Archive for January 24, 2018

Introducing the Versaflo TR-300+

A week ago, I was introduced to the 3M Versaflo TR-800 PAPR, a remarkable piece of engineering that brings high-end respiratory protection into the electrical field. Its intrinsically safe construction of the filter and housing made it possible to use in heated environments without risking combustion. This is a big innovation, and will hopefully make electricians’ lives and jobs easier and safer all over the world. All that is great. There is still a drawback, however: a PAPR’s effectiveness is directly affected by the air density around it, which is determined by elevation and temperature. Denser air has more particulate that can overload the filter, possibly breaking the unit. Certain regulatory measures are built in to keep the airflow at a level tolerable to the machinery, but even these mechanisms aren’t enough to keep the unit in working order at higher elevations. As a result, such products are useless in some of the areas that need them most.


Enter the TR-300+ series. Another PAPR, you may ask? What could possibly be different or special about this one? It features what 3M refers to as “upgraded altitude compensation,” allowing the unit to be used at heights of 14,000 feet or less. This is a significant leap forward that will expand the market dramatically, and bring vital respiratory protection to the masses.


The information I have access to about the TR-300+ is limited to the sparse promotional literature I’ve been given, as it doesn’t seem to have an online presence quite yet (the plus sign in the product name doesn’t help). It does exist though, and the possibilities it opens up for the workforce are exciting. Workers at extreme elevations will be able to properly protect themselves whenever conditions require. While there’s nothing in the literature that indicates it’s an intrinsically safe product like the 800, its existence is a welcome step towards that kind of comprehensive protection (which may or may not be necessary depending on conditions in the labor world, reliable data on which I don’t know how to find.


Like the TR-800, which was engineered to be compatible with TR-600 replacement parts, the TR-300+ is easily serviced by the entire line of TR-300 components (with the notable exception of the TR-371 filter cover). This includes breathing tubes, filters, batteries, belts, face shields, and more. Maintaining the unit is simple and straightforward. Combine that with the user-friendly interface that automatically informs you of the battery, airflow, and filter’s respective operational status, an ease of use is present here that we don’t always associate with products like this.


Also in line with other Versaflo products, the TR-300+ comes in three packaged kits tailored to specific applications. As of this writing, we only have the Heavy Industry Kit (linked above) on our website, but the others are sure to be listed upon full rollout. These include the Easy Clean Kit, which emphasizes simplified maintenance, the Heavy Industry Kit for hardcore industrial environments, and the Healthcare Kit (in small and large) for pharmaceutical and medical applications.


The TR-300+ is a welcome addition to the Versaflo line and will help a lot of people. Consider it if you’re in the market.

Spotlight on the CH-5 High Attenuation Headset

Today we’re looking at another brand new product from 3M, who remain steadfast in their mission to push innovation forward in the labor world. Today’s product is the PELTOR CH-5 High Attentuation Headset.


The immediate question, of course, is “What the heck is attenuation? All these Google results are about yeast.” Well, let’s start with yeast. Within a baking context, “attenuation is the percentage of sugars yeast consume during fermentation.” Something similar is happening here,  in seconds rather than hours. When sound hits the hearing protection, a certain percentage of it goes through while the rest (hopefully) is muffled. The degree to which this happens is also called attenuation, and is expressed with a noise reduction rating (NRR) assigned to each product.


A product with an NRR of 20 is lab-rated to absorb 20 decibels of sound. Keep in mind that that’s under absolute optimum conditions in a controlled environment; extenuating factors in the workplace will inevitably make the rating decrease. That being said, it’s still a good metric to use when deciding what protection to buy. I’ve seen a variety of formulas used to determine how much actual protection you’re getting, but they seem too harsh in the calculation, and the fact that there are differences of opinion in the first place makes me take it all with a grain of salt, as should you. Suffice to say that, under ideal real-world conditions, you should be able to get about 70-75% of the attenuation indicated by a product’s NRR.


Which brings us to the CH-5. What makes it special? Well, its NRR is 31 which is almost unheard of in this industry. Even in the field with its inevitable lowering effect, that’s an impressive performance. 3M knows this, and has designed this product with the noisiest environments in mind, from airstrips to battlefields. Anywhere with big machinery, heavy-duty processes, and the attendant deafening noise is just the environment where these babies should be deployed. The deep cups leave plenty of room for the ears, while the headband is designed to exert minimal pressure and discomfort, making it easy to wear for hours.


And if that wasn’t enough, they also feature a watertight noise-cancelling boom mic. Its presence would seem to imply that this is an active protection product, which I initially assumed. However, I don’t see any language in the promo that describes level-dependent technology like what we’ve discussed before, so it’s not clear what exactly the mic is doing. Is it just for picking up your voice and piping it into a radio, or does it allow human speech through like the level-dependent products we’ve seen before? All 3M’s site says is that it “enables critical communication,” only mentioning “external radio communication sources.” Based on that, I figure it definitely doesn’t have a level-dependent element. Keep that in mind when you shop.


