CHICAGO - It wasn't quite the complete record breaker that some were predicting, but the 2006 AHR Expo wasn't too shabby, either. More than 57,000 attended the Jan. 23-25 event at Chicago's McCormick Place, putting it in the company of the biggest AHR events of all time.

The Advance Cutting Systems booth at the AHR Expo featured the company's Duct-Cutter plasma-cutting system. The system can be used with CAD-Duct for design and drafting.

According to figures released by the International Exposition Co., which manages the annual event, there were 36,891 visitors and 20,782 exhibitor employees at this year's event. That was about 2,000 less than the all-time attendance record, which was more than 59,000. That record was set at the 2003 AHR Expo, which was also held in Chicago.

However, this year's Expo did set records for exhibitors (1,981), square feet of exhibits (411,175) and international exhibitors (400).

"We are delighted with this year's record-breaking event, as it reflects the growth of various industry segments within the AHR Expo and our ongoing efforts to add several show enhancements," Clay Stevens, president of the International Exposition Co., said.

Many exhibitors were also happy.

"This is our first time back since the 1990s and we are impressed with the traffic," said Terry Hoffman, director of marketing at Johnson Controls. "It proves that even when trade shows are declining, the AHR Expo has been sustainable."

Ed Deal (left) of Autodesk provides a live demonstration of the company's Building Systems software program.

Bob Hirsch, senior vice president with first-time exhibitor Lynxspring, a Kansas-based engineering and software company, was similarly impressed.

"Our experience has been fantastic," Hirsch said. "We will absolutely be back."

As always, the show offered almost too many products to see in the three days the exhibit floor was open. But Snips managed to see most of the products important to HVAC and sheet metal contractors (or so we hope). Here's a list of some of the thousands of products on display.

Advance Cutting Systemsgave attendees a look at two of its machines, the Duct-Cutter plasma-cutting system and the AutoFold coil line. The Duct-Cutter is a 5-foot by 10-foot HVAC cutting system. The machine has a downdraft table and offers speeds of 1,000 inches per minute. The cutting table controller uses a D-10 industrial-grade controller. A shape library is part of the control system, offering 32 geometric shapes with 160 variations shown on the controller's LCD display. The machine can also use CAD-Duct, a 3-D and 2-D ductwork-drafting package that downloads to all major cutting machines.

The AutoFold 516 produces flat sheet, L-shaped, U-shaped or fully wrapped ducts using 16-gauge material. The machine takes up only 25 feet by 7 feet of space. Machine operation is by a hydraulic system using Bosch valves. The AutoFold only needs a three-phase supply, and can be installed without the need for any power. The production rate is approximately 11 inches by 11 inches of duct in 40 seconds. A full diagnostic and faultfinding system is used on a 14-inch color monitor.

Gary Gifford, component manager with AccuDuct, shows the company's Quick Draw self-sealing duct system.

Autodeskprovided a demonstration of its software for building systems. The program allows for 2-D and 3-D mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection content. Pre-drawn, "intelligent" parts are also provided. Users can edit or create parts or use them for content libraries. The company's HVAC Content Extension provides users with additional content, including more duct fittings. Parts provided in the HVAC Content Extension include material matched to American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers' standards. In addition, manufacturer parts can be accessed through "i-drop" technology, which allows the user to "drag" parts from a manufacturer's Web site and place them directly into the drawings.

Big Ass Fans Co.offered information on its line of fans. Its most recent offering is the Powerfoil. The fan has winglets, which the company says enhances energy efficiency and airflow by eliminating the vortex formation at airfoil tips. The company also reports that the fans' new airfoil design helps to move the greatest volume of air over the largest possible area, generating 33 percent more air. The 24-foot diameter Powerfoil moves 337,000 cfm, and the 2 horsepower motor is 400 percent more energy efficient at low winter speeds, according to the company.

Cooper Hand Toolsdisplayed its Wiss line of tools, including its new W12L aluminum snips. According to the company, the new product is lightweight, yet offers heavy-duty performance. The snips can cut light-gauge sheet metal, such as cold-rolled steel up to 22 gauge and stainless steel up to 26 gauge, as well as vinyl and aluminum siding, vinyl flooring, roofing materials and more. Cooper Hand Tools also introduced a new snap-lock punch tool, trim nail punch and siding-removal tool.

An eight-station roll former was on display fromDuctformer. The Model CR 8sDC is a flat S-and-drive cleat roll former capable of two roll sets inboard and two roll sets of optional outboard rolls. A new computer-aided design provides all-hardened roll tooling and eliminates opening of form rolls and helper rolls, according to the company. The company also reports that sealed roller bearings keep metal particles out of bearings and eliminates external thrust. The roll former is capable of handling 16 gauge through 28 gauge, and speeds up to 85 feet per minute.

