Inside story

25 April 2008

LGH Megalift designed and built a lifting system to operate in the confined Saint-Gobain Glass facto

LGH Megalift designed and built a lifting system to operate in the confined Saint-Gobain Glass factory in the UK

For lifting inside factories, typically heavy machinery, there are two basic types of equipment. It will either be something with a heavy lift capacity and the smallest footprint with little or no headroom requirement, or something clear of the ground that occupies no floor space, i.e. an overhead travelling crane.

Using the former approach, LGH Megalift in the UK was contracted to provide an alternative lifting solution to Mayfield Engineering Ltd for the transportation and installation of a 50 tonne autoclave in a new factory area at specialist plate glass maker, Saint-Gobain Glass in Yorkshire.

“As well as the load weighing 50 tonnes there were a number of access problems, so we asked LGH Megalift if they could use their specialized hydraulic gantry system rather than having to remove the roof of this newly built factory area,” explains Frank McGuinness, Mayfield Engineering.

Access for the transport was limited so the autoclave was brought in through the factory door on a specialized low transport vehicle. LGH Megalift set up a hydraulic gantry system over the vehicle and lifted the autoclave off so that the vehicle could drive away. The autoclave was then lowered on to skates, so that it could be turned through 90 degrees and pulled into position at the head of the 0.4 m deep pit where it was to be installed.

The pit was close to the adjacent wall but the new factory area had also been designed with a low roof. This meant that it was not possible to use a crane to lift the autoclave into the pit. “To make matters worse there was also an overhead crane track and power bars running directly above the pit, which meant that headroom was severely limited,” explains Bob Hamilton, LGH Megalift.

Following an engineering study LGH Megalift devised a solution using its hydraulic gantry system. Megalift tracks were placed either side of the pit and into the factory and the hydraulic jacks and gantry system were then positioned over the autoclave to perform the lift. “The limited headroom meant that it was not possible to extend the cylinders very high so we also fitted four 15 tonne chain blocks, supplied by our sister company Lifting Gear Hire, to the beams,” says Hamilton.

The chain blocks were connected to the autoclave, which could then be lifted clear of the floor. The Megalift system was tracked along the rails carrying the autoclave over the pit and then lowered into position using the chain blocks, which were still fitted to the Megalift beam. The job was completed in four days.

Russian glass

Another UK-based company, Street Crane, was contracted by Pilkington plc to install 11 new overhead crane systems at a new glass factory in Russia. The cranes, which cost just over €1 million were to handle 240,000 tonnes of float glass annually. As part of a joint venture with Emerging Market Partnerships (EMP), UK glass manufacturer Pilkington constructed the float glass plant in the Ramenskoye district of Moscow.

Pilkington's own engineering teams installed the new cranes. The units in the order range in capacity from five to 25 tonnes and include double girder, single girder and wall travelling jib cranes. Some of the cranes span 40 m bays and all are operated by radio remote control.

All equipment was built in the UK and shipped over land to Russia.

Street sales director, Keith Rainford, said, “We have collaborated with Pilkington on UK and international projects for many years. This is the first project we have completed in Russia and we are pleased that the programme ran to schedule.” The Ramenskoye plant began operations in November last year.

In addirtion to the order from Russia, Street says it enjoyed a successful 2005, due, the company says, to a twin-track marketing strategy. In the UK, it sells complete cranes that are customised to meet customers' process requirements, while overseas it partners with fabrication companies that can take Street hoists, travelling equipment and controls, for use with locally fabricated structures. This has allowed the company to counter the effects of the UK investment cycle and achieve greater stability.

“In 2004 overseas sales accounted for 60% of the business and the domestic market was difficult, but in 2005 the UK market has strengthened so that the ratio will be 60:40 in favour of home sales,” explains Keith Rainford. “Growth in the UK has largely been driven by orders from traditional industries such as steel, where there are major changes taking place in logistics infrastructure. Corus in the UK and Heiton's in Ireland placed notable orders.

“Innovation, still higher levels of reliability and value are the drivers in the home market,” Rainford says. “The cantilever yard cranes for Heiton's are a good example. The main beam projects 5 m and 7 m beyond the track edge, permitting unimpeded loading and unloading of trucks on either side. The design improves access and space usage by allowing the whole of the area between the tracks to be used for storage if required.”

