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Author Archive | Tracy Brandt

New Controls Help Old Icebreakers

New crane control systems and operator interfaces improve safety, reliability, and flexibility of old ships, making them ready for new missions.

New control systems and operator interfaces for cranes used on old U.S. Coast Guard ships improve safety, reliability, and flexibility, making them ready for new missions.

The Coast Guard has two older polar class icebreakers, the Polar Star and its twin, the Polar Sea, originally launched in 1976 and 1978, respectively. Key pieces of equipment on the Seattle-based research vessels are at the end of their service lives and are scheduled for replacement in the coming months. (The Polar Star is the first of the pair to be overhauled, and the Polar Sea will be next.) Among the items that are being replaced are the hydraulically operated cranes on the bow and stern of each ship. Along with new crane hardware and new hydraulic power units, the Coast Guard wanted to install new crane control systems and operator interfaces that will improve the safety, reliability, and flexibility of the ships’ operations. Allied Systems of Sherwood, Ore., and Concept Systems Inc. of Albany, Ore., experts in material handling and control systems development, did the work.

Each ship has three cranes, one on the bow and two aft. The bow crane handles loads of up to 6,000 lb and is used to lower provisions intended for the ship’s stores into the forward hold. In addition to running the bow crane, the associated hydraulic power units (HPUs) also run the anchor windlasses. The aft cranes are heavy-duty units with operator cabs and a jackknife structure to enable a long reach. They are used for onloading and offloading scientific gear in portable shipping containers (ISO standard conex boxes) and for lifting work boats. Continue Reading →

Airplane Artists Aided by Advanced Motion Technology

Aircraft painting at Boeing’s Everett facility is a manually intensive operation performed by skilled artisans. Many of the paint schemes produced by the decorative painters at the facility are truly works of art. That art is now being facilitated by advanced motion technology that lets operator cranes reach within 4 inches of the aircraft without risk of contacting it.

Aircraft painting at Boeing’s Everett facility is a manually intensive operation performed by skilled artisans. Many of the paint schemes produced by the decorative painters at the facility are truly works of art. That art is now being facilitated by advanced motion technology that lets operator cranes reach within 4 inches of the aircraft without risk of contacting it.

The typical commercial airliner carries 800 pounds of paint. The paint’s primary function is corrosion protection to the aircraft skin. Requirements for the paint include: Durability to support the fuselage’s expansion with cabin pressurization, flexibility in all conditions, weather and temperature extremes, impact from hail and dust (at 600 mph); and resistance to salt spray and chemicals (hydraulic fluid, de-icer, etc.).

During operations to prep and paint the aircraft, painters navigate quickly around the aircraft on large working platforms mounted on cranes known as stackers. Each stacker (see picture) is an overhead-supported boom with four axes of movement: bridge, trolley, hoist, and rotate. Continue Reading →

How to Trust Your Integrator

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Ranking of System Integrator Selection Criteria Price and global capabilities aren’t nearly as important as knowledge and relationship history when selecting a sytem integrator, according to a 2005 study.

A Machine Control System Should Not Only Perform to Expectations, but It Must Integrate Seamlessly into the Rest of the End User’s Operation

When we look at the reasons behind a failed industrial system integration project on an industrial machine, it typically wasn’t the control technology that failed. For any given integration project, there are multiple technologies that will do the job. The difference is in the application of the technology. And this comes down to the skills of the integrator and how well the integrator interacts and communicates with the machine builder and the end user. For the machine builder, it is doubly important. Not only must the machine control system perform to expectations, it also must integrate seamlessly into the rest of the end user’s operation. Continue Reading →