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K2 and the Automation Group Goes Yard

New Rawlings Batting Machine

The Automation Group strives to help our customers be successful; on and off the field. We are often called upon to work closely with our clients on the engineered or technical aspects of some of their challenges; even when it comes to having a lot of fun in the process!

For the better part of this past decade; North Coast Electric has had the pleasure of working with K2 Sports. In particular, North Coast Electric has developed a strong working relationship with Al Meader, K2’s senior R & D Engineer. Al’s role within the K2 organization has grown from developing ski and snowboard manufacturing to the support of numerous K2 Sport’s subsidiary companies; ranging from snow sports, bicycles, skating and Rawlings baseballs.

The basic requirement of this project involved assembling a mobile baseball batting machine capable of aiming and striking baseballs at better than 100 MPH to test new Rawlings baseball bats.

The physics of an endeavor like this required converting a limited amount of electrical energy into a precise quantity of rotational kinetic energy. In short; we had to help design and supply components capable of “going yard” (hitting a homerun).

With the physical parameters somewhat defined, we helped sized the servo and motion control
equipment, which is coupled to a baseball bat. This baseball bat in turn, is connected to the K2 machine. Allen-Bradley Motion Analyzer Software served as an important tool, which took into account such variables like the bat weight, required acceleration time, distance and final rotational speed.

The results from the Allen-Bradley Motion Analyzer sizing software suggested the largest 230 VAC rated Allen-Bradley Servo Motor along with a 20 HP drive. In essence, we “customized” the Allen-Bradley equipment to maximize the transferred energy to the bat.

In the end, Al Meader and K2 Sports rewarded to us by inviting the various team members to the final test and demonstration exercise at Safeco Field (home of the Seattle Mariners).

On a sunny October morning and under the leery eye of the Safeco greens keeper; we maneuvered
the batting machine trailer roughly 50 feet behind home plate.

Soon the generator was fired up, and Al surveyed final aiming toward the centerfield back fence (over 400 feet!).

With a steady hand on the controls; Al adjusted the power settings from “INFIELD”, to
“OUTFIELD”, and to “OVER THE FENCE”. Not only to we hear the crack of the bat; we felt the sound of the composite bat accelerating and striking the incoming fastball.

Standing in the outfield, we kept a careful watch on the incoming balls raining in; my
only regret was not grabbing my mit before stepping out there!

With a few minor adjustments, the balls began to bounce off the facade, roof-tops,
seats and fake ferns. After an exchange of high-fives and chest bumps; the machine put back into the truck to shipped to the Rawlings facility in St. Louis MO.

Based on Al’s outward pride and smiling face; we definitely went yard?.