Eckhardt contacted Pasquale Ferrari, a technology transfer agent at Kennedy, and then signed an agreement to transfer the hardware modification. “It’s something that NASA made that nobody else was making,” says Ferrari. “Part of NASA’s mission is to move technology, and that is what we did.”
PT Coupling made additional changes to the NASAmodified fittings. These included removing a catch slot on the front of the adapter, developing different hardware sizes (2- and 3-inch sizes), and using new materials. “NASA’s fitting was aerospace grade and very expensive. We came up with materials that had the same properties but were more common,” says Eckhardt. By 2011, PT Coupling started offering a promising new product for the petroleum and chemical industries called PT Pressure Safe.
As a manufacturer and distributor of industrial fittings for liquid and dry material transfer applications, PT Coupling makes cam and groove couplings. Such fittings are made up of two parts: a male (adapter/plug) and female (coupler/socket) that work together. The male adapter and female coupler are easily connected to make contact with the gasket, and then two arms on the coupler are depressed simultaneously to produce a seal. To release the seal, the arms are lifted. A main benefit of the fittings is quick connection and disconnection without using hand tools or threaded connections.
“As quick release fittings, they are designed for when hoses are constantly changed. Threaded fittings take more time to tighten and loosen. With cam and groove, you simply actuate the two arms to connect or disconnect the fitting,” says Eckhardt.
While these cam and groove fittings are quick and easy to connect and disconnect, they can be dangerous if disconnected under pressure. The new PT Pressure Safe fittings, based on the NASA-modified coupling halves, solve this problem by capturing the energy and releasing it in a controlled and safe manner.
Available for most cam and groove styles, PT Pressure Safe automatically prevents rapid separation of the fittings in a fluid or dry material delivery system. Based on the NASA hardware modifications, PT Pressure Safe will not allow a user to close the arms on the coupler until the two pieces are locked and rotated 45 degrees. If released under pressure, the modification ensures the coupling halves will not disconnect. Once the pressure in the delivery system is sufficiently low, the adaptor can be rotated and be safely disengaged. According to Eckhardt, the simplicity of the design is what makes the fittings so unique and versatile.
“In the event that the hose connections are opened under pressure, the PT Pressure Safe will prevent the fittings from separating completely. The feature allows the operator to safely open the fittings under pressure by preventing rapid separation of the coupler and adapter, protecting the operator and surrounding equipment from personal injury and damage,” says Eckhardt. “Anyone concerned with safety with cam and groove fittings would want to use PT Pressure Safe.”
Potential customers for the PT Pressure Safe are the petroleum and chemical industries, and any industry that transports liquid under pressure. The company currently offers 2- and 3-inch sizes, but can develop and manufacture most sizes.
For such a small piece of hardware, the fittings have the potential to make a big difference. As Eckhardt says, “NASA allowed us to have the technology and offer a brand new product line to our customers, which could make industry much safer.”