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K3 Foam Protectors
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Background

Soon after the K3 was released, Rose Kopp (N7HKW) added a K3 carry case to her line of Elecraft fabric accessories.  I ordered two for transport of my K3s on airplanes, frequently to Aruba where I operate as P49X.  I choose to hand-carry expensive items like radios ever since TSA began their practice of rifling through checked baggage without the owner being present.  (On one trip, I had a box of RFI ferrite beads which they spilled out onto the floor and shattered into hundreds of shards.  That was a loss of over $200 that TSA takes no responsibility for.  The TSA web page actually states that passengers should not check bags with items that are valuable or "delicate"!)

Although I was careful carrying my K3s this way, I was also anxious about their exposure to bumping and damage in the soft cases.  I consulted with the local foam shop we have used for years to fabricate custom inserts for Pelican cases and the like.  We designed closed-cell foam cut-outs for the front and rear panels of the K3.  This provided excellent protection, but there were three issues.  First, the K3 with its foam protectors was difficult to insert into the cloth bags due to the friction between the foam and the cloth.  Second, there was still no protection from a sharp object that might hit the case right on top of a knob or connector.  Third, the foam was vulnerable to rapid wear and tear.  All three problems were solved by gluing a thin sheet of polycarbonate or PVC sheet to the outside of the foam.

New Cases

There was a fourth problem.  The thickness of the two foam protectors made it nearly impossible to get the K3 in and out of my original Rose Kopp carry cases.  In order for the foam to be effective, it needs to be thicker than the most protruding knob or connector on the panel.  Rose is great, but she wasn't clairvoyant enough to foresee that I was going to add nearly 3" to the front-rear dimension of the K3!  So, I purchased a second set of K3 carry cases, sized specifically for accommodating the K3 with these foam protectors.

Since Rose was designing new cases for me, I worked with her and OM Ken (K0PP) to devise a way to temporarily combine two K3 cases such that it qualified as a "single" carry-on item.  The solution is Velcro strips on the back of each case and additional D-rings for a single carry strap that supports the weight of both bags.  I've now made over 15 round trips to Aruba with carry-ons of (1) this dual K3 carry case, and (2) a small roll-aboard case with three laptops and other items.  The computer case serves as a platform to hold the two K3 bags so I have one roll-along package to get through airports.  Once on the airplane, if it is more convenient to store the K3s as separate cases, it takes just 10 seconds to convert them.  (Yes, this is stretching the notion of "carry-ons" to the max.)

Here are some photos of how I use the K3 Foam Protectors:

     
     2 K3s as carry-on          Rose Kopp K3 DXpedition bags (connected)               Rose Kopp K3 DXpedition bag
                                         (Note: the left bag has its individual strap,     (Note: the bag is customized to a greater
                                          while the right strap secures both bags.)         width to accommodate the foam pieces.)

      
         K3 with foam protectors               front protector*         rear protector*
 *clear polycarbonate sheet shows the foam cutouts ... current production is black textured ABS sheet

Carry Cases

Rose has now evolved my custom carry case into an additional offering she calls the DXpedition model which is wider than her standard K3 carry case and includes a set of these foam protectors with retaining strap.  Contact Rose for colors, pocket options, personal embroidery, pricing, shipping, etc.

Foam Protectors

Although these foam protectors were designed for use with the Rose Kopp soft carry case (specifically, the K3 DXpedition model, not the standard K3 carry case), they can be used with other transport applications as well.  If you would like these foam protectors for another transport application instead of the Rose Kopp case, they can be ordered from Rose without a case.  Rose has designed some elastic straps to secure the foam protectors to the K3.  This accessory is useful with all applications, including her cases.  They are now included with each set of foam protectors and are available separately for a modest price, if you did not get them with your earlier order. 

Assembly step

The current production of these parts have black textured ABS plastic with rounded corners.  The early material was gray PVC with square corners.  Only on those early units with square corners, there is one operation that is recommended.  Take a flat file and round each corner with a 1/4" radius.  In this photo you can see the orientation of the file for ease in forming that radius.  Again, this only applies to the earlier gray PVC material.

Ordering

bulletContact Rose Kopp for current pricing of a set of these foam protectors, which now come with a 2" elastic strap, secured with Velcro to hold the protectors on the radio.  The protectors are available by themselves, or bundled with her expedition  carry case.
bulletThere are now a set of protectors for the KPA500 as well.

Although not intended to create a mini-business, this project has been extended to supply these foam protectors at cost.  The cost of both foam and plastic has been escalating at the rate of 50-100% per year recently!  Accordingly, the unit prices from each production run have increased and include the recovery cost of the initial die tooling for the K3 protectors.

Disclaimer

Thanks to Gary (W5ZL) for pointing out that airports and airlines differ in their handling of carry-ons, especially some other countries and some planes with limited carry-on capacity.  It is possible that my carry-on scheme would not pass muster in every situation.  Alternatively, I would probably let them check my roll-aboard computer bag and then carry-on the two K3s only, as separate items.  In extreme situations, only one K3 may be allowed per person.  Here are Gary's comments:

> With all due respect, I'd do some checking with the airlines you're
> planning to use to ensure they're OK with the dimensions and weight of
> your proposed carry-on. I've been on trips in Europe where my
> rollaboard, which is perfectly legal here, and which I carry on
> flights within the US almost every week of the year, was DISALLOWED as
> a carry on and was required to be CHECKED. The fact that I'd gotten
> there already having carried on my stuff was of no interest to them.
> They had very small baggage sizers and they were totally inflexible.
> The fact that I was traveling business class made ZERO difference to
> them.

> Again to be clear, you may waltz right on at your starting point in
> the US but then if you have to change planes somewhere along the line
> in a foreign country you may well be subject to a new set of MUCH
> tighter rules.

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page edited 17-Jan-17 10:22 -0800