Engines/Power Sourcing Category Winner
Power Shifter Rapid-Change Engine Mounting System
This invention establishes a new approach to powering machines. The Power Shifter rapid-change engine mounting system from Nascent Design Inc. adapts a single engine for swapping between multiple machines. Requiring no tools and taking less than 30 seconds, failed engines can be immediately replaced yielding maximum reliability. Engines can be swapped between seasonal machines, even stored separately. Owning fewer engines reduces cost and maintenance. The Power Shifter service stand provides free access to the entire engine at workbench height using the same rapid mounting system. Power Shifter can be used with any brand engine, and retrofit on certain existing machines—direct, belt or chain drive. Power Shifter is available for 3- to10-hp horizontal shaft equipment including mixers, trowels, blowers, log splitters, generators, snow throwers, dethatchers, aerators, chippers, sprayers, washers, compressors, pumps, edgers and tillers. Nascent Design Inc. will license this technology to machine manufacturers beginning October 1, 2007.
RER: Explain what makes the Power Shifter rapid-change engine-mounting system innovative?
Mark Behrens, President, Nascent Design: The Power Shifter rapid-change engine-mounting system establishes a new paradigm for outdoor power equipment much like the fax machine did for rapid communication. And I’m like the guy with the first fax machine, saying, “Hey, you need a fax machine because it’s going to change the way you communicate.” And you say, “What am I going to do with a fax machine, I use a courier?” But, now that you have one, you can’t live without it. I think the Power Shifter will transform the outdoor power equipment industry like the fax machine, and now e-mail, transformed office communications.
The Power Shifter has a similarly profound effect on our ideas for powering machines. Before the advent of Power Shifter, each machine came with its own engine bolted to the machine frame or chassis, pretty much for the life of the machine or the life of the engine. Now the user or owner can choose to buy one engine for multiple machines and lower initial cost, operating expense and downtime.
There is no compromise in overall machine function with the Power Shifter since the entire machine frame, handle and control system remain intact and unique to the machine’s dedicated, purpose-built design. And if a machine happens to have no handle, as in the case of a log-splitter or generator, it won’t inherit one with the Power Shifter system. Only the engine is swapped, much the way we are now accustomed to swapping a battery pack between our electrical carpentry tools such as drill, saw, lamp, etc. The battery pack in this example serves as a good analogy to the engine in the Power Shifter rapid-change engine-mounting system. In the early days of cordless electrical power tools, the battery was also mounted to the machine without the ability to swap it out.
The competitive advantage afforded the manufacturer of rental machinery who chooses to implement the Power Shifter rapid-change engine-mounting system is very compelling. The system can be implemented on a machine at a fraction of the cost of an engine — a cost savings that can be passed on to the customer, if desired — to entice additional sales of their line of machines. Three machines for the price of two, for example, may be a feasible scenario if only one engine is part of this equation. The Power Shifter can bolt directly to the chassis of many machines with very few changes; for others a simple retrofit platform can be added to existing designs. This is a system that is installed at the OEM level onto machines for the rental industry; unfortunately we cannot support retrofit by the end user.
RER: What are the benefits to the Power Shifter? How does the system make jobs more effective and efficient for rental professionals and their contractor customers?
Behrens: The most expensive component of most any machine is the engine. Since engines can be rapidly swapped using the Power Shifter system, fewer engines than machines are going to be required. For example, if you have a rental fleet with fifty mid-power, horizontal shaft engines — you may only have half of those out in the field at any one time, which means that you own and maintain more engines than you actually need. Buying Power Shifter machines can mean lower capital cost when OEM’s pass on some of their savings to their customers in the form of Power Shifter compatible machines without engines!
In the Power Shifter paradigm engines are rapidly swapped in or out according to need. An example of this might be seasonal demand—to move engines off leaf blowers onto snow throwers for Winter, and when Spring comes on to pressure washers. Another reason to swap an engine is reliability, in any situation where an engine won’t start.
As far as reliability goes, nothing’s worse than going to rent a machine and the engine won’t start. If that happens, with Power Shifter you can just pop it off and replace it with one that does. Servicing the engine is a cinch too. The Power Shifter Service Stand (it’s free standing) uses the very same mounting system to hold the engine at workbench height, giving complete access all around the engine. Life’s too short to spend any more time crouching over an engine that’s at ground level. And when it rains or snows, the engines can be stored inside on a shelf, where it’s nice and dry.
RER:Describe the development process of the Power Shifter rapid-change engine-mounting system. Where did the idea come from and who was responsible for its engineering and development?