Ductmate Industries Inc.provided attendees with information on its Clutcher and EZ-Lock products for hanging ductwork and mechanical systems. Booth visitors were also provided with a free CD-ROM from Ductmate. According to the company, the CD-ROM reveals secrets for hanging ductwork and mechanical systems in a simpler and more efficient way.

Rick McLean (right) from Empire Machinery & Tools discusses the new Sidewinder spiral-duct machine to AHR Expo attendee Mike Kaytor.

Empire Machinery & Toolsshowed off its new Sidewinder spiral-duct machine at the Expo. The Sidewinder produces spiral duct with capacities of 18-gauge galvanized/mild steel and 24-gauge stainless steel. The material forms on the outside of the head, which the company says reduces scrap. The Sidewinder also includes a saw cut-off featuring "Blade Runner" technology and lock-seam clinching, which prevents seams from slipping. The machine also has a built-in lubrication system, and there is no flood coolant, which means no mess on shop floors. Optional accessories include additional un-coilers, vacuum system, runout tables for lengths longer than 10 feet, and an operator-safety package.

Estimation Inc.gave demonstrations of its new generation of software called Logistics. Logistics provides contractors with complete control over their jobs from start to finish. Companies can automate the bidding process with blueprint-driven takeoffs, integrate estimating with accounting, purchasing and other business processes, and create detailed estimates. The company also offers management software and add-on software. The Materials Management software helps to produce and track purchase orders, while the Service Management software can generate and manage work orders. Project Forecast software helps contractors compare estimated costs with actual cost and track current project status. The EZ-Pricer software allows contractors to automatically send and receive requests for quotes and imports updated pricing into the system. The Ei Matrix allows for the exporting of job data into Microsoft Excel, while Sketch software can track items taken from a blueprint.

Gripple Inc.demonstrated its line of hangers for duct-work and mechanical systems. The company offers five sizes of multiple-end fixings. Each size is designed to carry a specific weight range and has designated working load limits. The maximum load limit for the largest size hanger is 715 pounds. Standard lengths range from 5 feet to 30 feet. Other lengths can be made to order. The Gripple hangers can be used in spiral duct, rectangular duct, oval duct and air-handling units.

The 1000 Series plasma cutter was on display fromMultiCam. The plasma-cutting system features dual drives, an engineered aluminum extrusion frame and Hypertherm plasma units. The machine also has a downdraft table, self-adjusting pressure foot, precision dual X-axis drives, and standard Ethernet or RS232 direct connections. The MultiCam controller features a handheld keypad interface allowing the operator to set job parameters, jog the machine, perform system tests and download jobs from a remote computer system. Bar code scanning and 2-D part digitizing are available options.

MultiCam showcased its 1000 Series plasma machine at this year's AHR Expo. The machine features dual drives, an engineered aluminum extrusion frame, and a MultiCam controller to set job parameters.

Norlock Technology Inc.demonstrated its Surelok II. The 18-inch and 25-inch throat machines will fasten material as thick as 14 gauge and as thin as 32 gauge with the company's clinching technology. According to the company, the machine features a rigid steel frame, which offers less deflection for longer tool life. It also has an adjustable stroke, which reduces pinch point and air consumption, and takes up little space. The Surelok II is also air powered, requiring no electrical hookup.

Norlock provided attendees with information on its Power Table, a portable drive table for sheet metal tools. The company claims the table is an affordable way of driving up to four hand-rotary machines from standard 115-volt power. It features a spring-loaded drive shaft with 1/2-inch female square drive connection and foot pedal operation. The Power Table is available in 45 rpm fixed speed or 0-60 rpm variable speed.

Selkirk LLCprovided information on several products, including the Direct-Temp Direct Vent product line. The company's latest product is the ZeroClear, a 3-inch insulated wall grease duct design that meets UL requirements as a zero-clearance grease duct. The product is available in both stainless and aluminum steel exteriors. The interior flues are constructed with heavy-duty 304- or 316-type stainless steel. According to Selkirk, the risk of grease fires is reduced due to a new cylindrical shape of the ZeroClear. This prevents the accumulation of grease unlike the more traditional rectangular shape of conventional grease ducts.

Shortridge Instruments Inc.displayed its latest temperature probes. The new ADT446 and ADT447 TemProbes respond to temperature changes more quickly than the company's ADT442. According to the company, the faster response time has been gained by reducing the thermal mass of the new probes. The stainless steel probe shafts are thinner and shorter than the ADT442. Each probe uses the same type of thermistor, so they can be used with any model of AirData or HydroData multimeter. The ADT446 can be used in both air and water, while the ADT447 is for air applications only.

FabPro-Ductwas on display from ShopData. The CAD program allows for full 3-D drawings, and allows for automatic dimensioning, tagging and duct routing. The program also offers a complete rectangle, round and flat-oval fitting library for design and drawing needs. FabPro-Duct is also fully AutoCAD compatible.

