National lab helps backyard mechanic

July 7, 2005
New Mexican rancher Dale Petty grew weary of the tires on his farm equipment blowing from low air pressure, so he began working on devices that would check air pressure in tires and add or release air to maintain recommended pressures.

He asked nearby Sandia Labs for advice through the Small Business Assistance Program. Last year, Sandia helped 278 businesses in New Mexico. A researcher gave him three ideas for automatically maintaining air pressure: a compressor system, a high-pressure bottle, and a gas generator.

Petty built a portable prototype based on the air-compressor idea. It is powered by a 12-V lead-acid battery with a 100-Vac battery charger and resembles Dana Corp.'s central tire-inflation system (CTIS) found on off-road vehicles. He also built a high-pressure bottle prototype (shown) and mounted one on each wheel of his 1966 Mustang.

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