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The three R's of Fluke and how they lead to safety

By Chuck Newcombe

July 2011

From my viewpoint, the Fluke Corporation was founded on the three Rs. Let me explain.

Resourcefulness

John M. Fluke Senior was an innovative engineer and founded his company with the design and manufacture of an electronic watt meter. In his first product was a module of his design that performed analog multiplication of instantaneous voltage and current to yield an accurate reading of power in watts.

John M. Fluke Senior

John M. Fluke Senior

Several innovators joined him over the years and contributed their own talents to the engineering pool with John’s encouragement. This led to a steady stream of unique electronic products that set the company apart from would-be competitors. A testimony to that fact is a long list of patents issued to Fluke engineers, prominently displayed in the company museum in the lobby of Fluke’s headquarters building.

Reliability

I became aware of John’s company in 1960, when I worked as a civilian for the US Army Ordnance Corps. We used Fluke differential voltmeters, which provided us the precision of more delicate high accuracy test equipment, but in a rugged package that could handle the rigors of non-laboratory environments. I gained further experience with precision calibration products of the company in my later years in an aerospace calibration standards laboratory.

We selected and used test products that provided reliable measurements consistently, in the lab and on the factory floor, and Fluke instruments were prominent in our inventory.

Responsibility

When I joined the Fluke Company, the first commandment I was given, personally by Mr. Fluke, was that “The customer is our boss. He deserves to get a little more than he thought he paid for.”

I quickly learned that this simple statement would become my guide to every interaction with a customer, from early product definitions, to design, promotional efforts, training and support, and finally, to follow-on service in the event of the failure of a product. Engineering and production people also learned to apply this viewpoint to their work.

Now, let’s talk about how this all applies to safety

Safety gear

Fluke’s first digital multimeter (dmm) was the 8000A, introduced in 1972. Shortly after its introduction, an 8000A failed mysteriously while measuring 480 V ac in a power panel at a pumping station. Fluke engineers investigated and learned about the switching transients in power systems that could easily exceed the 1000 volt operating range of the unit. That event began the long process of design for safety that is integral to every product offered by the company today. And, it wasn’t long before a safety engineer became an integral part of the Fluke product development team.

Just five years later, when we introduced the 8020A handheld dmm, we claimed that 25 percent of the parts in the unit were not necessary to make the measurements, but rather to ensure the product’s reliability and safety. It was the truth. There were components to ensure that the meter would survive transients like those in a power panel, and those to protect against mistakes that a user might make during the meter’s use, such as applying the test leads to line voltage while the meter was configured to measure ohms.

There has been a relentless process to improve the reliability and safety of Fluke products that continues to this day. Examples include the shrouded test leads, which are tested and rated for the toughest applications in hostile environments. Then there are the high energy fuses that protect against arc-flash events around high energy electrical panels.

Engineers perform environmental tests during product development to ensure proper operation at extremes of temperature and after severe abuse, such as drops of test tools from high places.

And, last but not least, there are the many safety training programs available to Fluke customers, to help them perform their daily test and measurement tasks in a safe manner.

One recent product introduction is typical of the care taken by Fluke engineers to assist Fluke product users to safely conduct their daily chores. The new TL175 TwistGuard™ Test Leads have been designed with several safety features now standard on all Fluke products used in high energy applications.

  • First among these are the finger guard rings to ensure that the user’s fingers do not slip forward to contact a voltage being measured.
  • Second is the dual safety rating for Category III 1000 V and Category IV 600 V in accordance with international safety standards.
  • Third is compatibility with the Fluke TL222 Silicone-insulated SureGrip™Silicone Insulated Test Leads with safety shrouded banana plug connectors.
SureGrip™ Silicone Insulated Test Leads

TL175 TwistGuard™ Test Leads

These new probes also have added flexibility in use due to the TwistGuard™ feature, which allows the probe to be useful in situations where the tip must be pressed deep into a connector or socket to reach the test point, like ordinary test leads. But then, when the user is faced with testing in high energy circuits where a long bare test probe might cause a short circuit if it slipped, the user can cover the long probe tip with an insulating sleeve that leaves only 4 millimeters (0.16 inches) of the tip exposed - all with a simple twist.

I think this product once again demonstrates perfectly the “Three Rs” present in Fluke products.

Check out the TP175 TwistGuard Test Probe »