Equipment racks have been developing right alongside the products they contain, thanks to manufacturers' undivided attention to the marketplace. While racks do develop based on customer requests at times, there are many trends in this segment of the industry that might surprise contractors.
Mark Tracy, director of marketing for Middle Atlantic Products, has noted several trends for racks in recent years. "Racks follow the equipment and wiring trends. As a manufacturer it's our job to anticipate where the technology is going and make sure the racks are there to accommodate it. Rack trends are really going toward integrated systems, and their job is protecting the equipment and maintaining signal integrity."
Specifically, racks are going to get deeper, Tracy explained. "Equipment is getting deeper, requiring racks to get deeper, driven by increased processing speed. The racks are becoming denser, with more processing now packed into racks than ever before. That requires racks sized to accommodate the increased cable density and drives much more active cooling than in the past."
Kevin Ditch, engineering manager for Lowell, made the case for a standard footprint size. "Lowell offers a variety of heights and sizes, but we decided to offer standard footprint width. That allowed us to simplify what installers dealt with in the field, which meant we weren't dealing with multiple rails and gave them the flexibility as the cabinet requirement and depth in general grew. We also have consistent knockout patterns, so if someone changes a project midstream, contractors will be okay."
One big factor that many clients have been pushing toward is making racks more aesthetically pleasing. Tracy said, "The physical location of the rack is often moving from the back room into more public views. They want more aesthetics, with nice wood grain finishes or rounded edges."
John Lowell, president of Lowell, agreed. "We built in aesthetics so we have a consistent look to our products across all lines. We coined a term called rack furniture because we feel that the look of our products is so aesthetic that you wouldn't be embarrassed to have them out in a boardroom."
One aspect of this market that will eventually affect all contractors is the cost of raw materials to make racks. Steve Young, Atlas Sound vice president of sales and marketing, explained, "Racks are going to cost a whole lot more because metal pricing continues to rise exponentially. Manufacturers can only extract costs to a certain point. All of us out there in this industry pretty much have the same machines and use the same methods, but the materials in the racks are the driving cost factors. The contractors out there bidding those jobs have to understand that it's a volatile market when you're dealing with something that's more metal than anything else. It's going to be an interesting journey in the next few months dealing with increased raw materials prices."
What's in the future for racks? Manufacturers may explore more markets for their products, and seemingly they're not going to get much cheaper. Young pointed out an untapped market for racks: "The one interesting thing that no one in our industry has addressed is the relay style racks. We'd like to find a solution to that at some point, with the industry driving that price down it's hard to play in that arena."
Tracy noted the importance of multiple-use racks as the industry continues to converge. "Multifunction racks are great because many jobs in our space require AV and IT gear to coexist. Those are gaining a lot of ground now."
New Equipment Racks 2008
Stantron Glide and Turn Rack
The Stantron Glide and Turn rack features all-steel construction and is ideal for professional AV applications, including for corporate board room presentations, educational facilities, and studios. The rack is designed to fit into a wall as part of the architectural design, or inside a closet, although it can be positioned virtually anywhere. The upper part of the rack slides out in a cantilevered manner, and can be rotated to reach the back of the rack where the bulk of the cabling and connections reside.
Middle Atlantic Products Slim 5 Series
Middle Atlantic Products recently introduced new enhancements and options for its Slim 5 series equipment racks that give AV system integrators new solutions for common installation challenges and opens up many new applications for discerning clients who want reliable systems in even the most prominent locations. The most visible change is the addition of new top and side panel options that feature sculpted, user-friendly edges and make use of a tough new surface material for years of service.
Bretford TC15 Presentation Technology Cart
The TC15 presentation technology cart from Bretford provides streamlined mobility and display of AV equipment. Designed for education and office environments, the cart incorporates two 19-inch rack mounts that allow users to easily move, store, and secure the latest technology accessories for teaching, training, and signage applications. Developed by Bretford's in-house design team, the TC15 has a clean, sleek shape.
Lowell's new variable depth, thin frame Vari-Rack system ships knocked down for freight savings. Bases are engineered for on-the-spot depth adjustment from 20 to 28 inches or for shallow applications; Series LVR1421 adjusts from 14 to 21 inches. The 19.214-inch W frame uses minimal space and is engineered for easy assembly and mounting of 19-inch W equipment in freestanding or built-in uses. Models support up to 400 pounds and offer the added benefit of mounting 19-inch W fan, vent or closure panels into the top or bottom when the frame is fully expanded.
Atlas Sound 700 Series
The 700 Series equipment racks from Atlas Sound are constructed of 14-gauge CRS welded frames and available in 25.5-inch depth with 35, 40, and 44 RU heights as well as 30 and 36 inch depths with 44 RU. Each seismic-ready 700 Series enclosure features multi-formed and welded frame members, double-formed front and rear sections, and vertical columns that interlock with both the cabinet top and base to provide higher load bearing strength. The open side design of the series provides ample access in single or multi-bay configurations.
Verotec Fan Trays
Verotec has extended its range of 19-inch 1U standard fan trays. Two depths are available, an 8-inch deep unit fitted with three fans and a 14-inch deep unit with six fans. All sizes are offered with a choice of 12, 24, or 48 VDC fans or 115 or 230 VAC fans, and each unit is available with or without a replaceable filter. Each DC fan is rated at 170 m3/h, the 115 VAC fans at 180 m3/h and the 230VAC fans at 160 m3/h.
Raxxess ECR-ST Rack
Raxxess has incorporated all of the features of the ECR series of racks into an all steel version. Extremely rugged and secure, the ECR-ST has greater capacity than its counterparts. Below the key lockable and retractable steel top is a 12 RU mixer section that can be moved to any of 8 different positions, from 0-45 degrees. Below it, and behind another key locked, steel door, is a 16 RU section for mounting electronic components. Like the front door, the locking steel rear door also features abundant slotting for passive ventilation when the unit is closed.
Winsted Pro Series II
Economical UL-approved Pro Series II vertical racks deliver the features and functions integrators demand and include a 10-year warranty. Vertical racks are available in multiple styles and formats to meet your rack mount equipment needs. Flexible delivery options, thermal management, and optional accessories customize racks to your needs. Optional rack pedestals lift each rack, and provide conduit knock-outs and removable side sections for horizontal wire management. Pedestals support plate casters or individual leg levelers.