As the old saying goes: When you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
Up until recently, Flow-Rite Controls relied on a supplier for a connector in its battery-watering systems. But as Todd Hart, head of new business development, explains in an interview with New Equipment Digest, the company decided to bring design and manufacturing in-house.
NED: What led Flow-Rite to develop the Quick-Connect Coupler?
TH: Our company was originally purchasing a similar connector for our battery-watering systems. Over time it became apparent that we were relying too heavily on a supplier for such an essential part of our product. Delays receiving the couplers meant shipments of our systems would be late.
We then decided to design and manufacture our own couplers for increased flexibility and control of our systems. Along with designing a coupler specific to battery watering, we also decided to create a full coupler line and make it available for outside distribution.
NED: How is this product different from similar ones currently being offered?
TH: Flow-Rite couplers have the highest flow rate of comparable couplers.
Keyed connection options are available for error-proofing in sensitive applications where lines can be crossed. Viton O-rings come standard on all couplers.
We also offer private labeling options for companies looking to expand their brand.
NED: Any particular problems that came up during the development process?
TH: In order to better fit the needs of other applications, changes had to be made to our original coupler design.
One alteration was to the welding process. The couplers were initially assembled using a spin welder. This machine required grooves on the termination to hold it in place while the welder attached the rest of the housing. These grooves could tear the gloves of users handling these in medical or chemical applications.
We now use a sonic welder, which removed the need for grooves and opened up our couplers to more applications.
NED: What was the length of time from conception to final production?
TH: It took about 18 months to redesign for external markets and expand our offerings.
NED: Did cost factors affect the final design of this product?
TH: Our couplers can potentially have endless termination options. However, we had to limit our initial offerings based on what we believed the market demand would be. Our selection will continue to grow as we learn more about the needs of different markets.
NED: Who do you view as the primary users of this coupler and how will they benefit?
TH: Flow-Rite couplers are well-suited for industrial, agricultural, chemical and medical/life science applications. Benefits include speed, safety, simplicity, and durability.
Greater speed is achieved with the high flow-rate design.
Keyed connection options promote safety. The ergonomic push-button makes routine operation simple and easy.
The UV-resistant polypropylene construction is acid and corrosion resistant to withstand demanding environments. Viton O-rings and 305 stainless steel springs were also chosen for durability.
NED: Care to add any other interesting sidelights?
TH: All couplers are made at our manufacturing facility in Byron Center, Mich. The product line includes multiple barbed and threaded terminations for tubing sizes from 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch diameter.
The push-buttons and valves are color coded to easily identify a keyed or non-keyed coupler. The couplers are also capable of gamma sterilization.