The CH-5 promises to be a fantastic addition to the PELTOR family of products, and a simple choice for employers trying to build a comprehensive hearing protection program for noisy environments, without breaking the bank.

Spotlight on the TR-800 PAPR

Once again we’re looking at a special new product from 3M, a further refinement of their flagship respiratory protection technology. The Versaflo TR-800 (available in Painter’s, Easy-Clean, and Heavy Industry kits) is an exciting leap forward for 3M’s PAPR line, featuring a number of features that make it stand out in the marketplace. Let’s take a look.


At first glance, the TR-800 may look like any other high-end PAPR. It’s got the compact design that stays close to the body and out of the way, tube connecting to a face shield or hood, etc. What’s the difference between it and the others? The TR-800 is, uniquely, “intrinsically safe.” Intrinsic safety is an engineering technique that designs products and technology to operate with minimal electric activity. This involves simplifying the circuits, setting up the energy flow to minimize heat, and eliminating space where dust can gather. An intrinsically safe device will not explode or ignite, and is therefore clear to use in highly conductive environments.


The promo brochure for the TR-800 highlights the “innovative materials” used in its construction, specifically the plastic exterior that houses the filter, battery, and motor. 3M claims this material, whatever exactly it is, can meet a “new material properties requirement” in the UL Standards Catalog while also passing intrinsic safety protocols. This indicates that 3M keeps track of the shifting legal landscape, and their creators are working to make products that perform optimally within it.


3M has given the TR-800 yellow highlights around the edges, making it stand out visually as well. This is intended to indicate its uniqueness among their PAPRs as an intrinsically safe product. It’s a brilliant touch, as it prevents the unit from getting mixed up with other more standard units in storage. Also of note is the mechanically secured battery, which is held in place by a pin rather than a programmed lock that may fail. They say they have included this measure as part of the same UL standard mentioned before, so it may be helpful to turn to that text at this point.


Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) set many of the industrial world’s early standards for safety, and has continued to fill that role ever since. Section 60079 of their standards catalog is dominated by one phrase: “explosive atmospheres.” These texts serve as guidelines for manufacturers to make sure their products are safe to use in potentially dangerous areas and situations. The content of the standards themselves is highly technical, and I’m obviously not the target audience. 3M, for their part, boasts of the TR-800 being the first to be UL-certified as intrinsically safe, which is quite an impressive endorsement. Intrinsic safety standards are set out in part 25 of standard 60079.


As for accessories, the TR-800 is compatible with TR-600 components and replacement parts, so there’s no need to seek out a whole new line of 800 parts, as such a line probably will never exist. Any part that fits the TR-600, from filters to tubes to belts, will also go with the TR-800. We’re proud to welcome this exciting new addition to our inventory, and highly recommend the TR-800 to any worker who requires intrinsically safe technology to do their job.

Spotlight on the PELTOR Wireless Communication Accessory

Today we’re looking at an interesting new accessory as part of our PELTOR spotlight series. 3M has unveiled a wireless earmuff Bluetooth accessory to make your workday that much easier. Compatible with the X Series of PELTOR earmuffs, the cushion accessory is like any other replacement ear cushion. What is has extra, however, is a microphone and speaker that allows you to maintain communication with your team. This is a revolutionary product that can restructure workflow by allowing for easier movement of information.


Think of it as a stripped-down version of the elaborate communications sets we’ve shown here before, minus the voice-guided menus, densely structured frequency selection, and all those other bells and whistles. All that’s here is a simple mic and speaker that connects through Bluetooth with your external device, whether it’s a phone or a walkie-talkie or whatever else. This enables full conversations without interfering with your hearing protection. It’s all too common to see a worker in a loud area lift their ear cup to hear what their colleague or supervisor is saying, thereby exposing themselves to potentially dangerous noise. That’s unacceptable, yet many feel like there’s not much to be done about the noise problem, even with the sophisticated products that PELTOR offers.


The downside of PELTOR’s tech-heavy communication headsets is obvious: they’re expensive! The average construction manager can’t afford a $200+ headset for every single worker. The cushion accessory provides an imperfect solution to this problem by serving as a means of direct connection between team members that doesn’t have to break the bank. Important updates can be distributed in seconds across the work area, so no one’s out of the loop.


The accessory is designed to be easily wearable for hours at a time, integrated as it is into the supportive cushion itself. It’s resistant to harsh conditions in the environment, be they from sweat, rain, or whatever else the day throws at it. As for the noise, whether it’s from a jackhammer, a crane, grinding metal, or a roaring engine, you’ll be safely ensconced in a protective layer of comfort that lets you hear what you want to hear.


Workers shouldn’t have to expose their ears to hazardous noise to get the information they need to do their job, and hearing protection shouldn’t also isolate you from your work community. With this wireless accessory, these apparently irreconcilable situations have an elegant and permanent solution.


Keep in mind that this product is sold separately from the actual headset itself, and hygiene kits (also sold separately) are available to help keep it in top working condition.