Hanging by a Thread
How the Federal Group helped Jan Fan solve a critical safety issue by finding the right thread—and a better part solution.
How Reverse-Engineering a Perfect Mating Part For Hanging Industrial Fans Solved a Critical Safety Issue
When it comes to our manufacturing clients, The Federal Group builds relationships for the long term. We’ve developed a close partnership over the years making industrial fan parts for Jan Fan, a small family company that’s been in the industrial fan manufacturing business for over seven decades.
We pride ourselves on best-in-class Quality Assistance and Quality Control, so when Jan Fan came to us with an internal threading issue, we were committed to engineering a fast and effective solution.
And we did—even if the process involved as many peaks and valleys as a threaded coupler.
The Challenge: Keep things from hitting the fan.
Used extensively in automotive assembly facilities to circulate air and keep workers cool, these heavy-duty fans were designed to attach to weighted stands, from ceilings, and onto walls. If a fitting was loose, a fan could potentially fall and injure the workers below (or worse)—creating a significant liability issue and a public relations nightmare.
Jan Fan approached us as the fabricated fan hanger parts were failing to pass inspection—the threads weren’t mating properly, resulting in an insecure fit. While the parts were rejected before customer distribution and installation, the failed part was wreaking havoc on the shipping dates, order resolution, and the bottom line.
The Analysis: An Out-of-the-Box Problem
Upon analysis by our experienced engineers, we discovered the unthreaded couplers produced by the supplier were not matching perfectly with the pipe thread on the fabricated brackets being used by Jan Fan.
We asked Jan Fan to provide the exact specs for their coupler, including the precise tolerances and the thread. They couldn’t. We later learned that the company had been purchasing 1.5-inch conduit couplers from a big-box home improvement store and welding them to fabricated brackets during manufacture in their own facility—while accessible, this solution proved to be both costly and unpredictable.
Box-store pipe fittings are often made by different vendors, and there can be a huge difference in the way the threads fit onto a custom mating part.
We knew we needed to design our own standard pattern to follow moving forward.
Engineering a Solution: Making a Mold
Engineering a threaded part is more science than art. It’s geometry, mechanical engineering, and product conformity all rolled into one. Achieving the correct pitch, valley, dimensions, and spacing is difficult, especially for custom threads. To ensure accurate measurements, our on-site engineer made a wax mold of a provided standard coupler thread, providing an inside look into what was happening.
By inspecting the wax mold, we discovered that Jan Fan’s supplier had been taking shortcuts and not cutting the threads correctly.
With a new, corrected wax mold in hand, we collaborated with tool-making vendor Dimensional Measurement to create a mold of the internal thread. Dimensional Measure duplicated that thread exactly on a custom tap.
By casting the conforming threads, we determined the necessary threading specifications and then reverse-engineered them to ensure a confident and secure fit.
Example mold image courtesy of Plastiform.
This example is just one way the Federal Group can reverse engineer your critical components. For more information on how we can engineer a better part for your production, click here.
The Outcome: A Stronger Partnership
For our longtime partner Jan Fan, we created the perfect mating part to fit our custom fan holders.
In addition, this process helped us identify the key criteria we use to test and evaluate all supply partners, ensuring that every partnership—and every custom fastener, custom mated part, and metal fabrication project—meets our high standards of care when it comes to fit, form, and function.