The hand torque wrench could be history if a new programmable pneumatic version of the tool takes off in the petrochemical industry.
Called the DocuTite Torque Management System, the pneumatic wrench actually represents crossover technology based on a wrench long used in the auto industry. TSR Inc., a Baton Rouge tool company, recognized the wrench’s added potential more than a year ago. In November 2007, the company began redesigning the tool and adapting software to accommodate the larger bolts in flanges used in petrochem plants. The company is patenting the system.
“This isn’t a game-changer, but it’s a work-changer,” TSR partner Don Fritchie says. “It’s just the next generation of maintaining things through automation.”
Bolting flanges has been a longtime industry concern, particularly in complying with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules, Fritchie says. An overstressed bolt can break and allow a flange to open, and a loose bolt can invite leaks—both lending to unsafe conditions.
To set up the wrench, an operator finds the type of bolt in the software menu, enters the pressure rating and size of the gasket and goes to work. The wrench automatically stops and a green light comes on once it achieves the preset torque. A computer printout is immediately provided that shows the bolts were installed correctly, which Fritchie says is important documentation in case there’s an accident.
TSR has started marketing the system, which costs $10,000 to $12,000.
“It could be a big deal,” Fritchie says. “Simply because it’s faster, more safe and you have instantaneous documentation of every connection in that plant that wrench is used on.”