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Quick-Disconnect Pneumatic Fittings – Modern and Legacy

It’s a pretty basic concept: you have something that moves air, and you need to attach it to something that has to have air pressure in order to do its job. You need to be able to detach that tool quickly, so you can’t use screws or other complex machinery. Enter the standard thumb-latch connector, and your problems are solved! Seems like there’s not much there that needs changing — but pneumatic fittings have in fact evolved in recent years.

 

The Old Guard: Metal Latch Couplings

More than 55 years ago, when pneumatics were first becoming industry standards across the world, the metal latch coupling was born. Cast of strong metals with as few moving pieces as possible, they held up against the extreme changes in internal air pressure easily. After a few years of trial-and-error to establish what the standardized sizes would be, metal latch couplings became so ubiquitous that they seemed to be a foregone conclusion. You need to connect pneumatics, you use a metal coupling, done deal.

But then, along came plastic and changed everything.

 

Plastic Latch Pneumatic Fittings

Plastic is lighter — significantly lighter — than metal, and its ability to remain strong even when more thinly sculpted allows for a more ergonomic fitting. Furthermore, plastic is resistant to corrosion in a way that metal isn’t, which made the plastic coupling much more durable under a variety of different industrial conditions.

And plastic wasn’t done yet.

 

Plastic Twist-Lock Connectors

Twist-lock connectors were the logical extension of the Luer-taper fittings of the previous century: simple pneumatic fittings that could be slipped together and locked tight with a mere quarter-turn. Because they are nearly as durable as a plastic latch fitting but don’t require a latch or button to activate, twist-lock connectors can be used in smaller spaces, or in implements like sphygmomanometers (blood pressure cuffs) where the much heavier plastic latch would cause usability problems.

 

With quick-disconnect pneumatic fittings evolving from the near-indestructible and extraordinarily reliable metal latches that are still industry standard after more than half a century of use to the the very small, very light, and easy-to-operate plastic twist-lock, there are very few places where pneumatic connections are an engineering challenge these days — and we’re all better off for it.

 

Introducing The Industrial Conveyor Belt Cleaner

Industrial conveyor belts are some of the hardest-working devices in America, shipping tons of debris ranging from freshly-dug earth to literal garbage of unknown composition thousands of feet every minute. They suffer from their efforts, too, in a variety of ways. Perhaps most dangerously, sharp items can puncture them upon landing — and if those things are still stuck in the belt when it hits a pulley or a brace, they can lodge and end up ripping a long slice out of the center of the belt, making it nigh unto useless.

 

That’s one of the chief reasons that every wise industrial engineer builds conveyor belt cleaners into every system in his demesnes. Conveyor belt cleaners come in three basic types:

  • Primary Belt Cleaners (also called ‘pre-cleaners’) sit directly opposite the discharge pulley, below the angle of discharge, and ensure that nothing remains on the belt as it ‘rolls over’ and begins its trip back to the impact saddle to receive more load. Primary conveyor belt cleaners can be as simple as a static rubber blade scraping the belt as it travels past or as complex as a whirling array of brushes arranged in nested helixes that constantly turn against the direction of the belt’s travel.
  • Secondary Belt Cleaners sit just back from the discharge pulley, with the belt pulled more tightly over the blade, and again, remove any carryback from the surface of the belt as it makes its return trip. The term ‘secondary’ doesn’t imply that they only work in tandem with a primary cleaner (though they certainly work best in that circumstance); it simply implies that the cleaner doesn’t touch the belt simultaneously with the discharge pulley.
  • Plows rest on the inside of the conveyor belt, preventing the inside of the belt from carrying any spillage back. These are particularly important because debris on the inside of the belt will get jammed in as the belt passes over the pulleys on its way back to the impact saddle, potentially causing much more damage than mere carryback. Generally a single diagonal blade but often seen in chevrons or similar shapes, a plow is virtually mandatory any time you have spillage landing on the inside of the belt.

 

Modern conveyor belt cleaners add years of life to industrial conveyance systems, and many can themselves go for months or even years without any appreciable maintenance needs of their own.