British Columbia

B.C. invention 'Quickcaps' reduces time spent painting heavy duty equipment

A pair of B.C. inventors have created an unusual solution to a problem most people don't even think about: how to avoid painting nuts and bolts in the oil and gas industry.

Industrial painter, artist come together to create caps for flanges using 3D printers

Jesse McIlwraith, left and Vaughn Warren used a 3D printer to create caps for flanges, reducing time spent painting equipment by hours. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

A pair of unlikely B.C. inventors have developed a way for industrial painters, who work with anything from gas piping, bridges, ships and more, to shave hours off time spent preparing equipment to be painted.

Before his latest invention, it took corrosion specialist and industrial painter Jesse McIlwraith and his crew up to two hours to paint a flange, because they had to tape it off. 

"We can't paint the nuts because it impedes maintenance," he said. 

He knew there had to be a quicker way to get the job done, and came up with the idea for caps to slide over the nuts of a flange, reducing the amount of time painters spend taping and peeling tape off equipment. 

Quickcaps come in a variety of sizes to fit any type of nut and bolt assembly. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Though some companies offered pre-made caps, they couldn't make them specific to the size McIlwraith was looking for. He approached artist Vaughn Warren at the Kamloops Makerspace about 15 months ago, in the hopes he could help create caps in varying sizes using the facility's 3D printer. 

"It took a lot of revisions and a lot of back and forth field testing to figure out exactly how to make that happen," Warren said.  "I think it's revision 42 or something and we have a very viable product."

"It's an adventure and I'm pretty excited about it," McIlwraith added. 

The product is called Quickcaps, and according to Warren, they can print a 50, 80 and 100 millimetre cap each at one time. Each cap slides over a nut and bolt assembly and holds firmly, so painters can paint around the flange.

On Feb. 12, McIlwraith and Warren applied for a patent on their idea. 

"Now, it's a property where you can go and you can have a distribution deal with a supplier where they take on the injection molding and they carry [the caps] and they take care of all the warehousing and all that," Warren said.  "Or you could buy 12 3D printers and just start printing these things at a high rate."

Industrial painter Jesse McIlwraith, left, and artist Vaughn Warren have spent the past 15 months developing Quickcaps and have just applied for a patent on their idea. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

He credits the Kamloops Makerspace for helping them develop the product on a tight budget. The use of a 3D printer and other materials has saved them anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000. 

"It's pretty surreal," McIlwraith said. "It's cool to go out to the field and put it to use. For [my crew] it's definitely been a game changer."

Wtih files from Jenifer Norwell

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