Assembling Push-Lok style hose and fittings can be a tedious, time-consuming and sometimes even unsafe task. And if the hose and fitting assemblies are not assembled correctly, their use could lead to potential dangerous applications down the road.
A new tool, the Barb-Tech II, easily assembles Push-Lok style hose and fittings from 1/4 to 3/4 in. ID. It works with a variety of fittings and compatible barbed fittings using a changeable mandrel system.
The device uses a cleat-style hose grip on a lightweight hand operated system that produces up to 300 psi of fitting insertion force, which is ideal for pneumatic assemblies and hose assemblies for low-pressure designs. This force reduces the force required by the operator by one-third. The device also prevents over-bent wrists, an injury common to Push-Lok hose assembly.
Weighing just 1.9 lb, the tool is portable and lightweight for easy field-service repairs but is rugged enough for repetitive production applications. It is an ideal tool for many manufacturers that are currently retooling their plants to respond to critical COVID-19 needs by now manufacturing medical devices, face masks and more, said Karl Wagner, Founder of Barb-Tech Tools.
Wagner said Push-Lok is used many types of industries and heavily in automation, medical device design and pharmaceutical and lab testing. Common applications include plastics and injection molding. The tool is designed for low pressure applications — like pneumatics, water and low-pressure oil lines — and is suited particularly well to applications where line change-outs are made frequently.
The device features a mandrel at one end to hold the fittings and jaw-like clamps at the other end. Pushing a lever pushes the fitting into the hose, while the jaw-clamps tightly hold the hose secure as the fitting is pushed into the hose.
The idea for Barb-Tech Tools came to Wagner when he was working in a cold warehouse and with spools of hose and boxes of fittings and he was expected to assemble them all by hand. “And the other end of the hose may have already been hooked up to something. I needed something that I could just walk over, and push this fitting in,” he said. “I couldn’t take it off and go someplace warm. To have something really portable that you can just take to the job site was really key for making a product that worked for the industry. And I’ve actually had people call, ‘Well, I got a maintenance guy, he’s trying to repair hoses up on a ladder. This fits the bill for what they need in a situation like that.”
Wagner designed mandrels for 90° and 45° fittings because they are especially difficult to assemble by hand without good leverage.
“The key with the Push-Lok design is you have to be able to get a really straight push on the axes of the barbs to be able to install the thing accurately. And it does need to get pushed clear up to the yellow washer line, which is pretty indicative of any of the Push-Lok,” Wagner said.
Unlike similar bench-top tools, the portable Barb-Tech II comes in a case for easy carrying throughout plants for easy hose repair. It comes with two male and two female mandrels to accommodate a large range of straight fittings. Application-specific mandrel design services are available. The case features extra compartments for additional mandrels and/or fittings to take to the job.
The portability of the tool is key, said Wagner. “In maintenance, it’s really difficult to disassemble the hoses away from machinery and move them to a workbench to have it done. So, that’s a competitive advantage,” he said. “This can really help them speed up updates and retooling because pushing these barbed fittings into the hose, especially if it’s cold, can be difficult. It’s like trying to push a rope. The hose wants to do anything but go over the fitting. Then the hose contracts, like a Chinese finger grip, so once you stop pushing, the hose contracts and it’s then impossible to get the fitting to push further in again.
“So, that was part of the motivation for the tool, was being able to be have a pretty quick process, so that the hose doesn’t have time to take a set. When you use the tool, the jaws just grab the hose, and gives it a really good grip so you can get the fitting pushed in.”
The mandrels are designed by Wagner and produced locally so it doesn’t take long for custom designs to be completed either, he said.
Wagner reiterated the safety benefits of Barb-Tech Tools, as it helps to reduce injuries with its ergonomic design. He tested the device with S-shaped load cells to prove the ergonomic benefits of the design. “You’re able to keep your wrist straight. Your hand is actually operating in a normal position, and of course the reduction of, the amount of work that you have to do,” Wagner concluded. “The 3/8 mandrel takes about 85 lb to press that fitting into the hose. The ¼ in. material actually takes closer to 120 psi proportion. The amount of work you’re doing with your hands is not good, especially if you’re trying to do it repetitively. I can take those measurements to prove that this is a huge savings for people that are out there trying to do this.”