For members of an industry that continues to be slowed by a worldwide recession, those attending the 2009 NECA Show in Seattle were in a surprisingly upbeat mood.
Show floor traffic was strong throughout the three days of exhibits, and in the opinion of National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) convention veterans, exhibiting companies offered more special promotions and demonstrations than in recent years. There also appeared to be a greater number of exhibitors conducting sit-down educational sessions about industry developments and the benefits of their products and services.
The latest Showstopper awards reflect these subtle and not-so-subtle changes. Most are innovative products, but one winner did not display any actual product at all. Another maintained constant booth activity with a promotion, offering prizes for visiting stations in the exhibit and offering special product pricing to encourage orders.
Listed alphabetically, here are the 2009 Showstoppers.
1 AEE Solar > New SnapNrack PV mounting system greatly reduces time to install photovoltaic panels. Snap-in channel nuts can be installed along the entire rail section and the run module leads through SnapNrack rail channels for improved aesthetics and wire management. Sliding module clips install quickly with precise alignment, and one wrench fits every bolt in the system. SnapNrack is compatible with modules from most manufacturers.
2 AFC Cable Systems > New MC-Quik wrap-free metal-clad (MC) cables represent the latest evolution of armored cable, which has eliminated time-consuming overall assembly tapes. With MC-Quik, strip the extruded protective covering and THHN insulation off the conductors and terminate. Grounding is easy with oversized aluminum ground/bonding wire in conjunction with interlocking cable armor. Purple armor identifies MC-Quik with corresponding color bands providing phase/circuit identification.
3 Alcan > A new prewired, color-coded five-pin connection system has been added to the Modex line of prefabricated branch-wiring systems. According to Alcan, the simplified installation of the system can reduce costs as much as 68 percent over conventional wiring methods and more than 28 percent over other prewiring products. Modex systems include prewired, pigtailed and hard-wired systems that are custom designed to meet customer branch-circuit wiring specifications.
4 Associated Electric Products > The Drill Bandit easily attaches to conventional pistol-design power drills with a 1-in. nylon strap that goes around the tool and the object to be drilled. The Drill Bandit is tightened with a ratchet to provide pressure on the tool and hold it securely in place. Users find the device reduces operator strain, increases accuracy of the work, and lessens the chance of breaking bits when drilling heavy metal.
5 Extech > The BR200 video borescope/wireless inspection camera is mounted on a 39-in. flexible gooseneck with 17-mm-diameter waterproof camera to view hard-to-access areas. Two built-in lights illuminate dark spaces. A detachable, wireless 3.5-in. color LCD display can be viewed at distances as far as 32 feet from the camera. A memory card captures jpeg images or video for viewing on the monitor or transfering to a computer with a USB cable or microSD card.
6 Fluke > The Fluke 233 is the industry’s first digital multimeter with a detachable wireless display, permitting the instrument to be connected in the best position to take measurements and to take off the display for viewing in locations as far as 33 feet from the point of measurement. The instrument will measure up to 1,000V AC and DC and 10A and is rated for use in Category IV 600V and Category III 1,000V working environments.
7 Gardner Bender > The newest addition to the Gardner Bender line of cable pullers is the heavy-duty Ultra Brutus, a 10,000-lb. puller that one person can set up in two minutes. An assisted boom lift makes light work of raising the boom. Angle adjustments can be made with one hand, and directional changes can be made by removing one pin. A nonreversing planetary gear motor provides consistent pulling power to 10,000 lbs. Five on-board conduit adapters are available when needed and can be installed in seconds.
8 Greenlee Textron > The new CS-8000 Circuit Seeker circuit tracer uses patented nondirectional sensing technology that makes it unnecessary to continually reorient the receiver while tracing a conductor on a nonlinear path. Using output from the variable signal display feature on the receiver identifies circuits quickly and reliably. The ability to switch to manual gain provides greater sensitivity control when a traced signal varies along a conductor’s path.
9 Harger Lightning & Grounding > An effective in-booth demonstration showed the UltraShot connection process for making exothermic connections of stranded wire, solid wire, ground rods, rebar, pipe, flat steel, busbar and other materials. UltraShot is fired by an electronic ignition system with long-lasting, rechargeable battery controller. In the connection process, the copper container is consumed with the weld metal. A 6-ft. cord allows the user to maintain a safe distance from the reaction.
10 Isotec > SIMTRA cables from Isotec are the first power cables that can be placed in a single duct with low-voltage audio, video and network cables. SIMTRA cables’ patented, ferrite-barrier technology surrounds the conductors to virtually eliminate electrical transients and interference. Single-element UL listed NM-B series is available in 6 AWG to 14 AWG versions with three, four or five conductors. Standard terminations require no new tools or special training.
11 Klein Tools > The new Stand-Out power-return rule is designed for one-person measuring. The oversized 1.06-in. blade provides 9-ft. standout and has a magnetic, dual-end hook. Oversized black numbers are printed on the two color blade for easy reading and includes 16- and 19-in. red stud markings. Numbers appear on a vertically printed scale on back of the rule. Stand-Out rules are available in three models with 16- and 25-ft. blade lengths.
12 LED Illumination Direct > Displays of bright LED lighting made the LED Illumination exhibit stand out on the NECA show floor. The range of Seesmart LED lighting products displayed included parabolic aluminized reflector (PAR) lamps, high and low bays, tube lights, grid light fixtures, spot and flood lamps and more. Promoted advantages of LED lighting include long lamp life, energy efficiency, durability, low heat, no UV emission, free of mercury, and the lack of ballast requirements.
