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Product Maintenance in the High Tech Era

2016KegelTedThompson.jpgJust about everyone involved in the game of bowling on a sport level has learned that today’s high tech bowling balls need more maintenance than the bowling balls in the “low tech” era.

The photo shows the author, Ted Thompson.

In the ‘good ole days’ all one had to do is resurface their ball every year or two, and your ball performed as good as new. But the high tech bowling balls of today need a lot more “tender loving care” in order to maintain high performance levels.

Not only do the bowling balls of today need simple resurfacing from time to time, they are much more porous so they need to be wiped down every session to keep them performing. Wiping the surface more often prevents the oil from soaking into the cover of the ball. Even then, some oil will inevitably get into the cover.

Because of this, different oil extraction methods, both chemicals and mechanical, came onto the market. These methods help remove oil from the surface of the ball and help keep them performing at their highest levels. Nobody will argue that bowling ball cover stock maintenance today is much more important to overall ball performance than in the past.

So how does this relate to a lane maintenance company like Kegel? Well, we make the lane conditioners (lane oil) that protect the lane surface from excessive wear and those lane conditioners make oil patterns last longer than if we just used the low tech lane conditioner of years gone by.

Yep – high tech balls need high tech lane conditioners, and just like high tech balls, storage and additional care of these high tech products, along with maintenance on lane machine parts, have had to evolve.

Low Tech vs High Tech Conditioners

Conditioners of yesteryear would be considered “low tech” as they were basically 95-100% mineral oil. There may have been some solvent added to help it flow through wicks, but for the most part, they were only mineral oil.

Conditioners today would be considered high tech and they are 85-90% mineral oil. The other 10-15% of the formula is additives that are used to change the physical properties and performance characteristics of the end product.

The additives in Kegel’s conditioners are used to create better film barriers between the ball and the lane surface, to change the friction properties of the conditioner, and to lower surface tension, which allows the conditioner to “wet” the surface of the lane better and flow back from the wake the ball leaves as it rolls through the oil pattern. We’ve been using these performance enhancing additives in our conditioners since our very first lane conditioner, Defense-S, came on the market in 1997.

The reasons for these additives are simple; the bowling environment today is more varied by way of types, age, and shapes (topography) of lane surfaces, and the balls used on the lanes are much more aggressive. Lane conditioner today has a much more difficult job than it did in the past.

Heat Transfer and Proper Storage

Relatively speaking, there is no hot and cold, there is only heat and the absence of heat. In very simple terms, heat transfer is made up of two things: heat and the movement (flow) of the heat. Heat; measured by temperature; is the amount of thermal energy available, and heat flow is the movement of thermal energy from place to place.

Heat will always flow from the area of more heat to the area of less heat in an effort to reach equilibrium; the “cold” material will always absorb heat from the “hot” material.

Different materials; solids, liquids, and gases; transfer heat at different rates. In other words, some materials will gain or lose heat faster than other materials. A simple example is to put your hand on a metal table and a wooden table that are in the same room. The metal table will “feel” colder to you because the metal absorbs the heat from your hand more quickly than the wooden table will. The two surfaces are the same temperature but they won’t feel the same to you. That’s heat transfer.

As we said earlier, mineral oil is the base for all lane conditioners. Since it doesn’t take a lot of energy to heat the oil, mineral oil is actually a good heat transfer fluid and is used in many chemical processes as a heating (or cooling) fluid for batch reactors.

What does this mean in terms of lane conditioner and storage of the product? Mineral oil gains (and loses) heat relatively easily. So, if you store your lane conditioner in an area that doesn’t have good temperature control (i.e. a cold area as opposed to a warm or temperature stable area), it is going to have an effect on the mineral oil and the effects can negatively impact the performance characteristics of the conditioner.

Here are a few storage tips for your lane conditioner:

– Get it off the floor! Concrete will absorb heat very quickly. Store lane conditioner on the shelf.

– Take it out of the box! Cardboard is an insulator. If your product has been sitting in a cold area, moving the box to a warm area won’t necessarily remedy the situation. The cardboard will prevent the conditioner from gaining heat from the new, warmer environment because it insulates the bottles. Take the bottles out of the box and let the air circulate around the bottles. The transfer of heat from the warmer air will happen more quickly this way.

– Store your lane conditioner in a room that is the same temperature as the area the lanes are in. Don’t store your lane conditioner in a room that is near the door to the outside or has very little climate control.

Lane Machine Supply Tank and Filter Maintenance

If you are always using the same lane conditioner, fully flushing out the supply tank might not have to be a monthly item on your to do list, but the filters in the supply tank should be – especially if your lane machine is kept in an area with little or no climate control.

The filters are there to protect the conditioning system and if there is debris or build-up in them, they are doing their job! But, they need to be cleaned or replaced in order to continue functioning properly.

Remember what this lane machine does – it is designed to apply a very thin film of conditioner on the lane at microscopic thickness that cannot be realistically measured and we expect it to do this accurately every time the machine runs.

There aren’t many pieces of machinery in the world that are held to such tight tolerances, yet lane machines are often treated like a beat up old car – we fill it up, run it until it’s empty, and fill it up again, with little regard to simple maintenance items.

If you want your machine to take care of you, you’ll need to take care of the machine, and filters are one of the more simple items to maintain.

The real reasons to “shake the bottle”

Most people might not be aware that the Ultra Violet (UV) additive that is mandated in all USBC approved lane conditioners does not dissolve; it is not soluble; in mineral oil. It is a fine powder and remains a solid even though you can’t see the particles in the solution.

Although some lane conditioner manufacturers use a solvent to dissolve the powder into solution, we do not as we don’t want to add another element that would change the performance of the end product. Instead we blend (disperse) the UV into the solution when we make our lane conditioners.

Because the UV is merely dispersed, while the conditioner is in storage, over time the UV can settle out. This is part of the reason after your lane conditioner sits on the shelf for a long time that we suggest a slight shake of the bottle to help disperse the UV additive again.

Think of the UV as kind of similar to the powder chocolate that you used to make chocolate milk when you were a kid. You added a scoop of chocolate powder to the milk and stirred it like crazy. If you left the glass sitting there for a few minutes and then drank the milk, there would be an agglomeration of powder at the bottom of the glass. The chocolate powder isn’t dissolved into the milk; it’s dispersed or blended into the milk.

Another reason we suggest to shake the bottle is because we know perfect storage solutions aren’t always available to all bowling centers. In those cases, some of those additives can separate and a shake or two just helps to re-disperse those additives. And, it ensures the conditioner performs as designed. We think of it as being on the safe side of things.

At the end of the day…

Much like high performance cars need more maintenance than low performance cars, so do high performance lane machines and the high performance chemicals that are used in those machines.

As Kegel Founder John Davis used to say; “If a pinsetter breaks down, you only have one pair of unhappy bowlers. But if your lane machine breaks down or your lane conditions go bad, you have an entire bowling center of unhappy bowlers”.

It was his way of saying, a little periodic maintenance is a nice trade off to keep your bowlers happy.

By Ted Thompson – Republished courtesy of The Inside Line (April 1, 2016)

Author: Herbert Bickel
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