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June 28, 2023

Employee Develops Safer and More Efficient Wrench via 3D-printer

Employees are using a 3D printer to make a simple tool that improves efficiency and reduces safety risks for a routine substation task. Luke Federspiel, an

The LF Vent Wrench in action.

equipment specialist sr. at the Ardmore Transmission Service Center in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, came up with the idea.

Substation servicers will use it to remove and replace substation battery caps. Substations house multiple batteries for temporary power during an outage.

“Over time, the water inside the batteries evaporates,” Federspiel said. “To add water, station servicers remove and replace the caps by hand. You can’t safely use a metal wrench to remove a battery cap. They are hard to remove and can become damaged during the hand-removal process. There has been no tool for safely removing and replacing them. Late last year, I got an idea to develop a plastic wrench to make this common maintenance task easier and safer.”

His manager supported the idea and consulted with the Safety & Health team. Federspiel tested multiple versions to determine the best size and strength. Production estimates from outside vendors averaged $15-20 per wrench. His team received permission to purchase a 3D printer to produce the wrenches for about $2 each.

”I applaud Luke's innovation and initiative to provide a solution to a common problem,” said Gavin Replogle, planning & engineering supervisor.  “It's great to see engineering and technology used to make our jobs easier and safer.”

The team can produce 12 wrenches each day at the Ardmore Service Center. They plan to distribute about 500 wrenches with instructions to station servicers across AEP.

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