By Paul J. Heney and Mary Gannon
Cincinnati-based Clippard Instrument Lab created its EV line of valves in 1973. The company’s workhouse pneumatic valves have seen a lot over their lifetime—video games like Pong have evolved into lifelike realty games and mobile phones the size of loaves of bread are now compact, thin devices that can do just about everything a computer can and more. And like the popular Energizer bunny, they have kept chugging along as the company introduced additions to the line.
Now, a generation later, the company is launching a companion series, the DV valve. The initial product is a high flow, 2-way bidirectional electronic valve, which offers flows to 100 lpm. Impressively, the valve has a life of more than 1 billion cycles. A robust stainless steel spider-style flat spring is used in the design.
The company has been quietly working on the design, and invited the Design World editorial staff to its production facilities in Fairfield, Ohio, to see the design and witness the process of assembling the valves.
According to Rob Clippard, the industrial marketplace has been asking for more flow from the EV valves for some time, and the new DV series will attempt to maximize power, flow and cost considerations versus competitive products. Applications for the DV include gas and liquid chromatography, gas sampling analyzers, oxygen wound therapy cuffs, ventilators, respirators, leak detection processes, as well as packaging and material handling.
Like the EV valve—which was developed ahead of its time as a miniature option to provide low leak rates and long life—the DV valve, too, is going to be a unique product in the market. While some competitive valves may offer similar flows or power, none can offer the same power and flows for the price, said Clippard.
High flows, low leakage
Clippard’s new DV valve will offer standard flows of 100 lpm at 100 psig; an “H” option will offer the same flows at 0-50 psig. Key to the new design is its low-power consumption, at just 1.9 W, keeping with the growing need for energy efficient designs. It is offered in both manifold mount and cartridge versions, said Dave McBreen, lead project engineer, with 10-32 stud or M5 mounting on the manifold style. The cartridge style seats into a ¾-in. bore.
The valve offers a 10-15 msec response rate and can be connected via spade terminals or wire leads. Featuring Ultem, PPS and stainless steel parts, as well as Nitrile standard sealing (FKM, silicone and EPDM are optional), the DV valve is rated for temperatures from 32° to 180° F (0° to 82° C). The stainless steel comes into play with the spider design, which features an over-molded seal.
Although offered now in a 2-way version, a 3-way version is under development and McBreen said an isolation or proportional valve design would come next.
Manufacturing in America
Privately-owned Clippard recently hired John Campbell as President, a smart move in bridging the company’s leadership between the second and third generations of the family. Campbell, a strong leader with a varied career in manufacturing, is down to Earth and approachable, something that’s evident as he walks through the plant, greeting employees.
“We believe our people make our products great,” said Campbell, who stressed that they consider themselves an American manufacturer and an engineering company first. “I think that pneumatics still has a very strong place in American manufacturing today,” he said.
Interestingly, the company actually uses a lot of pneumatics—and its own products, of course—in the process of manufacturing the components. Pneumatic actuation is taking place of doing things by hand, as it is very repeatable. Campbell said that there is a supervisor for every 8 to 10 employees in each manufacturing area, and that there is an intense focus on giving people the support they need to succeed.
“This drives up productivity,” he said. “Also, we are very tied into high schools and the technical schools/community colleges in the area [with FIRST and other programs]. Then, they give us the first look at their best students—and many of them now work here.”
Automating processes saves a lot of time—and money—on manufacturing, something that is evident even as the engineering team plans out the workflow for the new DV valves. According to McBreen, automating processes will likely save them minutes per valve, an impressive accomplishment when you consider the six figures of valves that the company hopes to be manufacturing and selling in the coming years.
In addition to automating assembly of the valve, the testing procedure for response time, cracking pressure and flow will also be automated, keeping the assembly time down to less than 3 min, said McBreen.
The company also is committed to using its profits in shoring up the business for the future. “The best use of our capital is reinvestment in the business,” said Campbell.
Clippard Instrument Laboratory, Inc.