Earlier this year, New York-headquartered Sage Parts revealed its all-new PCA Adaptor, a design that is much less liable to damage, as well as more ergonomic and more user-friendly than traditional pre-conditioned air unit adaptors
Sage Parts is perhaps the world’s biggest supplier of spare parts for GSE, but as well as distributing a huge range of standard spares it also maintains its own engineering group dedicated to designing wholly new GSE components that represent a significant improvement on their predecessors.
These products are sold under Sage Parts’ Ramptech brand and its new PCA Adaptor represents a significant addition to this range. Michael Bloomfield, executive vice president at Sage Parts, explains that the company’s own engineering group dates back some 15 years, and is dedicated to developing “very innovative products” that offer GSE operators major benefits in such areas as user-friendliness and equipment longevity.
A typical starting point, he says, is the identification of equipment that has failings that cause problems for users. From this starting point, Bloomfield recalls, “We have redesigned and developed a tremendous number of new products and components.”
In regards to ramp operators’ concerns with existing PCA adaptors, the biggest drawback with traditional components has been the propensity of the ducting attached to an adaptor to be damaged when the unit is dragged along the ground (when the assembly is dragged from its storage location to an aircraft, and vice versa), or otherwise comes into contact with other objects. Such damage can lead to air leaks as well as the need to replace the equipment.
The assembly is also on occasion dropped from its connection point onto the ground, also causing damage. The handles on the assembly have been particularly prone to damage caused by such problems.
So, says Bloomfield, Sage Parts’ engineers looked for ways to mitigate these problems while keeping the whole assembly light and easy to use. The new Sage Parts PCA Adaptor has 360-degree wear-guards and a circular handle designed to surround and protect PCA ducting and the adaptor itself.
It also comes with a 360-degree swivel designed to ensure proper ducting alignment, making the adaptor easier to connect to and remove from aircraft of various sizes. Elsewhere, a guard lip provides full-seal gasket protection and prevents air leakage. Tool-free changing of the gasket is also possible.
Sage Parts says that the unit is lightweight, usable with all aircraft types and with all locking configurations, as well as being ‘maintenance-free’.
The development of the PCA Adaptor took some 18 months “from conception to completion”, says Bloomfield.
In a process of redesign and redevelopment that made good use of the latest 3D printing techniques, early variants of the new adaptor were put through their paces – including drag tests over miles of ground and large numbers of drop tests from quite significant heights – and the adaptor was consistently then redesigned in the light of what had been learned in order to optimise its performance.
A wide range of plastics and other materials were also trialled in various compositions to develop the best possible materials design. The PCA Adaptor was tested with all sorts of aircraft on a live ramp, with not only Sage Parts engineers’ involvement but also – once the design had been pretty much finalised – by Sage Parts’ customer partners.
“Testing was an exhaustive process,” says Bloomfield, but necessary to develop the best possible product. The new design has been patented and he is proud that Sage Parts could take what was a very mature product and improve it in such a way that it became worthy of its own patent.
The success of the development process is reflected in the orders being taken for the new design today, Bloomfield confirms.
Part of a wider portfolio
The new PCA Adaptor has taken its place as part of Sage Parts’ wider Ramptech portfolio of GSE components.
In other areas of GSE parts design, the Ramptech range includes a variety of products such as air-start couplings, lavatory and water couplings, belt loader safety rails, various components such as drivetrain parts, and GSE-specific tyres marketed under the names Solidgold and Rampmatic.
All Ramptech products are conceived, engineered, produced and marketed by Sage Parts specifically for the GSE industry. Most are designed for the following reasons:
Where there is demand for a new product solution to overcome product performance and longevity deficiencies
To achieve cost savings and customer operational efficiencies through enhanced product design, quality and/or functionality
To achieve cost savings, either hard cost and/or total cost of ownership through better design or more efficient production
To give new life to obsolete products that are no longer available in the general marketplace, but still used for GSE
To solve supply chain issues where a product is subjected to prolonged long lead times, unpredictable supply or at unreasonably high delivery costs