Powercat Fans with Foggers/Smoke Machines


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Powercat Fans with Foggers/Smoke Machines
Been repairing Fasco type fans for almost 20 years now. (Many fan company brands over the years have been making them) Grainger part #4C926 and wow have they gone up in price over the years. I sometimes buy them thru MSC with their weekly sales are at times cheaper. Very popular fan to park in front of a DF-50 fog or smoke machine in doing a good job of dispersing the smoke or haze on stage. Martin/Harmin AF-1 and probably other brands do the same job.. Not sure why we didn’t just switch in asking to at some point - they are in theory designed for the oil/chemicals being blown thru them. Tried Blue Blowers, Stanley and lots of other types of blower, none are as popular as just using the Powercat Fan for what ever reason.
These fans are a repair nightmare to keep up and running for shows. The fog fluid eats at the SJT wire in causing it to become brittle and crack its outer jacket. The oil I believe also makes all plastic components of the fan become brittle in breaking. Even built special road cases for the fans so such things are not just thrown into a road cases in breaking stuff like handles or plastic grills. But still have lots constantly to repair.
Grainger Parts’ has been my best friend over the years to get me replacement parts for the fans. Save the manual for the fan, it has who makes it and what part number it is you want in ordering. Amazing service from Grainger Parts branch. Hundreds upon hundreds of dollars spent over the years in replacement front grills, squirrel cages, motors, fans and especially the “Venturi Inlet side panels” The plastic parts which become brittle with fog fluid and are intended to keep stupid people’s fingers out of the fan fins. On a different fan type years back... had a stupid person test a fan with a finger. Good reason to have guards.
Than at one point, now squashed for “brilliant idea” someone discovered you could distribute confettee by way of Powercat fan. Break out some of the safety guards on the brittle plastic grillwork, put a lot of confetti into the squirrel cage of the blower and when turned on... Amazingly bad for repair... but easy results on stage to the extent desired. Granted such “pro’s” coming up with the idea never cleaned the oil from the blower out of the blower so much of the confetti stuck to everything in general. Eventually in continuing the practice of destroying safety guards, shows started paying for replacement grills in “all good, we paid for the replacement grills we modified.”
Man/hours to fix and clean out what they did pay for I don’t know, but eventually we quashed that concept of a oil soaked Powercat fan also a confetti projector.
Than a few years later fasco disintinued some parts... and worse of all the venturi inlet side grill panel. Grainger parts people and the local rep’s were all about asking why this part could not be sold... we have a major problem in asking and asking why if the fan is still being made, why the part was not available, but this part is not available. Given how many of this specific part has been bought over the years, no doubt Fasco decided we should not supply that part in making purchase of new fixtures more profitable.
First or most normal part that breaks on the fans is the Venturi Inlet side, once you switch to SJOOW wiring for it. Half a year or more in trying other brands and not being able to fix the Powercat Fans. Than I went to a plastic’s fabricator. We designed our own Venturi inlet side’s for the Powercat Fans. They are I believe PVC plastic but what specific material it is in the PO system. Thicker material, can’t break and resistant to oil. Couldn’t do the grillwork so the equipment fan grill we can cut away for the motor became the solution. Pre-designed for the added grill pilot holes and the mounting holes of the new thicker Venturi inlet sides which also support the squirrel cage part of the blower.
Next problem of these blowers is just simply that the about 18ga sheet metal of fixture stripps especially on them grills. Sending to another fabricator a tracing of 1/8" steel plate of steel shaped to the upper smallest part of the fan area. But thinking I’ll just get a I.D. cut of the entire mounting of the ring cut. In other words, I’m going to create a laser cut O’ring as per backup plate to the Venturi inlet side to screw into, which is pre-tapped and sized to fit with steel ring to thread into. Mounting the Venturi inlet sides is often the next problem in sizing up and tapping holes. Rivet nuts are a temporary fix given the hole distance to hole opening is too small in allowing a ½ the dia. of the hole distance from the edge - especally once you add a larger rivet nut. In other words, rivet nuts fail.
Been servicing these fans too many years and holes get stripped. Bottom access plate access holes also get stripped, TBA another plate to add fabrication of.
Lots of other problems to solve including the rubber feet for them = type of material used. More imporant as done, I’m told lamps on these fans are not much used. Than the fans just slip out of place a bar clamp fixes somewhat if put in various places.
Once the fog goo eats away at the lamp socket on the fan enough that it’s wiring becomes a problem, I tend to just remove all and plate over it. Lamp switch becomes a hole filler only. No complaints so far in doing this given in the past I had to replace a lot of lamp grills with high temp. vented protection plastic so the grills don’t fall off or break. That’s another project in replacing lamp sockets. E-17 lamp sockets of this type are hard to get and better to remove all and plate over the reflector assembly. I stopped replacing the grills on the fans and just plating over the opening.
Spot welds on this fan seemed to commonly fail, rivets all about to replace spot welds. On the fixture, sometimes there is even pre-holed areas which fail which help in installing rivets. I tend to rivet than place that area on the anvil and pound that steel rivit with a sledge hammer, so it’s not coming loose. Good policy for rivet nut or rivet. If rivet nut, re-tap that hole after pounding it home.
So I had fabricated the Venturi inlet sides once Grainger couldn’t supply me with sides that fail anyway. Got to look at what’s failing, specify the material used, and yet to see one of the improved sides fail. Metal grills are also not failing. At this point just to make some 1/8" thick steel plate concave plates so as to rivet on behind the holes of the Venturi inlet, and some 3/4x7.1/2" plates for the under cover plate which also stripps out. Taken almost 20 years, but I’m making something built for industrial use, tour quality at this point.
Now in having seeing some SJOOW cable swelled up and failing due to the fog fluid, if I only can just find some cable type to feed the fan, which is extra, extra oil resistant. But still flexible for a cord whip.

