Saturday, October 9, 2010

maintaining the pressure/vaccum

Technology is designed, and then it is used. Once any technology is put into use, it needs some form of maintenance. Looking at the maintenance required of pneumatic tube systems reveals all forms of tinkering and improvising and adapting.  

For example WIRED did a wonderful piece on the maintenance of the pneumatic sanitation system on Roosevelt Island. They talked to the Swedish contractors who "crawl through the pipes, find holes and repair them”, and find "all manner of things down the chutes that clog up the system ... Christmas trees, exercise equipment, computers, shelving and vacuum cleaners in the pipe. An electric frying pan jam turned out to be particularly troublesome". The engineers at the facility maintain the system with inventive practices, including devising ways to "drill long metal rods through the jams and then pull them out".

And whilst job advertisements for pneumatic tube system on-site Field Service Engineers state that the engineer will "provide preventive and corrective maintenance, emergency and paid service, start-up of current systems, user training, and promotion of company products & services as required", the job will no doubt involve all sorts of inventive practices that can never be captured in a job description.

Hospital pneumatic tube systems need a lot of maintenance, with their heavy traffic flows. By looking at how these systems are maintained, we can learn a lot more about the colourful life of the technology and about the creative ways in which humans will tinker with its parts.

No comments:

Post a Comment