The recent New York State Fair 2018 was, if attendance records are an indicator, a spectacular success with a new record of approximately 1.3 million attendees. Despite credible complaints about overpriced bottled water and the manifestation of predicted problems with parking, the consensus was that the 2018 NYSF was a great multi-day event.
The news-worthiness of the attendance numbers notwithstanding, one of the main arteries of the fair is the opportunity for entrepreneurs to showcase their products in the relaxed setting of a fair, which hopefully has the attending public in a buying frame of mind. The merchandise on offer goes way beyond the traditional country fairs of yore, prize winning pumpkins and record sized hogs are hardly the main attraction. Many innovative manufacturers use the fair to launch products and gauge market reaction to their offerings. One such article displayed and demonstrated in their booth was the FlipTite buckle for tie-downs or what are alternatively referred to as easy tie down straps.
The FlipTite Tie-Down Strap has it’s genesis rooted in the originator Tim Tucker, a serial tinkerer and kayak paddler, to name but a few of his varied talents. Tim has realized the old adage “necessity is the mother of Invention” more than once. The SeaHorse self-levelling portable kayak stand is one of his earlier products. Transporting of kayaks and other outdoor sports equipment like bicycles and motorcycles, to name but a few, has and continues to grow exponentially. While the configuration of transport methods may range from roof-racks to tow-hitch brackets to trailers etc., the common requirement of most if not all these sports equipment transport methods is the use of easy tie down straps. These webbing tie down straps are used as either the primary means of securing the load or as backup to propriety systems fitted to various racks and brackets. When one considers the price of a modern composite construction kayak, high-end bicycle or motorcycle, one can understand the “belts & braces” approach adopted when transporting these items.
Ocean surfski paddling is one of the fastest growing sports in the world; the kayaks used for this sport are infinitely easier to paddle than earlier designs which required great dexterity and athleticism. The kayak transporting public is a potentially very significant market given that the new surfski designs are high price tag items and the need for reliable and well designed webbing tie down straps is a paramount requirement. The demonstrated interest from numerous kayak and canoe paddlers who visited the booth was thus not surprising.
Many of the motorcyclists who visited the booth were some of the most skeptical potential users of the FlipTite. Having seen the product demonstrated I can’t agree with the skepticism. Perhaps a motorcycle specific demonstration / display would be more convincing.
The use of easy tie down straps is not limited to transporting sports equipment, the formal transport business sector (truckers, movers and transport business owner / operators) in fact comprised the largest interest group visiting the FlipTite Tie-Down Strap booth at NY State Fair 2018. Future FlipTite product development will be carried out with due consideration of the specific requirements of the formal transport sector in mind.
A vital feature of webbing tie down straps is the buckle, until the recent release to the market of the FlipTite Tie-Down strap, the two main buckle types were the cam buckle (for lighter loads / applications) and the ratchet buckle (for light and heavier loads). The FlipTite buckle is unique in the diversity of it’s application as it straddles the duties of both cam and ratchet buckles.
Pictured below is a typical cam strap buckle, this design has several shortcomings. Cam strap buckles do not apply additional tension to the webbing when the mechanism is closed, you have to pull the webbing as tight as you can before closing the cam to hopefully maintain the tension. The pivot pin for the cam lever and the closure spring are potential points for catastrophic failure. These factors place serious limitations on the max load capacity of cam buckle type webbing tie down straps.
Pictured below is an example of the buckle used on ratchet straps. The main merit of the ratchet buckle is that the ratchet mechanism can be used to apply considerable tension to the webbing tie down straps, care needs to be exercised as it is possible to exert excessive pressure and damage the hulls of loads like kayaks as a result of too much force exerted by the tight straps. The ratchet mechanism is also relatively complex and prone to seizing and corrosion related failure if a diligent lubrication regime is not adhered to. The corrosion on the pictured ratchet strap buckle is also typical of the condition after about one year of use in a coastal environment. The metal on metal contact that takes place in the course of standard use and the resulting wear can only be reduced by the use of expensive corrosion & wear resistant surface treatments and or exotic base metals. The sliding ratchet locking and unlocking mechanism often becomes fouled due to asymmetrical sliding and corrosion of the locking spring, this has the annoying and inconvenient effect of turning the single-handed unlatching of the ratchet into a frustrating two-handed, curse inducing tussle, often with the resulting minor to medium hand injuries. The weight of the ratchet type tie down buckles can also lead to damage of the items being transported if adequate care is not taken.
The shortcomings of the cam and ratchet tie down buckles can and in some cases have been overcome by better engineered solutions but in most if not all cases these solutions are not practical, primarily for cost reasons.
The FlipTite Tie-Down
A visit to https://www.fliptite.com reveals a slew of interesting information around the design of the FlipTite strap, from conceptualisation through design and manufacture. Some of the novel and innovative features are;
1) Most of the design and testing was done using Solidworks, one of the most widely used CAD software packages in the world. This facilitates the design and virtually seamless integration and function of the various components.
The label on the FlipTite buckle offers the slogan; The Easiest Tie-Down Strap Ever! The main feature supporting this slogan has to be the ease of use. A video posted at https://youtu.be/Aw9D6jlGhxo effectively demonstrates the elegant simplicity and ease of use of the FlipTite Tie-Down.
2) The functional differentiating feature of the FlipTite buckle has to be the “three point locking mechanism”, I am unaware of any other commercially available tie down buckle that claims to have this or a similar feature. All three locking aspects of the mechanism have to be unlocked independently for the buckle to release the tension on the webbing tie down straps. This is a level of redundancy approaching aviation standards and suggestive of another possible application. The physical demonstration of the FlipTite buckle appeared to be the “deal clincher”, the reassuring and clearly audible click when the buckle is clicked over into the closed position appeared to provide a level of tactile reassurance.
3) The webbing material utilized with the FlipTite Tie-Down is made of polyester as is the industry standard. The main benefit derived from using polyester webbing over nylon webbing is that the polyester webbing is more dimensionally stable under load, i.e. it stretches up to 50% less than nylon. Polyester webbing is also resistant to degradation from ultraviolet rays (sunlight) and because polyester doesn’t absorb water, it doesn’t degrade due to rot or mildew.
4) More noteworthy features of the FlipTite Tie-Down are the mechanical features like:
a) The low physical profile as opposed to bulky ratchet straps, the bulky ratchet buckles can often damage the surfaces of kayak hulls or other secured items.
b) The functionally pleasing appearance of the FlipTite Tie-Down has to count for something, I for one think these straps would look more in place securing one of my collectable Ducatis on the bike trailer than a bulky chunk of rusting ratchet buckle.
c) The FlipTite buckle is manufactured from high grade materials sourced and made in the USA, a clear zinc coating is applied to the metal to inhibit corrosion.
d) The FlipTite Tie-Down is designed with due regard to the guidelines of the Web Sling and Tie Down Association (no kidding this is a real association). The rated working load is one third of the average load at which the buckle and strap assembly fails in a destruction / failure test.
The FlipTite Tie-Down goes on sale around mid October 2018.