Middle Atlantic Products BGR Rack
Jun 7, 2011 11:10 AM, By Cynthia Wisehart
An inside look at Middle Atlantic Products' radically redesigned BGR Rack.
You may not think about racks a lot, but Bob Schluter does. The Middle Atlantic Products founder has thought about them for 35 years, of course. But for the past two years he has focused in a way engineer/owners dream of doing. During this period, Schluter committed to an extensive road trip to understand how the industry had changed, puzzling over what he says is the most radical redesign of rack systems in 20 years, one designed to literally change the way people do their jobs. You can judge for yourself at InfoComm Booth 3414.
Schluter met with integrators and consultants at more than 121 job sites across the country. He saw densely compacted sites, he saw widgets piled on rack shelves, he saw cables flowing into the top of racks. Ideas started to form.
“There were sort of three waves of understanding,” Schluter recalls, “and three generational changes.”
1. “First—how to get more racking space and less height and still maintain seismic certification? Geometrically that meant people couldn’t put as big of a conduit in the rear.” But, Schluter says, that was already happening. “Maybe they’re saving time by going in the top,” he speculates. “But the unwritten rules are we don’t tell the electricians where to enter. So if this is what they’re doing, I can use that.”
2. “What exactly is the optimum rack width?—I needed to know. Turns out, it’s 23in.” Why? He answers with another question: “What is wasted in every rack in the world? The side of the equipment and the rack wall—the vertical space.” So Schluter designed a vertical plate system that is removable without tools—the patent-pending Lever Lock. It turns out to be the perfect place to mount those widgets that were piling up on shelves. So with the standard 17 3/8in. for most rack-mounted gear plus the two vertical plates, the magic number was 23.
3. “The fun part for me—the aesthetics. Long ago when racks looked like gym lockers, we pioneered no louvers and punch ventilation. Everything still looked a like a gym locker and we hadn’t improved that in 20 years.” So Schluter envisioned things like curved doors and interior bevels, and put designs out to vote in the community. Industrial designer Steve Ficacci then came up with the final design for what is now known as the new BGR rack.
Schluter stresses that the design development was done with unprecedented industry input. He’s immensely grateful for that, especially to the companies that served as beta sites. And—because Middle Atlantic builds it’s own product in house and to a high standard of operational efficiency, the manufacturing engineers had input on the design as it was evolving. “I’m looking forward to people coming onto the booth and seeing what we made together,” Schluter says. He’ll be there.
As we go to press, Middle Atlantic announced that it has agreed to be acquired by infrastructure company Legrand. Middle Atlantic will continue to operate as an independent company within Legrand, and Middle Atlantic president Mike Baker will lead the new Commercial AV division with a combined offering of some 5,000 AV products.
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