Wood’s Powr-Grip keeps its hold on glass gripping market

By: 
CHRIS MCCONNELL
Outlook staff writer
Wood’s Powr-Grip’s latest design, a below-the-hook vacuum lifter, is seen in action at last Wednesday’s demonstration. The innovative machine currently in Chicago being used to install 4,400 pound glass panels in ultra-luxury high rise condominiums.

Many people have seen Laurel-based manufacturing company Wood’s Powr-Grip products, and projects they’ve been used on, without knowing it.
The products are in use in nearly every country in the world. They were used to install glass in everything from the ZooMontana Grizzly bear enclosure, to the “glass bottom” Skywalk in Grand Canyon National Park. They are being used in everything from NASCAR races to Hollywood movies. And they are even “misused” by daredevils, most notably Dan “SpiderDan” Goodwin who has been illegally scaling skyscrapers for more than three decades using vacuum cups, among other gear.
WPG was founded in Wolf Point by Howard Wood after he designed the first Wood’s Powr-Grip Valve Grinder in the early 1960s. He developed it as means to hold engine valves during the lapping process in the Wood’s Auto Electric shop. As demand for the tool grew, he developed additional products, including a vacuum cup to lift and hold glass surfaces.
He began manufacturing the vacuum cups in 1963 and WPG was incorporated in 1964. In the late 1960’s he developed a sealed foam vacuum lifter for use with overhead cranes and hoists.
The patriarch of WPG passed away in 1983, and in 1990 the company moved to its current Laurel location at the former site of Ramsey Lumber Company, and now has 150 employees, many of them locals.
WPG’s latest product is a custom designed vacuum lift, completed just last week, and is currently being used to install several hundred panes of glass in ultra-luxury high rise condominiums in Chicago, where the 11,600 square foot penthouse is selling for a staggering $15 million dollars.
The construction company needed a custom below-the-hook vacuum lifter capable of installing the 4,400 pound glass panels and selected WPG out of the bidding process.
New Product Development Manager, Bryan Strobel said, “The company installing the glass had used our product before and had confidence in what we could provide.”
Strobel was one of several Wood’s engineers who worked on the project, and he helped design the counter balance necessary to install glass at different angles, like those found in airport traffic control towers.
Noting the size of the project, Strobel said it was “outside the scope of what had been done. Normally one to two engineers will work 14 weeks to complete a design but there were seven engineers dedicated to this project.”
Most of the employees were on hand last Wednesday for the demonstration of the completed project, then buyers came from Chicago on Thursday to inspect the lifter.
Strobel said the product shipped on a flat bed to Chicago last Friday, and arrived on Sunday evening. “WPG has two engineers over there now and installation has begun,” he said. There are several hundred panes to install with plans to complete 10 per day.
Now, several of WPG’s lead engineers are on vacation after two months of hard work, the construction company is happy and somewhere, just maybe, SpiderDan is packing up his vacuum cups and buying a ticket to Chicago.

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