We always look forward to the trade shows. It’s a lot of work for all involved, but the excitement of seeing all the new tools and equipment, seeing all of our industry friends, making new ones and having a little time left over to enjoy the surroundings makes it all worth it.
This year we made it to two in February before we got hit with the pandemic. Even so, there were people wearing masks in the airports and on the planes, so we were already in a cautious state and as we now know, it sounds like COVID-19 was already here.
Luckily none of that put a damper on the shows and everyone from our team stayed healthy. Our first stop was Denver, CO, for the Mac Tools Tool Fair and a couple weeks later we were off to San Diego, CA, for the Matco Tools Tool Expo. The snow was flying in Denver, but the resort had a cozy ski-lodge atmosphere, so it made for perfect surroundings and San Diego was sunny and warm as it almost always is. The food was good everywhere, so we undoubtedly took back some extra weight with us.
It’s hard to really get a feel for new tools until you get hands on experience with them and get to talk to company reps and engineers about their design and function. That’s what makes these shows so beneficial. Whether it’s scan tools, electronics, power tools or hand tools, it’s all there.
The science and technology behind torque wrenches is one of the more interesting trends that is gaining traction and we got a look at some of the newest technology. Electronic torque wrenches aren’t new, but the visibility and quality of the screens is continuously improving, and the controls are getting better all the time, making them easier to read and set.
One of the common theories about the traditional click-style torque wrench is that when you reach the torque setting and the wrench “clicks,” by the time you have released pressure on it, you may have already over-torqued by as much as 10%. That may not sound like much but can have damaging results depending on the fastener or material.
Pre-torque warning systems are still emerging in different ways to prevent overshooting the desired setting. These methods include warning lights, a torque value on the screen, haptic feedback that warns you of the pending torque through vibrations in the handle and also an app for your cell phone that allows you to watch the torque on the screen.
Some cell phone apps also have the ability to record and transmit torque specifications under a work order number so they can be documented electronically with the job, which can be beneficial to both the shop and the customer.
LED lighting is always popular and in addition to brighter and longer lasting lights, unique mounting solutions were common and cell phone apps that control light function are starting to make appearances.
What can we say about scan tools and diagnostics — they’re always changing and improving at the speed of light. Then there’s the root of all mechanical repair, the hand tool, which still gets its share of research and development, and we see continuous improvement in the grip of sockets, wrenches and extractors, and material quality and finish getter better all the time.
So, what can you take from the tool show experience? It’s a good time to be a technician.