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Story

This website is brought to you by Dave Korpi with a bunch of help from Duane, Kengo, Paul, and Roger.

Why Tactical Flow Meter? One day after the AT&T Pro Am Golf contest I went to the "Pro Shop" and noticed they offered a nicely packaged soap product called "Tactical Soap" and was amused and thought the folks who decided on the "Tactical Soap" name were likely not so full of themselves.  Why would a golfer need Tactical Soap? I imagined it likely smelled like Axle Grease because it was black in color. But nay, it smelled like lavender! Go figure. At the time it inspired me to use the name of "Tactical Flow Meter" because I was of the mind that most of the companies who make Flow Meters seem to be a bit "full" of themselves. I wondered why most of the Mass Flow Meter companies offerings had not taken advantage of the HUGE advancement in electronics, automation, and cost of tooling for manufacturing. After all, w can buy a microprocessor now that does 100 times MORE and at 50 times the speed for one TENTH the price. Why are most flow meter companies NOT taking advantage of this? So, the name Tactical Flow Meter stuck and I put it under my company called Take 5, Inc. where I have a consulting company where I help folks file Patents among other electrical and mechanical engineering related tasks.And, yes, the flow meters hopefully should all have a very slight scent of Axle Grease for your enjoyment.

I was one of the founding partners and the Senior Vice President of Sierra Instruments Inc. that might, by now, be a $40 million dollar company just 4 miles from my house. 

At Sierra I devoted over 25 years developing the highest technology and highest quality thermal mass flow meters, and support systems in the market. I hold over 10 patents and patents pending for the novel technology such as that utilized by Sierra Instruments including Novel Mass Flow Meter Sensors, Thermal Mass Flow Meter Temperature Compensation Methods, Primary Standard Calibration Systems, The first low cost Injection Mass Flow Meter, Real-Time Inertial Micro-Balance systems and more. I was the crazy nutball engineer who made a hobby of voraciously reading every technical journal related to the subject as well as working with John Olin, who can, probably in his head, likely calculate the local weather patterns using the Navier Stokes relationships as well as being nearly able to derive the governing equations for a thermal mass flow sensor system. I had an awesome mentor in John Olin and, over time, acquired a profound understanding of exactly how to model these thermal mass flow systems, using MathCad, LabVIEW, and embedded systems for various configurations of Thermal Mass Flow Meters. This work led to filing and being awarded a patent on a near ideal sensor for a family of thermal mass flow meters utilizing a platinum sheath to minimize end losses. This is something John Olin lacked the desire to engage in... The desire to fiddle with mechanical elements, computers, and electronics. To me it is a complete and utter joy and I excel at it. Since leaving Sierra I have dedicated my "fun problem solving time" to the "geekery" of thermal Mass Flow Meters, which is why, finally, I have decided to make a company that sells the next generation of thermal mass flow meters that I would have probably come up with if I did not sell my interest in Sierra Instruments.

Being Semi Retired for nearly 20 years I saw a huge gap in the the "art" that invited me to use my work to bring to market the "Next Generation" design for Thermal Mass Flow Meters.

This particular Mass Flow Meter offering was inspired by my work with a highly respected company in Japan that had a need for a very high performance Mass Flow Meter that would address the needs dictated by the Emperor of Japan stating that they would decommission all Nuclear Power Plants and would pay 50% of the costs associated with reducing the consumption of energy by 15%. MOSTLY the reduction is in the form of the consumption of "City Gas", we know it as Natural Gas, used in the Steel Mills, Injection Molding houses, as well as steam heat systems. Utilizing complex control algorithms, including the air temperature, vessel temperature, melt temperature, vapor temperature, humidity, and melt volume, the Mass Flow Meters would show they can easily save over 30% of the gas consumption.

I started my career in Mass Flow Meters in Carmel Valley California when my parents friends, the Kurz family, asked that I babysit their kids. I was about 17 at the time. I met Jerry Kurz who started Sierra Instruments with his neighbor John Olin. Jerry invited me to see his company with the idea that I help around the shop. We used to ride horses in the orchard where John and Jerry built their houses, right next to each other.

I was immediately amazed at what they were doing and was willing to do ANYTHING to learn more. I got a job soldering circuit boards as well as calibrating and working on Temperature Compensation systems for the model 310 High Volume Air Sampler flow control system. I was also introduced to configuring circuit boards for the Air Velocity line that utilized, then a "state of the art", breakpoint linearizer that would linearize the highly non linear signal from conventional thermal mass flow sensing elements to allow for easy analog communication of the flow signal.

I worked my way up (OK, maybe not up in some minds) to paying all of the bills as well as designing the very first portable Air Velocity Meter and worked on the circuit as well as creating the artwork for the Analog Panel Meter to indicate various ranges of Air Velocity as well as a pressure measurement inferred by the passage of air within a small orifice past a mass flow sensor. I met the salesman for Weston Instruments named Bob Steinberg who can STILL sell snow to Eskimos and ended up hiring Bob to work for Sierra.  I do consulting for Bob at Sage Metering around automating their calibration system as well as designed and manage their SageMetering.com website. In the end I was inspired by Jerry Kurz to study electronics and by John Olin that there existed a need to learn how to sell the stuff. Jerry could rip apart an airplane engine and install a sensor to derive the perfect fuel mixture, based on the stoichoimetric temperature, while John could not find a doggone spark plug but could probably design one if he was told what it was for. John; theory, Jerry; practice. I learned from the two and was inspired by both.

