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Spank-O-Matic II, Hand Control
Spank-O-Matic II, Disassembled
Enlighten: Understand the Competition's Claims about the SOM
The folks over at Robospanker have certainly noticed the Spank-o-matic and my comparisons of the SOM versus their machine. Interestingly, instead of providing comparisons to show the advantages their product provides, they have primarily elected to attack air compressors as a competitive tactic. This page addresses general themes they use in this approach.
Compressors date back hundreds of years (even thousands if you count the basic bellows), and are all around us. The vast majority of cooling devices -- including home and auto air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers -- use a compressor. Dentists tools are powered by compressed air, as are many tools used in home, auto, and machine shops. Inflators blow up our balls (not those balls!) and tires, baseboards are tacked in place using pneumatic nailers, big rigs use air brakes powered by a compressor, and the consumer air compressor has long been a staple among home tools. You can buy compressors all over the place, from Home Depot to Sears, Amazon to Wallyworld. This is well and long-proven technology. And it works fabulously for spanking!
Moisture and the Compressor Tank
As noted on the Understand: Pneumatics for Spanking Power page, there's this thing that happens when you compress air. Any room's air has a tiny amount of moisture in it, and when you squish a bunch of it into a small space the resulting compressed air cannot hold the amount of water it started with. The bit of excess drops out. Over time, this moisture collects in the tank of your compressor. It this a "danger"? No.
There is a (mostly theoretical) possibility of danger, if you leave this water in the compressor tank for years... most likely decades, based on the best evidence available. Most compressors have a steel tank, and steel exposed to water eventually rusts. Despite being vastly overbuilt for the pressure involved, this rusting can eventually weaken the tank. There are a number of reports of tank failures in the form of pinhole leaks, and a couple -- over decades of wide availability of compressors in the modern form -- of actual tank burst events. In every case, many years of neglect have been involved. The concern of bursting tanks is, in truth, primarily a theoretical risk... in other words, it could happen, but doesn't actually happen.
No one denies that it's quite simple to prevent any danger associated with water in the tank: drain it periodically. Since many years of exposure are required, and because water collects quite slowly in the tank, taking a minute to drain the tank every few uses will completely prevent any issue. Every consumer compressor manual out there says the same thing, although in standard CYA form they ask you to do so after each use. I own several compressors, including one I've had for more than 20 years. I drain the tanks quite infrequently, and each continues to perform flawlessly.
Things About the System Exhaust
Compressed air starts in the room, is mechanically pressurized into the tank, proceeds through the regulator (which can restrict the amount of pressure passed forward), down the air hose, and into the solenoid valve. This valve is opened for a precisely controlled time to create each stroke. When open, the valve allows air to rush into the cylinder, thrusting the arm forward with great power and speed to create a stroke. When the valve closes, the air in the cylinder is released through the valve's exhaust port, allowing the cylinder to retract under return spring tension. As the cylinder retracts, its small volume of air is pushed out the exhaust port.
The folks at Robospanker have -- at various times -- suggested dangers in this exhausted air, including but probably not limited to "breathing hazards", carbon monoxide, toxic vapors, allergens, oil mist, and solid particles. They suggest that air compressors should "only be used in well-ventilated areas." Most of these alleged dangers come from two sections of most any air compressor manual. One relates to the use of the compressor to spray hazardous materials such as paint, herbicides, and insecticides. It is certainly true that you should only spray such things in a well-ventilated area and they do represent toxic vapors and such. It is equally obvious that these manuals do not say the compressor itself should only be used in a well-ventilated area... the concern is clearly specific to spraying this type of material. The second manual section notes that a consumer air compressor should not be used to directly provide air for breathing, either straight from the output or by filling a tank from which one later breathes. There are specialized systems designed for forced-air breathing and filling SCUBA tanks, and one does not use a general air compressor for these things. The warning about solid particles relates to the use of compressed air to blow surfaces clean... particles on the blown surface can be launched into the air. Honestly, it should be completely obvious that none of these sections are applicable to the use of a compressor with a spanking machine.
An air compressor does not create anything. It takes in room air, and puts out room air. That room air includes carbon monoxide (CO, a gas that is in air at about 0.2 PPM), both before and after it goes through the compressor, and no addtiional carbon monoxide is magically created in between. Air also includes water vapor and allergens... therefore, so does the compressor's exhaust. The only thing the SOM II system will add is a microscopic amount of compressor oil, which you (as a good owner) will add through the air hose to keep the cylinder and valve in excellent condition for years. Far from being a risk, any little mist from this lubrication exiting the exhaust port is exactly what protects the system, and presents absolutely no dangers according to the Material Saftey Data Sheets for these products.
Basically, the exhaust has the same things in it that the room air has already, and presents absolutely no "dangers." Don't run a hose from the valve exhaust and try to breathe from it and you are at no risk.
Things Referenced in Links That Aren't Relevant
In similarly inaccurate tradition, Robospanker has habitually linked to information that isn't relevant in one way or another. Compressors come in all shapes and sizes, from very small units used for detailed airbrushing to thousand-horsepower monsters powering pnuematic systems at nuclear power plants. Compressors are used for a wide range of activities, from operating the brakes on large trucks to powering small drills used in dentistry. It is obvious to any thinking person that information about one application isn't necessarily relevant to a different application.