Behrens: As a long time homeowner with an ever-growing stable of machines for my own use, I realized I can only operate one machine at a time — yet I own a half-dozen, each of which needs to be maintained with oil changes, fuel aging concerns, and different spark plug types to name just a few. It seemed wasteful to have multiple, almost identical engines on several machines with all but one idle at any given time. I thought that a more sensible approach would be to use one engine across a whole range of machines. That was the basis for my concept, but we soon realized that our rapid-change engine-mounting system could offer significant commercial benefits where: 1)multiple power applications are being used; 2)flexibility is needed; 3)extreme reliability is a must
These stirrings would have to wait while we created machines to prove the concept. I’m a mechanical engineer with four patents and extensive industrial experience in design, manufacturing, and management. I took on the project and immersed myself in the design process with a series of different rapid-change engine-mounting systems. The one we selected emerged from the 3-D (solid model) CAD designs I created. We originated a bunch of designs pertaining to my concept, and patent protection has been filed for the Power Shifter rapid change engine-mounting system and related designs.
Building and testing our machines was also a very exciting process! Engines came in from the Midwest, hardware shipments and machined parts came from local industrial suppliers and machine shops, aluminum castings from South Carolina, and formed sheet metal parts from Canada.
We decided to introduce the Power Shifter at the 2006 International Lawn, Garden & Power Equipment EXPO in Louisville, Ky. Everything for our exhibit came together remarkably and not a moment too soon! Thanks to the huge effort from the whole team (including Sue Limato, Marigene Kettler, Fausto Mariazzi and Gina Behrens) everything came together for the show.
During and since the debut at the EXPO show, we have received strong interest from rental and landscaping professionals. This proved to us that the Power Shifter is a real business solution for rental professionals and contractors in landscaping and construction.
The reliability issue cannot be overstated: We’ve heard from many sources that problems arise on the job when an engine goes down, for example, on a cement mixer — idling a crew and jeopardizing time-sensitive material. In these applications, reliability is critical and a rental professional might even choose to offer a backup rapid-change engine using the Power Shifter system. The ability to provide a backup engine in certain rental situations may become a real competitive advantage for a rental company, and provide a new marketing tool.
RER: Describe some applications where the Power Shifter really improves workflow for the operator.
Behrens: Three cases come to mind: 1) When extreme reliability is necessary, the rapid-change ability of Power Shifter really shines—downtime is eliminated. Machine rentals are assured when an engine that won’t start can be quickly changed with one that does. 2) For seasonal-use machines, engines can be run year ‘round and pay their way. 3) Ease of engine service using the Power Shifter Service Stand will eliminate the crouching and backbreaking work of lifting whole machines. Running fewer types of engines means fewer types of service parts are held in inventory.
RER: Explain why using the Power Shifter rapid-change engine-mounting system is more effective than having an operator change out engines the old-fashioned way.
Behrens: The Power Shifter rapid-change engine-mounting system requires less than 30 seconds, without tools, to change an engine. Did I really say “no tools?” Yes, no kidding — no tools are required to swap the engine — check out the video clip, the link can be found on our website at www.powershifter.us. This is revolutionary, because this task used to take up to an half-hour, with tools and some degree of inconvenience. Note, however, that “changing engines” becomes transparent and routine, since this is an essential function of allocating engines with the Power Shifter rapid change engine-mounting system in a way that every business owner allocates any resource. In other words, rapidly swapping engines is not only a paradigm shift, it is also, quite literally, a power shift. Changing an engine no longer is a “big deal” because engines get swapped all the time when the Power Shifter system is used in multiple applications!
Engines can be swapped out from one machine to another to meet a seasonal or specific need, to rectify an engine failure, to facilitate service or maintenance, or to store the most valuable piece of a machine in a secure and sheltered environment. Just being able to rapidly and conveniently swap engines between machines has the potential to reduce overall equipment cost for the rental professional and to extend brand loyalty for equipment manufacturers — which creates an exciting marketing opportunity for them! It’s reasonable to deduce that machinery OEM’s that produce equipment for the rental industry can increase their sales by offering an entire line of machinery that is compatible with the Power Shifter system.
RER: What are customers saying about the Power Shifter rapid-change engine-mounting system?
Behrens: We don’t actually sell to end-users but rather to OEM’s. Our Phase-One Licensing Period opened on October 1, 2007 and we will announce the results of these discussions with manufacturers to the industry early in 2008. That said, we have received very strong interest (in the form of reader service “bingo card” inquiries) from many professionals in the rental and landscaping industries—there’s a lot of interest out there, and many are asking, “Where can I buy it?” The best answer to this question right now is “please ask your favorite dealer for machines featuring the Power Shifter system and it will be available soon.”
