An Australian engineering company has designed and built an automated pallet handling system that not only produces major time and labour savings but also improves workplace safety.
Reeves Engineering of Sydney developed the innovative air spring-actuated system for a manufacturer of widely diverse metal products that needed them to be collected from production and packaging stations and transported to warehouse and dispatch areas in one seamless operation.
Reeves Engineering ‘s trolley system – with trolleys electrically driven along a 50m floor slot linking production, packing and warehouse areas – collects loaded pallets of up to 1700kg, delivers them to warehouse areas next door, and despatches more pallets for new loads.
The newly loaded pallets are retrieved from pallet stations aligned along the trolley system’s path within the factory and returned through a wall opening to the warehouse area, where they are transferred to lateral conveyors for temporary storage.
The transfer to these lateral conveyors is swiftly and simply actuated by scissor lifts within the trolleys which are actuated by pairs of Firestone Airstroke air spring actuators supplied by their national distributor, Air Springs Supply .
As the incoming full pallets are dispatched left and right on the lateral conveyors for temporary storage, an automated pallet dispenser reloads empty pallets onto the trolleys to be sent down the line for loading. The automated twin stack dispenser – actuated by another Airstroke-actuated scissor-lift - accommodates 25 pallets on each side, separating export and local delivery pallets where required.
“The time savings of the system are huge,” says Reeves Engineering’s Steve Van Zeyl. “The streamlined automated handling system enabled the warehouse to operate on a single-shift basis and alleviated the need for forklifts to transfer pallets.
The trolley’s guidance slot is designed to be totally unobtrusive and their power source is remotely located overhead.
The double convoluted Airstrokes employed have a compact minimum starting height of 76mm (3in), maximum extension to 280mm and maximum individual load capacities of 2270kg (5,005 lb) depending on inflation pressure and assembly height. The single convolutes have an even more compact starting height of 56mm (2in), extension to 130mm and maximum individual load capacities of 2014kg.
They are part of a Firestone Airstroke and Airmount range which extends from the largest, 45,000kg capacity, models down to palm-sized Airomatic mini actuators. The range, for which Air Springs Supply is exclusive national distributor, offers actuation strokes ranging from 12.5mm for the tiny (16mm high deflated) Airomatics, through to more than 482mm for triple-convoluted models used as both actuators and isolators.
Air Springs Supply General Manager Simon Agar says the rubber and fabric-reinforced Airstroke actuators are extremely ruggedly engineered, and have a huge advantage in simplicity and reliability, not having any seals, shafts or internal moving parts to break or wear. “Because fewer moving parts are nearly always better than more, they are an excellent solution for a wide range of industry,” says Mr Agar, who has 20 years experience engineering actuation and isolation solutions.
Reeves Engineering Managing Director Mark Reeves said the Airstrokes had thoroughly demonstrated their worth on the pallet trolley system, which is part of Reeves Engineering’s range of services extending from turnkey materials handling solutions through to detailed engineering problem solving for particular materials handling and conveyor issues.