Growth in the UK for Street has not been offset by any fall in overseas sales, Rainford explains, “We have strong partnerships within the Gulf States where crane sales are driven by industrial development and a construction boom. Our agent in Canada continues to perform strongly and there are signs that the USA, a market severely affected in 2003/4 by the strength of Sterling, is bouncing back.”

Looking to 2006 and beyond, Street is confident that the UK and world situation will continue to be favourable. Rising prices for steel, energy and other commodities – largely driven by demand from China – will drive investment, both in the UK and overseas. At the same time, purchasers will still press for improved performance and value. These factors are reflected in the current development programme from which new products will emerge in 2006/7, Rainford concludes.

Swiss industrial crane manufacturer GIS redeveloped its electric chain hoist (GCH) in the second half of 2005, and it will be available with a lifting capacity up to 4.5 tonnes in early 2006. All parts of the housing, including both side covers, are aluminium.

The drive torque, which is generated by a three-phase asynchronous motor, is transmitted by a low-maintenance and low-wear sliding clutch that is integrated in the rotor. The multiple disc brake in the drive train has been relocated after the sliding clutch. The brake can hold the load, even if the sliding clutch fails.

A two-piece chain guide made from low-wear, fibreglass-reinforced plastic is to ensure that the load chain is accurately guided. It prevents chain twisting or trapping, which contributes to providing additional operating safety. The end of the load chain is anchored to the housing in the modified chain magazine.

The new models, in capacities from 2 to 4.5 tonnes, have a two- or three-stage gearbox. As all the gears are helical cut, the hoist operates quietly, says GIS. The housing can remain closed during adjustment and maintenance work as it is designed to provide a clear functional division between the two sides of the housing: one side contains the permanently lubricated gearbox, and the other side contains all electrical and other components. The clutch can be adjusted at the electrical side without the need for special tools.

Another development is the way the chain hoist can be converted from one fall to two falls (to double load capacity). Rotating the suspension eye on the top of the housing by 180 degrees is required to achieve this.

Claxton International in the UK has delivered a Riggers Tri Lifter 75 tonne capacity Boom Truck to AE Morris Ltd of Doncaster, England. The Tri Lifter is designed to move heavy loads in confined spaces, especially heavy industrial machinery and equipment and for tilting and setting presses.

Digital display of load weight, boom and counterweight position, coupled with two speed hydrostatic drives, are designed to give precise handling in confined spaces. Wide wheels spaced to distribute the weight of the Tri-Lifter and its load minimises floor loading.

In addition to the standard boom capable of lifting 68 tonnes to 7.5 m, the Tri-Lifter delivered to AE Morris also has forks, a jib attachment and a 65 tonne capacity “spinner”. The forks can lift 59 tonnes to a height of 4.5 m.

Trailer crane

For machinery removal and plant installation, specialized trailers are becoming more popular. Increasing numbers of trailers are not only being used to transport machinery but also as the mounting point for knuckle boom cranes. Instead of mounting the crane on the tractor it is on the rear of the trailer. This allows the crane to be used to its full potential as it is positioned in between the loading area on the trailer bed and its working range is over the sides and rear of the trailer. In this way restrictions and loss of capacity when working over the front of the tractor, or over the long gooseneck, can be avoided.

A pioneer manufacturer in this niche market is Broshuis. Recently the Dutch specialized trailer manufacturer delivered its largest trailer mounted crane to date. Machinery removal specialist J Exley Ltd., established more than 90 years ago in the UK, ordered a four axle Broshuis semi lowbed trailer with Fassi F1500XP knuckle boom crane. To provide a stable base for the 150 tonne-metre crane, it has an additional, 3.75 m long frame covering the rear three axles. More than 8 m of load space remains between the frame and the gooseneck. Extending the trailer deck another 5.5 m can further increase it. Two sets of hydraulic outriggers, one fitted to the knuckle boom crane and the other integrated in the gooseneck, further add to the stability of the crane.

According to Broshuis, 120 to 150 tonne-metre cranes are the current standard for machinery removal and plant installation. Additional options, such as power supplied by the tractor's PTO or by a separate power pack on the trailer, a curtain sided trailer body or container twist locks in the bed are available.

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