William Henry Merrill founded Underwriters Laboratories Inc (UL) in 1894 after he was asked to evaluate the fire safety of the Palace of Electricity at the 1893 World Fair. Today, UL offers safety consulting and certification services and has offices in 46 countries. One UL-certified laboratory at Emerson's Tool Company Engineering facility, located on the campus of Emerson World Headquarters in St. Louis, Mo. was tasked with testing the Next Generation of backpack vacuums from ProTeam® for safety and durability.
This laboratory has been testing different varieties of vacuum cleaners for over 40 years. When Manager of Technical Development Mark Tomasiak took on the challenge of testing the new backpacks along with his team, Director of Product Safety Joe Gierer and Chief Product Engineer Ray Mayginnes, they worked from the existing UL product safety standard for vacuum cleaners.
The team used six 12- by 12-foot cells to create the correct conditions for an exhaustive series of tests. One cell was equipped to test airflow suction measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Another had fire extinguishers mounted, ready to discharge at the push of a button to test burnout resistance. They even used probes to be sure that an adult or child could not stick a finger into any part of the vacuum and touch an energized part.
"We run a whole gamut of tests," said Mayginnes. "The tests involve evaluation during normal operation, and then there's the abnormal tests where we defeat one safety feature at a time to make sure it fails in a safe manner."
The tests did not stop with the minimum UL safety requirements; they went much further. Where UL requires a three-foot drop, Tomasiak and his team performed a series of six-foot drops from the top of a ladder and confirmed that the vacuum still operated normally. New features that were improved from previous models based on customer feedback were tested most extensively, especially the FlexFit™ articulating harness.
"We took a couple air cylinders and articulated each shoulder strap for 20,000 cycles, trying to wear out the straps. We articulated the upper pad for 20,000 cycles rotating it 30 degrees both ways trying to wear out the ball joint. We tested the carrying strap to see if it was thick enough by loading the vacuum with 25 pounds, twice the weight of the unit with 10 quarts of dirt in it, and picked it up 20,000 times," said Tomasiak. "We never had a failure."
Testing in temperatures ranging from 32 degrees to 105 degrees Fahrenheit assured that the backpacks will perform after being transported in winter or spending the night in a garage in Arizona. The cord was flexed 10,000 times in each plane. The motor will run for over 800 hours on one set of brushes. Each feature of the vacuums was tested thoroughly to be sure that the new backpacks live up to ProTeam's legendary durability.
"The process was to validate that the new design was as robust as the old design, and to make incremental improvements wherever possible," said Tomasiak. "The units exceeded what we considered to be a 10-year life, excluding motor life. We feel confident that this product will stand the test of time."
The Next Generation of backpack vacuums includes the Super Coach Pro™ 10, the Super Coach Pro™ 6, and the battery-powered GoFree® Pro. The movement is here. Visit www.proteamnextgen.com.