Quality at the Connection Point

FasTest

FasTest Inc. manufactures a wide range of quick-test connectors and valves that enable equipment manufacturers to verify the quality of their products by testing for leaks. The company’s custom solutions and catalogue of patented innovative products are capable of creating an instant, reliably-sealed, leak-free connection to nearly any type of fitting or port.

Prior to establishing FasTest, company founder Mike Lyon was developing expertise in designing and manufacturing specialty connectors. In particular, he designed a specialized quick-disconnect coupling for air and fluid transfer applications. When a piece of equipment was meant to move fluid or air through the tubing, a connector on the end of the tube would be threaded into a port on the machine. This type of connection was generally reliable, but came with some drawbacks since threading and unthreading the connector takes time and causes wear.

Lyon developed a novel solution to this problem using a ball and socket system to replace the threaded connector. This innovative connector came in two parts. The ball end is threaded into the tube, and the socket is threaded into the port on the equipment. They can then be easily snapped together or apart in very little time and with little wear on the connection. Both ends of the connector would automatically seal to prevent through-flow when disconnected from each other, enabling the safe hot-swapping of components.

Lyon recognized the need for reliable connectors and seized the opportunity. In 1987, FasTest was formed as a result of that idea.

Today, the company makes a broad assortment of connectors that can form reliable connections to just about anything that can be tested. Two areas in which the company is currently developing connectors are for testing engines and testing the coolant systems used in electric vehicles.

One of the major advantages of working with FasTest is that the company works closely with customers to design a complete custom solution to seal every possible port on a piece of equipment. For example, after an engine has been assembled, the manufacturer will seal every opening and push air through it to test for leaks. One of the most common warranty issues that engine manufacturers face is related to leaky gaskets, which can be an enormous expense. Leak testing is a very important part of a good quality control program.

“We come in providing a suite of all the connectors needed to seal up that engine. The advantage for them is that they’re working with one company that’s taking responsibility for the reliability and effectiveness of sealing those connection points.” says Thomas Braun, Vice President of Product & Business Development.

FasTest will take the engine, measure the connection points and engineer reliable custom fittings for each one. An engine might have fifteen or more connection points that need to be sealed.

The company can provide a full solution not only because of its comprehensive catalogue of connectors but also because it can custom-engineer fittings to a customer’s exact specifications. This rare quality has enabled it to stand apart. Traditionally, companies had to gather connectors from multiple sources or manufacture them in-house. They would often end up with a mix of technologies and suppliers which would increase costs, create supply chain issues, and reduce the overall reliability of the testing being performed. FasTest eliminates this and is a single source for replacing those parts in the future.

“We can’t fix their engine if it has a problem with a leak, but they can at least be sure that the connector is not the source of the leak that they’re measuring,” says Braun. Customers value FasTest’s commitment to quality.

The company also has distribution points throughout the United States and the world, so customers have local access to experts who can answer questions, offer guidance, and supply spare parts and maintenance services.

Connectors for engine testing are a priority of the company, but another new area is in developing connectors for electric vehicles. Electric vehicles contain battery packs that have critical cooling requirements. Much like a combustion engine, the cooling systems have radiators and coolant lines with connection points that need to be tested. Liquid coolant leaking into an electric engine would almost definitely result in complete failure, so leak testing of the coolant circuit is critical. FasTest is designing connectors for these uses as well.

Last year, FasTest opened a new sales, service, and manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China. Through this second manufacturing plant, the company supplies its Chinese customers more quickly and cost-effectively. The factory is already operational, and it is currently in the process of qualifying all the products that will be manufactured there. While the Shenzhen plant will concentrate primarily on products that are most popular in the Chinese market, both factories will have the same capabilities, and the quality and performance will be identical.

The new facility will enable the company to reduce lead times for Chinese customers. FasTest has worked very hard to achieve low lead times elsewhere, and bringing that edge to China is a vital component of its strategy.

“We’ve focused a lot on lead time reduction, so we’re now typically able to deliver in a matter of days or weeks. Oftentimes, weeks faster than our competition, especially with customized solutions. That’s an advantage of the Chinese factory for Chinese customers. The part won’t have to spend the time in transit,” says Braun.

FasTest is a product development company at its core, and creating novel ideas and custom solutions to difficult problems has brought the company a great deal of success. As technology evolves, the company aims to integrate state-of-the-art ideas into its designs and has been making great strides in integrating smart technology.

A smart connector is a type of connection component that is able to verify whether or not a reliable connection exists and communicate that information to a receiver. The connector itself recognizes the state of the connection and makes that information available so a whole system of connectors can be monitored without having to physically test them.

Later this year, FasTest will be launching an upgraded version of this connector that contains a worn-seal detection system to detect when a seal is beginning to wear out and proactively alert the operator so they can replace it. Going forward, FasTest intends to add this smart technology to additional connectors.

In 2019, the company released a new product designed for burner-testing gas-fired appliances called GasMate™. Any equipment that burns propane or natural gas such as furnaces, barbecue grills, and boilers, needs to be tested before being sent out to ensure that the burner works properly. The GasMate™ connector is made of spark-resistant material with internal shut-off valves that can be used to safely run those tests.

The EZ Series – ZGN™ is another newly patented connector being launched this year. This is a unique component designed to connect to internal, or female, threads. ZGN™ is the first of its kind to allow connection to a variety of thread sizes. This is a particularly useful feature for automated testing.

In assembly-line-style testing operations that use a robotic arm or a pneumatic cylinder to seal a port, it can be very difficult to form a reliable seal. Robotic arms and pneumatic cylinders are extremely rigid and often fail to align the threads perfectly, forming a misconnection. With the special design of the ZGN™ connector, a floating external sleeve solves that problem.

After more than thirty years, FasTest has found that the key to success in business is building partnerships. “The partnership approach has served us well. We truly want to work with these larger companies in a partnering way so that they see us as a strategic supplier. So they can tell us what they need and we can react to that. That’s a philosophy that works well for all parties,” says Braun.

FasTest has developed a broad portfolio of novel solutions and components for virtually every type of equipment and promises quality at the connection point.

From Here to There

Throughout history, humans have been limited by simple logistics – how to get from here to there? For thousands of years, venturing out of one’s village required braving wild and rugged terrain. Travel was inherently dangerous. Roads were rough and rudimentary, if there were any at all.

September 30, 2020, 2:14 AM EDT