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REBAR WITH A TWIST: Gadgets are always a draw at exhibitions. Usually they rely on a loud salesman to pull in the punters but Japan Automatic Machine Co's U-Tier was drawing a steady crowd all on its own.

In effect U-Tier is a handheld stitching machine which automates the steelfixer's repetitive task of tying reinforcing bars together using wire and handheld snips.

The operator simply hooks the machine's nose over a bar intersection and squeezes the trigger. The rechargeablebattery-powered machine then wraps the bar joint with wire, torques up the tie, twists the ends and crops off the wire.

The familiar bending stance is avoided along with the continual squeeze-twist-snip wrist action required to form a conventional tie. Cropped off scraps of wire are also eliminated, so there will be less debris to clear from forms when casting fair faced concrete.

JAM showed off its machine to its best advantage on a simple floor slab grid with evenly spaced and sized reinforcement. The U-tier is less flexible than manual operation and comes with interchangeable heads to cover different bar diameters. A stubbier pistol grip model is designed for one handed tying of bars in wall reinforcement and appears to be more flexible for tasks such as assembling beam cages.

Each model comes in a carrying case with 40 spare reels of tying wire, a pair of rechargeable batteries and a charger. One charge is claimed to be good for 450 ties which is said to match the 30 minute recharge time so that continuous operation is possible. The showtime special offer was Yen 210,000 ($1,600), a serious amount for an impulse buy.

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