I worked building high end spec houses with my Step Father Contractor from foundation to cabinets and finish and working with Sierra for a few summers until it came time to going to a University. Both John and Jerry insisted I go to their Alma Matter, Stanford University, but I elected to attend my Brother's Alma Matter, the University of California at Berkeley, located in California.  I studied in the first round where the double major was offered in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at UC Berkeley and received my double degree in EE and ME from UC Berkeley.

While going to school I enjoyed a great deal of work from Sierra Instruments in the form of building circuit boards, calibrating linearizers as well as making custom filters for the stack sampling industry.  I even got to be a paid professional witness because of my specialized knowledge about the art of sampling particulate on glass fiber filters. I made more money in school doing those jobs as ,well as being the maintenance manager at the Co-Op, and tutoring Physics, Statics, and Math, that allowed me to buy a house when I got out of school. None of my buddies did that.

While in school John and Jerry decided to split up Sierra Instruments between the two where John kept the Environmental side and Jerry kept the mass flow meter side and they both agreed not to enter into each others business lines for a period of 2 years or so. My brother was the "Shrink" who met with them to help them make the difficult, yet good decision to split apart.

When it came time to graduating both John Olin and Jerry Kurz invited me to work with them but I had no interest working with a tiny company in Carmel Valley when folks like Nolan Bushnell of Atari and the fancy pants recruiter at Hewlett Packard flew me to Oregon to show me one of the the most incredible companies on the planet... Then, John Olin took me to lunch, which was super cool for a college kid, and, being the extraordinary salesman he is,  I saw the wisdom of starting with a small company and learning how to sweep the floors, pay the bills, buy parts, ship product, calibrate product, and have fun engineering as well.

Then, one day John said something like.. "Lets go to Silicon Valley and find out what folks want in a Mass Flow Controller and come back and make the best Mass Flow Controller" We did and the rest is history. We went from an upstairs loft with four of us, a dog named Fanny Foxtail Wonder Dog and a cat named Sierra, and ended up moving to Monterey California, where Sierra is now, and built a large building where I got to customize nearly every element specifically to service the Semiconductor Industry's need for an Ultra Clean Fabrication Facility. I got to build and design (and awarded a few patents) on a number of Primary Calibration Standard systems that we used and sold and is STILL used at Sierra as well as the Swiss Standards lab that is the Swiss equivalent of NIST.

I developed what is now Sierra's "Automotive Division" Diesel Particulate system utilizing novel technology of two digital mass flow controllers "mirroring" one another to operate in a differential mode to provide heretofore impossible to measure values.  The design, in a 19" NEMA rack mount enclosure replaced a School Bus sized system designed by folks at the Caterpillar Tractor Company and our new "BG-2" for $100,000 each. This product was screaming for an automated method to weigh the sample filters. There was nothing viable for automated filter weighing at the time.

While at Sierra I also developed a sophisticated Ventilator Calibration System "Respi-Cal" that achieved a 501K certification for Medical Apparatus. That product was sold to Allied Healthcare, a huge company in the medical field. Additionally I developed a fully automated calibration system for every element of the device including Oxygen Concentration,  two pressure ranges and two flow meter sizes with various levels of Oxygen, Air and Nitrous Oxide. All fully automated with a NIST compliant calibration certificate.

After leaving Sierra I signed a non-compete clause, for 3 years, so, because I am a geek and no other good reason, I developed a viable Real Time Inertial Microbalance system that can be used to measure the mass of particulate collected, in real time, on a filter used tor compliance testing of diesel engines. Mark and I tested the system in a CARB lab and it worked wonderfully well, even though it was a prototype. Later I sold the technology to Sierra so they could commercialize the technology.

Coming to today I have worked with a number of users and folks in the industry to produce the very first Thermal Mass Flow Meter, and Controller, with data-logger and multiple digital and analog outputs that features a very advanced MEMS sensor that has 2^15 resolution and features a SmartPhone interface that allows real time readings, as well as an email server to send data-logs to a user.

Conventional Mass Flow Meters feature complicated user interfaces utilizing a few push buttons, or touch sensitive buttons or even Hex Keypads. Additionally, being the primary standard- automation geek the Thermal Mass Flow Meters and Controllers are calibrated to fully automated NIST Traceable calibration equipment that is far superior, in terms of automation, to the systems I designed for Sierra that are still in use at Sierra today.

I invite you to discover what can happen to the technology when the Engineer responsible for nearly every product at Sierra puts to use the latest advances in electronics and technology as well as design for manufacturability can do for YOUR needs in measuring gas flow.

A number of patents are pending for various new improvements in this technology.

 

Sincerely,

Dave Korpi

President Take 5 Inc.
TacticalFlowMeter.Com