New smart crane technology elevates safety and productivity
Smart crane technology is evolving into even more sophisticated capabilities. Sway Control technology, for instance, can now compensate for conditions independent of the normal physics of crane operation, such as wind.
And smart crane technology puts more real-time monitoring and control in the operator’s hands through smart tablets. They’re especially valuable tools for crane operators working in any application—semi-automatic or fully automatic—where you need to know where the crane is, at all times.
Smart tablets are usually connected to the radio controls that operators carry with them, up in the cab or down on the facility floor. They take the place of HMI screens attached to the controls on the bridge.
Smart tablet screens show the operator the position of the hook, trolley and bridge and the data that load sensors pick up such as percentage of load capacity. This provides the operator a continuous real-time view of crane operation, enabling the operator to stop operation immediately when an issue arises.
The tablets also can receive faults and error messages, which aid technicians when they service a crane.
One of the biggest advances in smart crane technology is active sway control, which takes sway control to the next level of crane safety. Traditionally, sway control has been algorithm-driven. It factors in hook height, predicting how much a load will swing, based on how fast the crane is moving.
Active sway control incorporates rope angle measurement, which uses an infrared sensor that detects a beacon attached to the hook block. Instead of being on the back end of the sway like traditional sway control, calculating what we think the sway will be, this technology monitors the actual angle of the hook block in relation to the trolley. It then adjusts the motors to compensate for and eliminate the sway. Rope angle measurement is especially helpful in detecting and compensating for outside influences, unrelated to the crane itself, and supports two smart crane features:
• Hook centering, which prevents dangerous sway that can occur when a trolley or bridge isn’t lined up perfectly over a load before lifting it. Off-center lifts are particularly hazardous in heavy lifting applications such as handling large dies in auto plants. Hook centering uses the rope angle measurement to ensure that the trolley is perfectly centered over the load to prevent sway.
• Snag prevention, which automatically stops crane motion when the rope hoist or hook bumps into equipment or building structures—and the rope angle measurement technology detects a variance in rope angle. Without this feature, cranes plow on through, potentially leading to damage and injury.
Smart crane features are first and foremost about safety. Secondarily, they prevent downtime, which lifts productivity in a wide range of industries.