Custom Solutions to Complex Problems

There’s a member of the Polymer Solutions team that we like to say is a MacGyver. Josh Rancourt is the kind of guy who has jumped a car with binder clips and random loose wires. Yeah, he really is that intuitive, smart, and creative with his approach to practical problem solving. Josh also happens to be our equipment specialist and facilities manager. Titles are a funny thing, often they help guide someone outside the organization as to the day-to-day roles and duties of a person. With Josh, there just aren’t words to describe the role he has within our company.

Days for Josh aren’t ever “normal,” but are guaranteed to be full of problem solving. He is a critical part of troubleshooting our clients’ problems through testing and analysis, as his role is to design and build custom equipment to produce reliable data sets and answer the questions they are facing. To give you an idea of just how boundless his creativity is, we have examples of five client challenges he creatively solved with custom testing fixtures.

Sprinkler Pipes

We tested the coating on the inside of the pipe for compatibility with other pipe materials.  To do this, we created a custom roller apparatus to continuously rotate a number of pipe sections that contained a small amount of water. The water was subsequently tested to see what chemicals had migrated into the water from the coating, and if the chemicals were compatible with the other pipe material.

Motorcycle

It was alleged that contamination on some electrical contacts, combined with the vibration of the running motorcycle, led to the engine shutting down in a way which may have contributed to a crash and subsequent injury of the rider. We set up a vibratory shaker to simulate the motorcycle vibrations, heavily contaminated the electrical contacts with the alleged contaminate, and applied the specific voltage and current that would have been present on the running motorcycle.  A series of relays and timers were configured to indicate if even a brief interruption of continuity occurred across any of the electrical contacts, and the elapsed time up until that point.  The test was also recorded on video.

Truck Tires

We designed and fabricated a test rig, and developed a method, to safely pull the tread off of various sizes of commercial (huge) truck tires.  The fracture surfaces of the resultant pieces were examined to determine the failure mode, and to create an informed hypothesis as to the cause of the real-world tread separation.

Fall Protection Harnesses

We drop tested fall protection harnesses.  When the testing had concluded, we conveniently used the drop test rig to test the burst strength of a large inflatable alligator. (No real alligators were harmed during this testing). Not only does this show how we used a custom solution to better understand the in-use performance of a product—it shows our fun-loving spirit too.  The alligator was subsequently used for an internal root-cause failure analysis investigation.

Controlled Robotic Transport Vehicle Tire Explosion

We developed a method to safely demonstrate and document the conditions that would lead to the explosion of a large tire used on a robotic transport vehicle that had failed in a noteworthy way during pre-market testing conducted by the manufacturer. We confirmed their theory about the conditions that led to the failure event, and provided evidence that the tires could be used safely.

For Josh, it is the challenge of the “unknown” he finds most interesting. He explained, “It took creativity, teamwork, and often crossing over knowledge from ‘unrelated’ areas of study in order to successfully complete the tests.”

The value in these unique and custom tests is tremendous for our clients. Josh said, “Many of these tests saved companies a lot of money on frivolous lawsuits that had been brought against them.  We were basically fighting bad science.  Others helped to ensure the safety of their product.”

While MacGyver is known for using his unconventional problem-solving skills and scientific knowledge to fight “bad guys”, Josh is using it to fight for great science–and our clients analytical testing needs.

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