Gotta Hold Them Legos In Place!

Okay, so this Weirdohead entry isn’t really so much about the actual product in question, but more about the website itself. Clicking around the old interwebs, I found myself at this web page: Here, the Kurt Workholding company is demonstrating their hydraulic clamping systems, which, by their description, seem like a perfectly good, handy piece of industrial equipment.

What gets them on Weirdohead is this: the diagram accompanying their written spiel makes it look like their hydraulic swing clamps, with “clamping capacity of 475 lbs. to 6,000 lbs. at 5,000 PSI,” are holding a (slightly bizarro) Lego piece in place. Presumably, they’re fairly good sized objects, certainly larger than a “four banger” Lego block—and maybe I’m just not looking at it with the proper engineer’s eye or whatever—but the illustration looks like it should have a Lego man in a hardhat standing beside it, overseeing the action.

I honestly can’t say why it is that the drawing seems so small—obviously it’s not meant to be 1:1 scale. I think it’s probably only because the item being held by the hydraulic clamps so resembles a Lego piece. Of course, that’s not what it’s supposed to be, but then, what the heck is it? Part of an engine block? Voltron’s big toe? The key component in a Doomsday Device?

Information Technology Gas Monitors

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for safety in the workplace. But if your workplace includes even the remotest possibility of a hazardous gas leak, wouldn’t you automatically put a gas monitor or twelve in the building?

A gas monitor, for the unaware, is a device that monitors the levels of gases in the air at a facility. Those gases could be toxic, flammable, combustible, or just ones that you wouldn’t want leaking out (not necessarily dangerous, but certainly a waste of money to have your supply depleted via a leak in the system).

The gas monitors I came across seem to have ridiculously high levels of technology for what seems like it could be a fairly simple task. Granted, given the nature of the situation, you probably don’t just want to put streamers at every joint in your system’s gas lines, but a machine with more functionality and circuitry than the average laptop seems a bit excessive.

Maybe the people at Sierra Monitor are banking on your previous gas monitors having been destroyed in a catastrophic explosion. And, since your old ones clearly didn’t get the job done, you’re looking for something a little fancier that will keep it from happening again. (Though, if that were the case, wouldn’t you have to replace a lot more than just the gas monitors?)

There’s A Case for That

There’s weird-bad, and there’s weird-good. This Weirdohead entry definitely falls under weird-good.

Custom cases are a pretty brilliant idea. It’s weird to think that someone can build an entire business around it, but it’s brilliant nonetheless.

Almost everybody’s got something they would probably prefer to store safely in a case of some kind, but, depending on what that something is, it can be hard to find a case that will actually fit it.

Maybe you’ve got a sweet vintage top hat, for example, that you want to keep in pristine condition for the two occasions a year when you actually want to wear it (what those occasions would be, I don’t know—it’s just an example). But what are you going to put it in? You could get a hatbox for it, but what if the hat’s an unusually tall one (or something like that—again, this is just an example)? A hatbox wouldn’t work.

So…you get a custom-made case. From what I saw, these custom cases can be built in pretty much any dimensions you need, to accommodate your 17-1/2” tall top hat. Or your great-great-grandpa’s old flintlock musket. Or whatever. And the cases come with precision-cut foam padding, so whatever you put in there won’t get knocked around and damaged inside the case.

Like I said, pretty brilliant.

Can’t You Just Reposition Your Welder?

Though I’m not a welding expert by any means, I’ve seen the process performed many times and am quite familiar with how it works. Thus, the latest entry in the Weirdohead canon: welding positioners.

Welding positioners are devices that hold the workpiece—the thing that you’re welding—and allow you to position it as needed to weld it properly. This seems like you’d just be adding a piece of unnecessary (not to mention bulky and clumsy) equipment to the mix. As I mentioned, I have a pretty good understanding of how welding works, and I see no reason why the welder can’t just move himself—along with his welding lead, of course—into the proper position.

It seems like a welding positioner would be designed for one of two circumstances: 1) you’re welding on something that is, in itself, bulky and clumsy, and the postioner will move it into place for you; or, 2) you’re welding something fairly small and the positioner will just make it easier to move as you weld.

Neither of these make any sense to me, because if it’s #1, wouldn’t it be easier to just move around whatever bulky/clumsy workpiece you’re welding than to hoist it up onto the positioner? And if it’s #2, couldn’t you just move the workpiece around by hand as you go? If you’re a good welder, you don’t need to use two hands the whole time, so one would be free to move whatever you’re welding when needed.

It’s sort of a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation, only instead of cooks it’s large, unneeded pieces of equipment.

Modbus Protocol

Within the industrial sector, Modbus is one of the most commonly-used data communications protocols. Modbus is used for building automation, controlling lighting systems, security systems, and HVAC systems. It’s also used heavily in industrial automation of manufacturing processes.Modbus is a serieal protocol that can establish master-slave communications between intelligent devices.

One of the primary reasons for the popularity of Modbus is that it is an opensource protocol, available to manufacturers at no cost. For this reason many manufacturers choose to use Modbus as the language of choice for smart devices that are designed to connect to control networks.

Modbus is available in several different versions, each of which is appropriate for different applications. The industrial market most commonly uses Modbus RTU, which is the common protocol of all Modicon controllers. This protocol enable communication between devices, regardless of manufacturer, as long as they are all Modbus enabled. For devices that use a different protocol, a protocol gateway will have to be used to enable translation from Modbus to the protocol used by the control network.

More details of the different versions of the Modbus protocol can be found at:

Forged Crankshafts’ Advantages Over Cast

Though they’re most commonly used in modern internal combustion engines and similar machines, crankshafts date back as far as the 2nd century AD, where they were used in ancient sawmills. In the years since their invention, crankshaft designs and methods of production have changed greatly. Modern crankshafts are generally either cast or forged from steel or other metals.

Of these two varieties, forged crankshafts offer a number of advantages over their cast counterparts. Forged crankshafts are stronger and more durable than cast, and can be manufactured with far greater consistency and repeatability. They also tend to be considerably lighter without compromising performance. Forged crankshafts can also be created in much smaller dimensions than can cast crankshafts.

Additionally, forged crankshafts can be manufactured from alloy metals more easily than cast crankshafts can. By choosing the right alloy for the application, it is possible to optimize performance and durability.

The very method by which forged crankshafts are created—forging—imbues them with several less-obvious advantages over cast crankshafts, as well. Though it is not readily apparent from the outside, forged crankshafts benefit from finer grain size, continuous grain flow, and improved microstructure in their base materials, which adds strength and fatigue resistance. Forged crankshafts also have far fewer instances of voids—voids that weaken the material and can lead to sudden breakage.