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Crane operators can now fly-by-wire

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SPEED, safety and precision are essential for efficient crane operation in modern workplaces.

The training, skill and experience of operators was critical in all three factors until a decade ago when KCI Konecranes revolutionised crane operation - first with D2C sway control and then with DynAPilot, a fully computerised system for repetitive work.

KCI Konecranes' D2C and DynAPilot systems apply the same principles incorporated in the fly-by-wire technology of modern airplanes by using computers to optimise control of the crane and even automate its operation.

Sven Holmer, KCI Konecranes Process Cranes and Modernisation Manager, who worked on integrating, engineering and installing the first systems of D2C and DynAPilot at KCI Konecranes Sweden, explained that by modifying the control of crane speed, load sway is eliminated during constant speed operation and when movement is stopped.

"Conventional crane operation requires the operator to manipulate the movement of the crane while at the same time positioning the load and simultaneously manually dampening the load swing.

"With Konecranes' sway control the operator only needs to concentrate on moving the payload. Earlier designs used diagonal reeving of the rope but this caused severe mechanical stress on the crane.

"Maximum pendulum lengths of 40 and even 60 metres are possible with DynAPilot. Load sway caused by crane movements is prevented by the system making cranes easier and faster to operate, more reliable and far safer."

Mr Holmer said the system was field tested in hundreds of different applications before the first commercial installations in 1992.

"The success rate has been excellent and with very little training an inexperienced operator using Konecranes' anti sway systems can soon achieve productivity levels once only reached by highly qualified crane drivers. Employer emphasis on the differences between operators is removed.

"Integrated end limit switches enable the crane to be operated at full speed all the times and Konecranes' anti-collision technology means that more than one crane can be operated in complete safety. This is very important in both production areas and warehousing.”

Mr Holmer said that operators using Konecranes' sway control suffer minimal stress and fatigue because load control - swing, pitch, and spin - is taken care of by the system thus maximising crane speeds and acceleration rates. "Users report less operator stress and absenteeism," he added.

"Simultaneous crane motions become possible, shortening and smoothing out each action so that mechanical wear and tear on equipment through jerky and abrupt operation is far less. What's more, less time is lost through crane misuse, there are far fewer material losses and collision damage to lifting gear and workplaces is cut dramatically.

"Smaller swing angles extend the life of hoist cables and the forces affecting a crane's structure and its motor drives are reduced as is the need for excessive jogging into position. Conversion of existing cranes optimises their use and can slash downtime caused by accidents.

"An added bonus is that these advanced computerised crane systems can be controlled by Konecranes' patented AutOPilot software that either fully-automates or semi-automates a crane's operation for repetitive work whether it uses hydraulic grabs, lifting magnets or specialised hooks."

Mr Holmer explained that payload input and output locations can be pre-programmed in AutOPilot.

"What's more, the system incorporates the ability to learn about its location, pick-up and drop-off points, narrow runways, personnel areas and valuable infrastructure and yet, at all times, the operator maintains total control over the crane.

"The major benefits of AutOPilot control are the dramatic reduction in operator fatigue, increased safety and greatly lessened stress on the crane."

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