The first example I'll provide is the dentist. The modern suite of dental tools are powered primarily by compressed air. Yep, it's that safe! However, when blowing a tooth surface dry or running a drill inside a patient's mouth, you need exhausted air that is incredibly clean. Especially since the mouth is quite likely to have open, bleeding wounds, that exhaust must be scrubbed of every possible contaminent. Companies that sell to dentistry and hospitals, such as Parker Domnick Hunter (to whom Robospanker links as though their discussion about clean air is important here), talk about a level of air scrubbing that isn't relevant to any other application when they market their products. Things they say about air contamination in the dental environment have no relevance to air power for spanking. If your room air is safe to breathe, it is still safe to breathe after being compressed and released back into the room... it's the SAME air. Running a compressor powered by an electric motor adds nothing to your air, either.
Next, consider documentation and policies for a gigantic air compressor... the size of an average living room and powered by the equivalent of six minivans! A behemoth like this is loud. Really loud. There's no doubt that it's in an environment where people wear hard hats and safety glasses, and most definitely hearing protection. However, despite Robospanker's links to nuclear power plant compressor documentation, this has nothing at all to do with the spanking compressor. A typical SOM user will have an air compressor roughly the size of a breadbox, powered by about a 1 horsepower electric motor, and producing as much noise as a normal conversation. Obviously, you don't need hearing protection around such a compressor, because it isn't loud... like the one at a NUCLEAR POWER PLANT.
California Proposition 65: The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986
You're probably pretty familiar with this type of statement: "WARNING: This product (or area) contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm." It's the blanket language compliant with Prop 65 in California, and indicates that a product or area may (or may not) contain an amount of one of 800+ chemicals on a State of California list... including things as diverse as lead, wood dust, and marijuana smoke. Technically, every power cord -- including the one on the Robospanker -- should be accompanied by this warning if sold in Califoria, because they all have a very small amount of lead in the outer insulation.
There's no penalty for applying this warning when it doesn't need to be applied, but a $2500 per day per violation civil fine for not doing so when you should. Because it's wise to put it on if there's any doubt, you'll find them all over lots of goods, and present at most businesses in California. In fact, you'll find that Amazon.com places this warning on every single product it sells which has a power cord, all lead crystal glassware, Tiffany-style lamps, and beauty products. This is the warning Robospanker found in one compressor manual, whose importer happens to operate from California. From this warning, they have claimed there is a "cancer risk of air compressors." In case it's not obvious, there isn't a single recorded instance of an air compressor as the cause of or a contributing factor to someone's cancer or birth defect.
You'll have to weigh this issue for yourself, of course. But I think most people understand that this warning is mostly a giant joke, unlike cancer itself, and finding it in one compressor manual because the importer happens to be located in California doesn't actually mean using an air compressor causes cancer ;) Heck, if you're worried, just buy a different compressor, since none of the other manufacturers have this warning!
The Alleged "Major Design Flaw"
As of July, 2015, the following remains on the Robospanker site:
My last observation is a specific issue that I think is a major design flaw of the spank-o-matic. That is their failure to put a dryer in the pneumatic circuit. There are numerous articles on the internet that refers to the potential danger of moisture in an air compressor tank. These dangers range from bacteria, to rust, and even potential explosions. Although obviously health risk is a major concern, but also, moisture tends to do great damage to tools and machinery. So their failure to use a dryer, in my opinion really reduces the life span of their machine.
It is obvious from the above is that the folks at Robospanker do not know what a pneumatic mist seperator (i.e. "air dryer") is and why it would be used. A seperator can be installed in a pnuematic line between the compressor and downstream tooling or output, and functions to remove water and oil mist from the compressed air as it exits the compressor. This function is typically required in paint or powdercoat spraying and similar applications, where extremely dry air is required based on the end use. Water mist while spraying paint causes problems in the resulting finish. The vast majority of systems do not employ a seperator... one would only install a seperator if the application requires extremely dry air.
Robospanker claims here that a seperator prevents water buildup in the tank, which is simply and completely not true. Water separators work AFTER the tank... aside from thoroughly dehumidifying the vast volumes of air going into the compressor, which is both unnecessary and impractical, there is no way to avoid the basic physics that results in moisture in the tank. The simple and quick process of draining the compressor's tank reliably avoids all associated issues.
Finally, it is utterly unnecessary to dry the air in the SOM system. It is important to lubricate the moving parts -- in this case by manually adding a few drops of oil before each use -- and doing so is what protects their useful life. With proper lubrication, the microscopic amount of water proceeding through the system is totally immaterial, and it would be a waste to purchase and maintain a separator to do something about it.
Learn: SOM II
See: Video of the SOM II
Control: Take Control of the SOM II
Hear: Testimonials for the SOM II
Compare: SOM II vs. the Competition
Understand: Pneumatics for Spanking Power
Enlighten: Find Truth Through the Competition's Lies