At the Mestek Co. booth, employees of Lockformer and Iowa Precision were celebrating the purchase of a complete coil line by Greg Pickens of ADJ Sheet Metal Inc. in White Plains, Md. Pickens bought an Iowa Precision Pro-Fabriduct line, an insulation cutter from Lockformer, a dual-head CornerMatic and Whisper Loc, both from Iowa Precision; and a Lockformer TDC machine and Corner Cadet. Pictured with the machine is Mike Bailey (left), national sales manager for Iowa Precison and Lockformer; Dick Burkart, Iowa Precision's vice president of sales; Greg Pickens, owner of ADJ Sheet Metal; and Brian Bailey, an account representative for distributor N.B. Handy Co. based in Baltimore.

New products fromTest Products Internationalinclude the Digital Clamp-On Tester with frequency and capacitance capabilities and the AC Safety Volt Check. The digital clamp-on has a 4,000-count display, with a capacitance range up to 4,000 microfarads to test and run start capacitors. The instrument can measure thermocouples and heat anticipator current. Other features include auto/manual ranging, data hold and auto power off.

The AC Safety Volt Check provides non-contact detection of 50 to 1,000 volts of alternating current. The product allows technicians to troubleshoot electrical circuits without the threat of electrical shock. An alarm will sound and a red glow on the volt check will display when voltage is indicated. The buzzer does not react to static electricity.

The power tools division ofTrumpf Inc.showcased its F300 Series seam lockers. According to the company, with the seam lockers, Pittsburgh seams are closed in a fast and automatic rolling operation without damaging visible surfaces or coatings. And an automatic feed control guarantees quality seam locking. The F301 seam locker is recommended for applications from 19 to 26 gauge, and requires a minimum seam height of a quarter inch. The F300 is recommended for 18-gauge duct and requires a minimum seam height of 5/16 inches.

Trumpf Inc. also featured its series of nibblers. The products can handle sheet thickness between 1/32 inches and 3/8 inches. Tools are available for cutting of mild steel, stainless steel, nonferrous metals and plastics. Applications for the nibbler include general metal processing facilities, metal-fitting shops, metal encasings and much more.

Information was available on a number of products fromUltraVation. The Photronic is a whole-house air purifier designed to fight particulates, volatile organic compounds and airborne microorganisms. The product offers three stages of purification by offering a MERV 11 filter, UVC lamps and a photo-catalyst odor-reduction module. UltraVation also provided information on its media cleaners, including its filter system cabinet designs. Designs include the right-angle design system, straight-through design and the under-furnace support-box system.

John McClure (left) from Trumpf Inc. demonstrates the company's F301 seam lockers to attendees at the AHR Expo.

Venture Tape Corp.introduced its new 1507 black line set tape. The company says the tape is a replacement for cloth duct tape. It is also waterproof, weatherproof and UV resistant. The tape is specifically designed for use on foam pipe insulation. It also contains tested and approved mold-inhibiting agents.

WennSoftgave attendees a look at its software options, including Job Cost. The software was developed to integrate accounting functions while providing managers the ability to use job data and manage labor, materials, equipment and other costs. The software also helps to track project change orders, subcontracts, forecasts, purchase orders and more. WennSoft also offers numerous other programs including reporting and estimating, document management, invoicing and time tracking.

Spiral-Helix Inc.featured a number of products at the AHR Expo. One of the products was the Gorelocker Sports Plus, which the company says is two machines in one. The Sports Plus offers a flanger/swager, which will flange one side of a cylindrical gore and swage the connecting side of the next gore with one switch. At the opposite end of the machine is the lock seamer, which finalizes the operation by closing the seam into a standing rib. Both operations can be done simultaneously. The machine handles a variety of materials and gauges, and can produce standing-rib diameters from 5 inches to 50 inches.

Lindab Inc.held a press breakfast Jan. 25 to announce the company's new self-sealing round duct for residences, dubbed the Safe at Home line. Similar to the company's successful commercial round-duct products, the system is designed to ensure leak-free airflow in homes. It comes with factory-installed, double-lipped gaskets. Dave Shaeffer, Lindab's vice president of sales, said more home-owners today are aware of the importance good airflow has on their HVAC system's efficiency.

"You can have the most efficient system in the world, but if the duct is leaking like a sieve, it doesn't matter," Shaeffer said.

Oystein Myrstun from Spiral-Helix Inc. demonstrates the Gorelocker Sports Plus. According to the company, the machine offers an alternative to welded elbows, reducers, end caps and offsets.

