“Roll grooving machines currently on the market require the tool to be manually adjusted, and, following completion of the groove, require manual measurement of the pipe,” said Niggel. “The RG5200i automates these processes, modernizing and simplifying pipe grooving while ensuring safety and accuracy in the grooving process and reliability in piping system operation.”
The connectivity of tools is even expanding beyond Wi-Fi capabilities with the use of Bluetooth by some companies.
“Right now, we are seeing a large trend in wireless technology being incorporated into the measurement devices used by refrigeration and a/c technicians,” said Andy Heinze, distribution channel development manager for Sporlan Division, Parker Hannifin Corp. “Smartphones and tablets are becoming a standard part of the modern technician’s tool belt. One great example is using Bluetooth wireless technology on individual pressure and temperature sensors to measure the condition of a refrigeration system and then feeding those data into a smartphone or tablet app to run and record various calculations. The recording — and more importantly, the exporting of those data — is where the industry really sees the advantage. Running the calculations for superheat and subcooling has become standard now, and the data recording is what the industry is after — especially with the trend of big data we’re currently seeing. More data, easy access to data, proof of work, and being able to email those data out is very important.”
A BETTER JOB SITE
Connected tools aren’t all that effective if they are difficult to maneuver and use properly.
Cords have been a common sight on job sites for decades, but manufacturers are displaying a real push toward removing them and ensuring new products are going cordless without sacrificing features or versatility.
“Job sites everywhere are going cordless,” said Corey Dickert, director of product management for Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp. “This trend is well beyond just drills and impacts. Now, tools like deep-cut band saws and rotary hammers, which were once only imaginable as corded tools, are not only viable cordless solutions, but, in some cases, outperforming their corded predecessors.”
Milwaukee Tool is looking to prepare for the upcoming needs of contractors by creating a battery system that can manage an entire installation on one battery platform. The M12 and M18 platforms will allow users to go from the beginning of an install to final connection with one system of cordless tools.
“We are committed to these platforms and continue to deliver innovative solutions to them each and every year,” said Dickert. “In addition, we are seeing a lot more pre-fab work. Ready-to-install HVAC and mechanical systems will continue to help speed up new installs.”
Hilmor is focusing in on creating products that allow better access to awkward locations on the job site, particularly where mini-split systems are installed.
“To outfit technicians who are working on mini splits more and more, we wanted to extend the hilmor product range in a variety of ways,” said Emily Bavaro, director of marketing, hilmor. “Our longer multi tools and fastener bits allow better access to some of the awkward locations where these are installed. Our new Ball-Valve Hose Adapters minimize even the slightest refrigerant loss because the charge on these high-efficiency mini-split systems is so critical. The new Orbital Flare kit provides technicians with the key tools they’ll need to create perfect 45-degree flare ends — a requirement on all mini splits.”
Ridgid Tool Co.’s RP 340 Press Tool for copper, stainless steel, black steel, PEX, and cutting soil pipe fits into Borman’s philosophy. It has a 4-inch capacity and weighs 8.3 pounds. It features a 180-degree rotating swivel barrel and an 18-V advanced lithium-4 battery. It also has a service interval of 42,000 cycles.
“Our key things are time savings, efficiency, size, and weight while also having long service intervals and not compromising quality,” said Marcus Borman, global marketing manager, pressing/electrical line, Ridgid. “Some will sacrifice quality to get to smaller size, but also getting lighter and using new materials is essential for tools.”
Fluke’s TiS Performance Series Infrared Cameras feature 3.5-inch screens in an effort to help pinpoint issues while contractors are in the field. The cameras offer one-touch image access and are available in eight different models, five of which have a fixed focus and three of which have a manual focus.
“Developing more efficient and accessible technology is important going forward,” said Toffee Coleman, education partnership program manager, Fluke Corp. “We want our tools to be in line with how the next generation works and aligns with their needs. That means tools need to be smarter, but also safer and extremely efficient. You never want to compromise safety for technology.”
Publication date: 2/22/2016