The Alicat Touch
When you call Alicat you will never hear a robotic voice directing you to press some combination of numbers. You will never be left to navigate a frustrating menu. You will never have to fend for yourself on the phone. When you call Alicat, or chat with us online, you’ll talk directly with one of our Applications Engineers. Our Apps Engineers, as we call them, each have unique backgrounds in scientific and technological fields. And, of course, they know the ins and outs of all our instruments.
Alicat is able to produce highly customized instruments with some of the shortest lead times in the industry in part because our Apps Engineers are multidisciplinary experts and are very familiar with our mass flow and pressure controllers. They are always ready to jump up and head to the production line, engineering or test lab to work out the best solution for each customer – fast.
With hundreds of variations of mass flow and pressure controllers and just as many interesting and varied uses needing just as many interesting solutions, some of our Apps Engineers spend their time working out solutions as much as they do talking with customers. This is to everyone’s benefit because it can lead to improvements to devices and new ways applications to use an Alicat.
One Apps Engineer, Foose, is often in the test lab, surrounded by tangles of wires, equipment and devices. For every minute he spends on the phone with customers, he spends one in the lab solving their problems.
Foose is a chemist with the heart of a tinkerer. Like most Alicats, he is solution driven. He not only identifies the source of the problem, but the cause to ensure that he can help customers purchase, troubleshoot or fix their device – not just the right way but the best way. He’s so good at fixing things that when one of us is having an issue with the new demo for an upcoming trade show, setting up the equipment for a presentation or fixing the electronics in an old arcade game, we all go to him.
I recently sat down with Foose to ask him a few questions:
What is your favorite part of the day?
Since we are based in Arizona and are ahead of the clock from many of our customers, the later part of the day is when I have time to expand my knowledge of our own products and ways they are used. Currently the bulk of this special projects time is spent learning to program PLCs and use automation software so that I can better troubleshoot our devices and understand how our products interact with industrial systems.
What is the most interesting project you have worked on?
My favorite application that I’ve worked on was a research project designing an olfactometer to test a dog’s ability to distinguish very low concentration odorants. I love animals, and the application was memorable and unique. The basic parameters of the system were already understood by the customer, but I was able to show how our very high turndown ratios could allow a handful of dilution steps to deliver accurate odorant concentrations across many orders of magnitude, how the customer could improve repeatability with active back pressure control and how we could customize the valve configuration to reduce system purge time between experiments.
How are you Alicat fast?
I’m good at troubleshooting. I always want to know more about how devices are built, how they are used, how they perform and how they break. Sometimes this means I can save customers expensive downtime by helping them identify complex problems and fix equipment in the field without ever having to return a device to Alicat. I often spend time in the lab making short instructional documents for customers who need to modify or configure our devices in a certain way. For example, one time a customer broke the front display of their Alicat and wanted to return it for repair. I know that replacing the front display cover and membrane switch is a fairly simple task requiring only a few minutes and some simple hand tools but learning how to do it over the phone would be harder than following a written guide with pictures. I created a small guide on how to do this simple repair, overnighted the customer a membrane switch and the customer’s process was back up and running in less than 24 hours.
Alicats, from the Apps Engineer you talk to on the phone when you place your order, to the Calibrator in production, are all working to make every instrument we sell exactly what each customer needs, as fast as possible. All while…
- Maintaining NIST-traceable: +/- (0.8% of the reading + 0.2% of the full-scale range) on mass flow controllers and NIST-traceable: +/- 0.25% of the full-scale range for pressure controllers.
- Collecting data fast with response time of 50-100ms on readings.
- Being easy to use, right out of the box – with straightforward plug and play set up, front display controls and clear data readings – so processes aren’t held up by installation.