13 L.H. Dottie > Demonstrations of new hydraulic punch kits drew visitors to the L.H. Dottie exhibit. Kits include tools with a fully articulating, 360-degree head, set of dies, two tip bits and case. Only one tool is needed for all dies to 6 in. Die tool design minimizes pressure required. Dies are rated for 10 gauge stainless steel, and die cups have laser-etched markings for precise location. Three-point die design prevents slugs from binding. The pump has cushioned handles and articulated head with laser-etched markings.
14 Megger > Rugged construction with accuracy and ease of use describes the new heavy-duty DLRO10HD low-resistance ohmmeter. The instrument has a built-in rechargeable battery but also can operate from main supply even when the battery is completely discharged. There is a high/low output switch selection for condition diagnosis; a rotary switch selects one of five test modes, including auto start on connection. A large, clear LCD display with backlight provides easy viewing.
15 Milwaukee Electric Tool > New Milwaukee Tool test and measurement tools attracted attention of attendees who wanted to see products that depart from the company’s traditional line of power tools. Some are powered by disposable alkaline batteries, including a voltage detector with work light, fork meters, laser temperature gun, digital multimeter, and clamp meters. Added to the M12 cordless lithium-ion line are a scanning tool, laser temperature gun, and clamp-gun clamp meters.
16 Molex > The new high-output Woodhead from Molex wide-area portable floodlight is designed to operate safely in hazardous environments. Twin 300W halogen lamps are down-rated from conventional 500W lamps to eliminate predominant burn and fire hazards of standard quartz halogen models. A highly reflective parabolic housing shape enhances light output and increases surface areas for heat transfer to keep the fixture relatively cool. A dual-head assembly and collapsible tripod store in nylon cases.
17 Platt Electric > Throughout the NECA Show, the Platt exhibit was buzzing with activity, with crowds drawn by promotions and special pricing of popular tool brands and models. Each visitor received a Platt Price Card. By visiting each of five stations—tools, datacom, utility, solar and Platt.com—visitors left with a prize. Platt is a Western distributor with 99 locations in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Utah.
18 Ready Solar > The Solar in a Box concept is designed to facilitate entry in the solar business for electricians with pre-engineered, preassembled components that are not site-specific. Solar in a Box systems include preinstalled and grounded microinverters. The system is designed for those new to the market but also for experienced installers, because it eliminates equipment selection and engineering. There is no string sizing, measuring and cutting aluminum rails, grounding of modules, installation of inverters and DC disconnects, or piece parts assembly.
19 Rhino/Dymo > The Rhino 5200 is the latest professional labeling tool from Dymo and features hot keys to automatically size, space and format labels. It has a preprogrammed symbol library, can save more than 100 customized labels for on-demand printing, on-screen alerts to help prevent mistakes, and automatic shutoff to prolong battery life. The tool has a large, backlighted display, slip-resistant rubber bumper to protect from damage, and prints Rhino industrial labels from to inches wide and Code 39 and 128 bar codes.
20 Schneider Electric > Where’s the product? Departing from an exhibit filled with products, Schneider Electric instead left distribution equipment and building controls and automation equipment at home and guided exhibit visitors on a virtual tour of stations that provided interactive presentations of four key brands: Square D, APC, Juno Lighting Group and Xantrex. The presentations combined to show how the four brands work together to serve varied markets including commercial and residential construction, data centers and healthcare.
21 Singletouch > Singletouch technology provides a powerful, comprehensive, easy-to-use suite of tools designed for large electrical contractors, which allow all time, materials and equipment data to be captured one time in the field when they occur and then automatically exported to standard accounting packages. Its components are Singletouch Office, a Windows platform; Singletouch Job Site, a Web portal with a Citrix-based user interface; and Singletouch Mobile, a handheld data-capturing solution.
22 SolarWorld California > SolarWorld’s Sunkits are customized photovoltaic (PV) system kits designed to assist electrical contractors and other suppliers to offer reliable, cost-effective solar PV systems to residential and small commercial customers. The Sunkits mounting kit consists of high-quality modules, an inverter that has been specifically chosen for the selected module type, and mounting components of durable stainless steel. Each Sunkit is individually assembled to meet the customer’s specific requirements.
23 Tankless > Easy-to-install Tankless electric hot water systems provide plentiful supplies of instant hot water for commercial establishments, residences, pools and spas, and radiant floor heating components. Commercial and industrial facilities use tankless systems to supply an abundance of hot water instantly while eliminating costs of standby hot water. Tankless Inc. has been in business 25 years, and its tankless water heating products are made in the United States.
24 Trimble/QuickPen > Demonstrations of the Trimble MEP layout showed how it simplifies and speeds the layout in the field of conduit and duct, pipe, cable tray hangers, and floor and wall outlet locations. Using the system, one worker can accurately layout hundreds of points in a work day. Software with specific trade terms is used in conjunction with the Trimble SPS610 Robotic Total Station. As-built point data is collected as points are laid out for importing into CAD/MEP software.
25 Wesco > Electrical distributors usually emphasize the wide range of products and services they offer, but Wesco took the opposite approach in Seattle, focusing on the solar industry with an exhibit designed primarily to educate electrical contractors about the rewards, risks and opportunities in this rapidly growing market. While Wesco carries a complete line of solar products for commercial, industrial and residential systems, presentations during the show were not brand-oriented.