The assembly of wind turbines can be a tall order. The average wind-turbine height has reached about 280 feet in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Like any growing industry, the renewables sector must find ways to construct their equipment more efficiently to remain competitive.
This may become more challenging while working at high levels. Many organizations are turning to customized industrial lifts to work at heights more efficiently. This includes both lifts to move products and people.
“The move to customization is driven by productivity and safety,” says Rick daSilva, national sales manager for material handling equipment provider Presto ECOA Lifts. “For example, to lift products, we’re adding a lot more devices to hold product on and position it on the lift. We’re seeing an increase in the need for a combination of lifting/tilting or lifting/rotating devices.”
The increasing demand for versatile lifts is related to changing production capabilities and practices, such as mass customization, and a shortage of skilled workers to meet productivity goals, daSilva says.
Presto ECOA works with a wide range of industrial customers to develop lifts that can handle their unique needs. Presto’s 2016 acquisition of ECOA has been a key to enhancing the capabilities of lifting and positioning equipment in today’s market, according to daSilva.
“Presto has always had lift tables, but the thing ECOA has now brought to us is lifts that can go 30 feet in the air and capacities that can go up to 120,000 pounds, daSilva explains. “Now we can provide lifts that can lift an entire train through an assembly and handle a lot more capacity and many more applications that require taller working heights.”
Understanding Lift Options
To ensure the lifts are meeting current demands, Presto works with customers to help them understand what options are available. The consulting process involves close collaboration with the end user and the distributor, daSilva says. The company considers the type and weight of the loads being lifted, the work environment and the specific work applications when helping a customer choose a lift. Presto will also enter the information into a computer model.
“We test the load and test the lift before we actually build it through Solidworks to make sure it works out on paper,” daSilva says.
Presto’s recent consultation with a wind-turbine engineering firm is an example of how lift manufacturers can work with customers to build solutions tailored to their needs. The wind-energy firm initially wanted to purchase two 50,000-pound lifts to service their turbines. But Presto’s team suggested a different approach.
“Wind turbines are complex, large items,” daSilva explains. “The engineering firm that was laying out the assembly had selected certain lifts based solely on capacity. But when we looked at it, we found a better solution. We said based on the size you really need three 40,000-pound lifts. So we’re going to evaluate each application as it comes. On a big project like that, we’ll ask questions because we want to get the right solution for them.”
In addition to capacities, the consultation process can help end users understand the types of set-ups or features that are available. Safety considerations may include various handrail configurations, nonskid surfaces or electrically interlocked gates. In some cases, oddly shaped worker platforms may be necessary to gain access around structures or hard-to-reach areas.
“We have the ability to use multiple lifts to create different odd-shaped sizes of worker-access platforms, such as a U-configuration,” daSilva says. “We did one with eight lifts that was an octagon around a structure.”
Presto connected the lift configuration with bridges and handrails. Another trend that’s driving the need for customized lifts is automation. For example, many organizations are integrating lifts into their robotics systems to augment their capabilities. Robots often have a limited range of motion, such as reaching down to lift an item from the floor. Lifts can bring the product up to the robotic arm rather than having a worker perform the process manually. The lifts can be programmed through customized controls to move up or down automatically as loads are being placed or removed from the robotic arm, daSilva says.
Another advantage of custom controls is the ability to control a set of multiple lifts independently or together. This is an added safety feature that allows operators to lower a single lift if it has an uneven load rather than lowering all of the lifts at the same time.
End users also can opt for motorized lifts so they can move heavier loads throughout the facility for additional versatility, daSilva notes.
“The lift can travel back and forth to move product from one end of the facility to another or to slide under a product for lifting,” daSilva says. “This includes a raw material, such as a steel coil, or even an entire train that’s being built.”
For more information, please contact Presto ECOA Lifts, www.presto-ecoa.com