July 7, 2014
It's not often that a tool as simple as a hand-held circular saw wins an award for its design, but it happened when Exact Pipe Tools Inc. submitted three models to Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen, one of the oldest design institutes in Europe. The saw clamps to the pipe, so users are safer and cuts are straighter.
You’re in the middle of welding a boiler assembly, you’re running behind schedule, the sales manager has called three times today to see when it will ship, and the boss is breathing down your neck. You’re already a little hot under the collar when you notice that the tube you’re about to weld is shorter than the ones you’ve already welded to the unit. So is the next one. And the next. What the devil is going on here? You check the drawing and find out that it isn’t a complete disaster, but it’s close. The tubes you’ve already welded to the assembly are too long, so you don’t have to start over, but you’re going to have to do some cutting, and fast.
You run through the options one by one. Cutting them with a torch and grinding the ends will take far too long. Using an angle grinder with a cutting blade is a possibility, but the cuts won’t be square, so you’ll still have to grind the ends. You’re already running low on options.
What you really need is a circular saw that you could fasten to the tubes to make clean, square cuts. Believe it or not, Exact Pipe Tools Inc. developed such a tool.
It’s not a sophisticated or complex tool. If you can imagine a portable circular saw with a clamp that keeps the saw blade oriented perpendicular to the pipe, you can imagine Exact’s PipeCut concept. For stationary tube or pipe, you adjust the clamping unit to the OD, pull the trigger, cut about 270 degrees, and then stop. You don’t want the tube or pipe to pinch the blade, so you need to put a couple of spacers into the kerf. Then you complete the cut.
The saw comes with two sets of rollers for cutting free lengths of tube or pipe. You place the roller units on the floor, set the workpiece onto the rollers, set the saw against the workpiece, and adjust the clamp to match the OD. You squeeze the trigger and apply a little pressure to the saw. After the blade cuts through the wall’s ID, the pipe starts to rotate. After it rotates 360 degrees, you release the trigger and you’re done.
It’s that simple.
Each saw’s model number indicates the maximum OD in millimeters. The ODs and maximum wall thicknesses for steel are as follows:
The E suffix indicates electronic speed control. Models 170E and 220E are equipped with six-speed motors for a variety of cutting tasks; the 280E and 360E have two-speed motors, low speed for stainless steel and high speed for all other materials.
Suitable for essentially any tube or pipe application—water, gas, sewer, sprinkler system, ductwork, chemical processing—the saws weigh between 12 and 30 lbs., depending on the model. The saw and rollers come in a shoulder bag, making it an easily portable tool. The roller units eliminate the need for a vise, tripod, sawhorses, or any other pipeholding device.
Intended mainly for construction and repair work, the saw nevertheless is handy in a fabrication shop.“This will never replace a band saw,” said Sales Director Steve Marsland. “It complements the band saw. When a fabricator needs to cut five or six pieces of pipe but the band saw is busy, this is where our saw comes in.
“On a job site, whether it’s new work or repair work, you can’t take a band saw,” Marsland said. “It’s too cumbersome and heavy. An angle grinder, equipped with a cutting blade, is one option. However, in some countries it’s classified as a fire hazard because of the amount of sparks it generates. In some countries you need a fire officer standing by with a fire extinguisher while a worker does the cutting. Exact’s saw generates few sparks, if any.”
Speed is also an issue. Marsland, a former pipeworker, estimates that the saw can cut nine or 10 pipes in the time an angle grinder cuts one. Finally, the clamping unit guides the blade for a 90-degree cut.
Another option is an oxyacetylene torch. It’s an excellent tool for many cutting applications, but Marsland pointed out that a pipe cut by this process needs substantial cleanup to remove residual oxides before welding.
At 27⁄16 in. in diameter, the blade’s center hole is larger than the center hole on others.
“This provides a larger surface area for the nut to engage, which keeps the blade rigid,” said CEO Mike Stone.
Perhaps the best part is the clamping unit’s other function.
“In addition to keeping the blade perpendicular to the pipe, the clamp makes it a safer saw,” Stone said. “The clamp essentially eliminates the likelihood of losing control of the saw.”
It’s not often that something as humble as a pipe cutting tool gets the attention of an award committee, but indeed it happened in 2013 when Exact Pipe Tools submitted several saws to be evaluated by Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen, Essen, Germany. One of the oldest design institutes in Europe, Design Zentrum organized the first Red Dot design competition in 1955.
The Red Dot Award isn’t just for tools. Design Zentrum evaluates essentially any product, from the seemingly mundane (electrical cords) to flashy, high-profile items (luxury automobiles). In Exact’s case, the judging committee cited the tool’s design, color scheme—gray and black, with important components in yellow—and the saw’s safety as the reasons for the award.
Winning was no small feat. Because Design Zentrum judges such a wide variety of products, and because the contest is international, the competition is fierce. Exact Pipe Tools won three awards in a field that had more than 5,000 entries.
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