PORTSMOUTH, Va (NNS) -- Code 133 Mechanical Inspectors teamed up with the Rapid Prototype Center (RPC) to develop a new extending handle for use in their psychrometer readings aboard submarines.
The psychrometer is a device that determines atmospheric humidity. It is used regularly throughout the project's stay to ensure accurate humidity readings onboard while in the submarine's drying stage. The inspectors take the device throughout the vessel to gauge the readings and ensure it remains at the desired humidity in the steam plant system to minimize corrosion.
"When working on the projects, there are spaces that are difficult to manage when trying to gauge accurate readings," said Jesse Sandlin, a Code 133 mechanical pipe inspector on the USS La Jolla (SSN 701) Project. "Workers would overexert themselves by bending or reaching into those areas. It wasn't the best way to handle the situation ergonomically."
The inspectors began taking a folding tape measurer and taping the joints together before attaching the psychrometer to access those hard-to-reach areas. However, the weight of the device and the structure of the tape measurer was proving difficult to manage. Seeing a need, they reached out to the RPC for help.
"When I was going over a possible design, I was thinking about flexible material that could hold the weight of the device," said Kenny Kinstler, a sheet metal mechanic in the RPC. "We got some LockLine material that is used for coolant and to hold shields onthe grinding tools in the shop, worked out the design, and got an extension rod that could be adjusted for transport and longer reach."
In addition, the RPC teamed up with Tool Designer Tim Edmondson, who 3-D printed a holder for the psychrometer to ensure it secures properly to the new handle. "With additive manufacturing, we are able to draft up the design we need and print it for a quick turnaround. We had the holder printed in less than a day," said Edmondson.
The inspector team has already seen significant results with this new innovation.
"Without the extending handle, the job would take more than two hours to complete and there was a chance of inaccurate readings due to the difficulty of gathering readings in certain areas of the submarine," said Jonathan Wilson, Code 133 mechanical inspector for the USS San Francisco (SSN 711) project. "The new device helps bring those readings down to 45 minutes."
The new handle totals about 3.5 man-hours saved bi-weekly for the inspectors over the course of the submarine's availability.
"The new device also keeps the psychrometer secure and ensure it isn't damaged when being brought into those tight spaces," said Todd Thomas, a Code 133 mechanical inspector for the La Jolla Project. "Those enclosed spaces can be difficult to maneuver and this aids us in protecting ourselves and the devices. It is awesome and I'm thankful for the help of the RPC. They are able to take people's ideas and bring them to life. They see the need of their customers and take action to find a solution. The shipyard should definitely take advantage of their amazing service."
"My goal in the RPC is to ensure the customer is satisfied so seeing them so happy really makes this job the best," said Kinstler. "I want to help make their job safer so finding ways to innovate and improve their work life is a rewarding job in and of itself. Just knowing that I'm helping to make a difference means the world to me."
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