https://www.mcmaster.com/#19155k97/=17z2ldw is I believe the metal wire grill I use. McMaster website upgraded or discontinued recently in a not as good way. Grainger website doesn’t go into detailed drawings of the products such as fan grills like McMaster. Will have to search my purchase orders in verifying what part number I bought in bulk for which is the proper McMaster part number for a re-order of the grills I use. Horizontal hole on center for the grill is about 4.1/2". Diagional measurement is about -6.3/8" in finding it. Contact off line for Venturi inlet sides I have fabricated or TBA rings on the fans to mount them to.
For oh so many years now I have been on a mostly fruitless mission to convince people to put their fans BEHIND the haze generator.

Not that it would change anyone's mind, but I think it a worthwhile topic for some budding theatre MFA/Fluid Dynamics engineering grad student's dissertation.

I don't recall this problem when using sal ammoniac (No relation to Sal Mineo. Who?) and heater coils to produce theatrical haze.:angryoldman:

seems to me that a 3D printer service could answer some of your parts needs. i really have no idea if this would be economically feasible.
3D printer would work and I do at times have had parts made before with it (amazing), but talking about at least 50 or more side inlets per year - every year for probably well over a hundred fans in inventory. Just yesterday, had to fix four same day for a show leaving, and this one last night for a show today. Easier and in bulk cheaper to send out to have fabricated with a large scale CNC for plastic a plastic material non-breakable and having specific resistance to oil. In my case I have part of a storage rack just for Powercat Parts and boneyard fans.

Only challenge left for me is still finding a cable type that's oil resistant more than SJOOW. SOOW cable is too large to fit the frame but perhaps an option if more resistant.

I kind have to bulk stock these parts, because if a half dozen show up at my door for a show leaving that day, can't wait on a 3D printer to print up the part given two per fan at times could need replacement. Than the next day there might be more to get fixed. Eventually though I think all fans will be upgraded, perhaps a second order in making the side plates. Look forward to that day amongst other projects like totally re-doing all our Soco/Slip feed thru boxes due to safety and rigging problems that I don't see them again for hopefully a few years.
Rigging problems on the Soco/Slip boxes mostly self induced by way of people who have no clue, opening the boxes to rig and re-rig them. Wiring problems following the constant going into the boxes to rig them. Goal Omega clamp the boxes to keep people out of them, buss bar what's possible on the stage pin panel mounts to help support them and reduce the wiring, and terminal strip the connections for easy replacement and organization. Hopefully almost close to done on that project also.
these days you can get things printed in metal that's what i was thinking. if you can find the right printing service nearby

Have you tried arctic grade SJEOOW we use that in Alaska as it stays flexible till - 50 below. I think it may have superior oil resistance
  • Seoprene® SJEOOW 105°C TPE Cord. 300 Volts.
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no and thanks for the idea. Will try.

Normally anything SJEOOW I would avoid one step less than SJT, but will in perhaps. Never seen a SJOOW cable swelled up to the size of SOOW before this.

Sorry to not reply on your points Derek before this. Yes it would make sense to behind than pumping the fluid directly into the fan. I'll put a spark or bug of interest into some crew chief's on the idea and perhaps it will take off. thanks also as always.

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