The platinum winner in the 2011 Product of the Year competition comes from the portable measurement equipment category and proves that improved flexibility and safety can be combined in one product. The Fluke 381 clamp meter is the first with an iFlex flexible current probe and a detachable, remote display for easier, faster, safer remote measurements. Both the clamp meter and probe are rated for hazard 1,000V CAT III and 600V CAT IV environments.

The flexible current probe allows the user to connect around oversized conductors and expands the product’s measurement range to 2,500A AC, while the probe’s small profile fits between tightly packed cables. “Flexibility is the ability to get into the tight places that electricians and technicians find themselves in for troubleshooting,” says Chris Bohn, marketing manager, electrical products business unit, Fluke Corp., Everett, Wash. “Being able to get in between those tightly bundled wires and around those large conductors that a traditional fixed-jaw clamp meter is not able to get into provides a lot of flexibility for our end-users.”

In addition, the detachable, remote display allows end-users to clamp the Fluke 381 around a conductor, remove the display, and walk across the room — up to 30 ft away from the point of measurement, even when the conductor is sealed in an enclosure. The remote display can be conveniently attached to a metal panel by using its built-in magnets, allowing the user to operate controls or remove protective equipment, all while watching real-time readings. “Taking that removable display with you before reenergizing a circuit really allows the user to be outside of the risk zone, and that’s a great feature for all of our end-users,” says Bohn. “We want to make the safest products that we can, and I think this is one way that we’re able to do that.”

Yet, accuracy isn’t lost with portability. An integrated low-pass filter and unique signal processor allow for use in noisy electrical environments, typically found in variable-speed drives and motors, while providing stable readings. Proprietary inrush measurement technology filters out noise and captures motor starting current exactly as the circuit protection equipment sees it. In addition, the meter’s ergonomic design allows it to be used in instances where personal protective equipment (PPE) can’t be removed. Simply deactivate the circuit, use proper lock-out and tag-out procedures, connect the clamp meter, remove the display, and reactivate the equipment to remotely monitor the circuit from a distance.

However, in some instances, the product’s feature allows the end-user to remove some PPE while taking the actual readings. In developing the product, Fluke talked to hundreds of end-users to understand what their “major pain points” were while performing their jobs, especially when troubleshooting electrical systems, according to Bohn. “Safety is paramount in any electrician’s job, so they’re being required to wear additional protective equipment,” explains Bohn. “While this doesn’t remove the requirements for all that protective equipment, it does allow the end-users to take the reading outside of the danger zone after reenergizing that circuit, improving flexibility, safety, and comfort.”

An EC&M Tradition

More than a decade ago, the EC&M Product of the Year competition was established to honor excellence in new product development for the electrical industry. The prestigious contest showcases inventiveness in new cutting-edge technology, as well as improvements in safety and efficiency. Through the competition’s arduous two-fold judging and voting process, the most innovative products of the past year, which allow electrical design professionals, installers, and maintenance personnel to perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively, are recognized.

This year, more than 70 products — representing almost every major product category offered to the electrical design, construction, and maintenance markets — were entered into the initial stage of the competition and competed to be the best in their categories. The 24 preliminary winners were then narrowed down to just three through an online poll available on the EC&M website. By casting their votes, members of the EC&M readership determined the top three winners — the platinum product of the year, the first runner-up, and the second runner-up.


GOLD AWARD

Auger Bit

The first runner-up in this year’s Product of the Year competition comes from the tools (accessory items) category. Greenlee, a Textron Co.’s Nail Eater R/T features a replaceable tip that cuts more than 175 holes in wood with nails, which the company says is nine times the life of a traditional auger bit. The product’s cutting edge is made from high-quality tool steel for enhanced performance. The replacement kit includes the new tip, a set screw, and a hex wrench.







SILVER AWARD

Cable Reel

From the wire and cable category, this year’s second runner-up, Southwire’s SIMpull Stack, allows users to combine multiple pulls on one single reel. According to the company, one reel can hold up to five phases, for up to four pulls, depending on the size of the cable and length of the pull. For multiple runs in a pull, users just remove the shrink wrap, pull the first run, then pull the second, third, etc., without having to set up additional reels.


VOTING WINNERS

EC&M would like to congratulate the following three readers who each won $100 for voting in this year’s competition:

  • Robert Mickey, electrical reliability engineer, International Paper, Franklin, Va.
  • Matthew Leeth, maintenance, Alcoa, Chillicothe, Ohio
  • Robert Clark, senior electrical engineer, URS Corp., Columbia, Md.

The EC&M editorial team randomly selected these names from the list of voters who cast their vote in our online poll.