With respect to licensing, we are open to various possibilities at this time. For example, licensing to several smaller companies each offering their specialized machines is one option. Another scenario is a major machinery manufacturer negotiating an exclusive license on Power Shifter.
Rental respondents to our survey added comments like “excellent versatility” and just “Wow!” when they saw the Power Shifter Service Stand. They all said Power Shifter would help them in their business. A typical rental response was genuine appreciation for its versatility.
A machinery dealer said “slick idea, no down time, you’re up and running immediately.” All dealer respondents “strongly agreed” that Power Shifter would make multiple machine purchases and/or price advantages possible. Dealers felt that our engine-mounting system was perfect for rental professionals and would greatly facilitate engine repair.
At EXPO 2006 a startled and delighted machinery parts distributor said excitedly, “That’s the first new thing I’ve seen at this show in five years—thank you!” An industry journalist said, “This represents a whole new paradigm in outdoor power equipment.” An industry executive said, “This is very smart, you really got this right.”
RER: Are there any additional enhancements or features planned for the Power Shifter? Can we expect to see the system in use with any other equipment in the future?
Behrens: The Power Shifter system is available for virtually all 3-10 HP horizontal shaft equipment including cement mixers, power trowels, leaf blowers, log splitters, generators and welders, snow throwers, de-thatchers, core-aerators, chipper-shredders, paint sprayers, pressure washers, air compressors, water pumps, edgers, tillers, roofing machines, tampers, and more.
Market demand will drive future developments of the Power Shifter for additional engine applications, both vertical and horizontal. A new design is in the works for rapid-mounting a vertical-shaft twin cylinder engine for professional zero-turn mowers. Use of the system is conceivable with much larger engines as well, including diesels—with the help of an assistant of course! (On large engines it’s best to allow the engine to cool before removing it—but this is not necessary on the smaller engines, which are equipped with a compact lifting handle.) Wherever rapid engine change-out, complete engine access for servicing, or extreme reliability are necessary or would be beneficial, the Power Shifter engine mounting system can be considered. This opens the door to many new applications—since this option was just not possible before—it was never thought of. For all rental machines, a locking option is available to prevent engine theft.
It’s important to note the technical advantages offered by the Power Shifter system. “Overturning moment” on the output shaft of engines used in the conventional way for example — due to chain loading or belt-tension plus loading — is eliminated in the Power Shifter configuration. Load on a Power Shifter equipped engine is pure torque — so the engine main bearings can last longer. Load isolation through the Power Shifter drive system helps to protect the engine from extreme shock loads, which can save a crankshaft. Activating the machine function through the Power Shifter Clutch System (also patent pending) using throttle only can simplify and improve machine control, and even eliminate a cable a lever along with the rest of a belt idler system. This can serve to reduce machine cost to the OEM while improving machine handling and operation and potentially purchase price for the end user. All of these factors benefit the rental professional.
In the historic concept where one engine was bolted onto a single machine for life, an engine might have been produced only for that application — which can mean features might have been stripped away if they weren’t deemed necessary. This created a huge variety of specialized engines, each requiring some of its own unique parts. This is a servicing headache and added expense for manufacturer, parts distributor, and end-user alike. Using fewer engine types across a wide variety of applications rewards high-quality engine designs and the flexibility they afford. Power transmission options are very interesting with the Power Shifter system; the same goes for throttle control; all of these aspects are handled by the Power Shifter design. It’s also safe, because the engine cannot run apart from the mounting system — which means it’s easy to power up on the Service Stand.
There’s an additional benefit to using Power Shifter for the environment — it’s a real step toward Green manufacturing and making our technology more friendly to the environment. How can this be? When one engine is used to power multiple machines, fewer engines overall are required. Manufacturing fewer engines translates into less fuel to transport them, and the production of fewer gas tanks and other plastic engine parts, reducing the demand for petrochemicals and the fuel to transport them as well. On balance, there’s a net reduction in the amount of cast aluminum required, reducing the high amount of energy required for the heat of this casting along with the associated carbon emissions. Power Shifter system components are smaller and lighter than engines too, further reducing the weight and number of parts being transported on our highways.
We look forward to the day when engine manufacturers bring forward their best flexible designs for the Power Shifter and machine manufacturers implement exciting new applications for this truly versatile power system. The best applications haven’t been thought of, yet! With the environmental pressures on our planet for clean air and the looming necessity for reduced petroleum consumption compounded by price competition brought on by foreign machinery manufacturers, the time for the Power Shifter solution has arrived because “business as usual” is no longer the best mode of business. A White Paper detailing Business Models, an FAQ, and additional information (including a comprehensive forecast of the OPE industry) is available to all machinery manufacturers considering Power Shifter at www.powershifter.us.