Denso Corp.was promoting the CM12, a ceiling-mounted, packaged air conditioner marketed under the MovinCool brand. It can provide up to 13,000 Btuh at 95ºF with 60 percent relative humidity. It runs on 115 volts and 15 amps and needs no special circuits. It can fit in tight ceiling spaces and is controllable by most conventional thermostats.

The HeatPumPro is one of the newest products fromArzel Zoning Technology Inc.Company officials say it's the first HVAC industry integrated control panel made for high-efficiency heat pumps. It includes SmartStaging, which works automatically based on demand or capacity requirements. Zone weighting minimizes bypass requirements and independently sets fan speed. An LCD screen shows everything that's going on with the system.

Hardcastwas promoting its line of insulation adhesives and HVAC hardware. Its insulation products include Roto-Tack, Coil-Tack, Seal-Tack, Travel-Tack and Un-Tack. Among the products in its hardware line is the Connector Plus, a flexible-duct connector. It is available in special fabrics and two gauges of G-90 galvanized steel. The product is made to control vibrations caused by air-handling units, blowers, fans and similar equipment.

The die-stamped bell mouth and a die-stamped long bell mouth with damper are two of the new products from a California-based company,American HVAC Manufacturing Inc. The regular bell mouth includes long collars to make attaching gaskets easier for self-sealing uses, and the long bell mouth's design will reduce damper blade interference. The pieces are made from G-90 galvanized steel.

Klenk Tools presented its Sales Representative of the Year Award to Richard Specialty Co. Jan. 24 at the AHR Expo. Klenk's Scott Anderson (left) gave the award to Wayne Funk and Dave Funk from Richard Specialty. Also pictured is Marty Marcus of Klenk Tools.

Hart & Cooley Inc.featured its three divisions - the Commercial Products Group, American Metal Products Group and the Hart & Cooley brand - at this year's AHR Expo. Hart & Cooley-branded products included residential and light-commercial grilles, diffusers, registers, gas vents and chimneys, flexible duct-work and duct systems. American Metal Products' display included Lima Register residential diffusers and grilles, J&J Register grilles and diffusers and gas vents and chimneys from AmeriVent.

Offerings from the Commercial Products Group included duct systems from Ward Industries, exhaust and venting products from Ampco, heat and smoke vents from Milcor, and rooftop accessories from Portals Plus and Roof Products and Systems.

Don Siiter & Associates Inc.of Yorba Linda, Calif., was promoting its patented, spring-loaded ConduPlugs. Made of plastic, steel and nylon resin, it offers a strong, chemically resistant, fast and secure way to reinforce ductwork, according to the company.

Owens Corningshowed its new QuietZone liner for spiral duct. The acoustic and thermal insulation is designed for ductwork and plenums from 10 inches to 48 inches in diameter. It includes bacteria- and germ-fighting chemicals and blocks the accumulation of dust and dirt in the airstream, according to Owens Corning officials.

Ericoshowed the Caddy Speed Link, a universal support system that works for a variety of items, including ductwork. Made to minimize vibration and wear, it works with or without Caddy-brand fasteners. The cable, lock and hook are made from galvanized steel.

John Talarico of Canada's Taloc Enterprises stands next to his clinching machine.

Officials from Fishkill, N.Y-basedLifa Air Inc.were talking about a new filter system. The company says it can trap and kill almost 100 percent of airborne particles, biological and chemical agents. Optional ultraviolet lights kill other microorganisms. The system also includes an ultra-low-penetration air filter for improved indoor air quality.

Stamped Fittings offers a one-piece, spun conical takeoff in galvanized steel, 20-gauge, G-60 or better. It's available from 3 inches to 38 inches in diameter, has a total length of 7 1/4 inches and its "male" ends fit into spiral ductwork. The company also offers its one-piece spun reducer in larger sizes.

The Model V-2418-CB is the newest air-powered cheek bender fromVicon Machinery. It's made to form 90-degree flanges on either side of the machine. The open-ended design also permits longer flanges with additional cycles. It includes a foot-petal control and an inclined feed for easier use.

Duro Dyne Corp.has released a patent-pending universal air regulator. It fits round or square rods three-eighths or a half-inch in size. It has a clamp-on handle for a tight fit. The handle is clearly visible and shows the damper's direction. An optional seal kit is designed for low-leakage situations.

It was also promoting Target and Slope pins for fastening insulation. Target pins have an embossed washer with recessed nail to improve the contour of the duct liner. They offer a larger surface area for better welds and have an aerodynamic design. Slope pins were made to offer a strong mechanical anchor point for duct liner. A sloped washer makes the transition from insulation to the quilting smooth. A smooth shank pin easily moves through the insulation, officials say.

Ductcap Products Inc.'s Ductcap protects the air-handling system during construction. Covering unfinished ends, it keeps dust, dirt and moisture out of the HVAC system, the company says. Simply stretch the elastic band over round branches and open ends. No tape, screws or other fasteners are required.