As your business grows and evolves, you will likely need to increase your crane’s capacity, speed, or reliability to keep up with increased demands. For many, purchasing a new crane to meet these new demands may seem like the best option until you see the price tag.
For many business owners, modernizing or upgrading an existing crane with the latest technology may be the best option. Upgrades such as better controls, improved braking, and increased movement precision will improve the crane’s productivity and safety without breaking the bank.
Today, the Hi-Speed Team will discuss six focus areas for crane modernization to keep your crane running at optimum performance for years to come.
Many older cranes were typically over-engineered and can remain structurally sound for decades. Finding a crane that can be repurposed by shortening the span or by making other structural changes may be a viable and affordable option. Replacing older trolley assemblies with newer, compact trolleys and hoists with precise controls will improve starting and stopping actions while reducing wear and tear on drives and brake systems. Should your plant or facility layout change, extending or reducing the span of an existing crane is also an option.
The first mechanical upgrade to consider is replacing potentially inefficient and high-maintenance hoist mechanical load brakes with flux vector controls to lower temperatures while reducing disc and pad wear. Today’s industrial braking systems provide improved serviceability and readily available parts and often fit the mounting footprint of legacy brake systems.
The precision gearing found in today’s hoist trollies utilize tighter gear tolerances than those used on older hoists, which reduces vibration and minimize potential gear wear. The result is reduced maintenance costs, improved control, and noticeably quieter operation.
Today’s tech allows us to replace manually controlled cranes and hoists, with various automation technologies such as snag detection, anti-sway auto-dispatch, and off-center pick prevention to increase worker safety and productivity.
Crane automation can be as simple as replacing a repeatable action/motion with a push of a button or as complex as a fully autonomous asset management system. Each option allows the operator to work with a semi-automatic crane or to altogether remove the operator from hazardous locations or loads.
Radio Remote Controls
Thanks to the improvements in wireless technology, radio remote controls can typically be used instead of pendant stations or cab-mounted controls. Wired pendants require the operator to remain in the immediate area, limiting the operator’s mobility while putting the operator in a potentially unsafe environment, dodging obstacles and pinch points.
For crane cabs and fixed control stations, wireless radio remote controls can eliminate the need for two operators, minimizing potential communication errors. As a result, the remaining operator’s mobility and visibility improve, resulting in safer lifts and crane movements for everyone.
Most remote-control units today incorporate graphic displays, allowing operators to see real-time runtime data to simplify maintenance tracking and scheduling tasks. The wireless operation allows the operator to change channels and security codes or customize the control configurations on the fly from the floor.
Crane Control Technology
Control systems are a crucial element of any overhead crane or hoist since a powered crane cannot work without them. Crane controls fall into one of two categories:
DC Crane Controls
DC motors provide efficient and predictable performance for even the most demanding lift environments. Engineered to last for years, upgrading your existing motor with solid-state DC drive controls will maximize the crane’s overall safety, performance, and uptime with a minimal investment.
AC Crane Controls
AC crane controls are one of the most significant improvements to the crane industry. A Variable Frequency Drive (VFD)system provides precise movement and speed control compared to older controls that rely on contactors to disperse regenerative load currents to resistor banks. VFD systems feature improved throughput for increased power, performance, reliability, and safety.
Application-Specific VFD Firmware
To meet unique application requirements, innovative yet low-cost firmware options can be added to VFDs to enhance crane safety and performance further. The firmware uses algorithms to:
- Precisely control mechanical buckets used on diggers and dredgers.
- Prevent load sway during hoisting and movement operations.
- Provide precise crane synchronization for added safety and control.
These options represent a small sampling of the VFD Firmware options currently available. Since these solutions get integrated into the VFD, no external PLC is required. The result is fewer potential failure points thanks to a less complex and, perhaps more importantly, a less expensive upgrade option.
While a new overhead crane represents a significant capital investment, many existing cranes can be quickly modernized or upgraded at substantial savings using one or several of the above-mentioned strategies. While the upgrade costs can vary significantly based on the crane’s age, location, and type of service, most can expect savings of 30-40% compared to the costs for a new crane.
Should you still have any questions regarding the benefits of crane modernization for your business, you can Email the Hi-Speed Team here, or call us direct at: 1-800-713-0103.