Lift to experience

29 December 2015

A full range of crane rigging and attachments were on show at the recent LiftEx show in Liverpool, UK. Daniel Searle attended to see the latest developments.

One of the key product sectors covered by the exhibitors at this year's LiftEx was load cells and other weight-testing and measuring systems.

Red Rooster Industrial (RRI) produces load links of up to 500t, as well as load shackles up to 500t which are suitable for subsea operations.

The company manufactures the products in-house, explains sales engineer Johnpaul Hemming, which enables the company to keep costs down, and to calibrate and recalibrate the units at their facility.

Recently introduced is the RRI12.5, a 12.5t wireless load cell, which enables the operator to collect data remotely from a distance of up to 100m. The company also produces wired and self-indicating cells, as well as compression load cells and analogue load cells.

Scottish company Power Jacks Ltd was promoting its wireless 5t-capacity maintenance and test kit, supplied as a one-stop solution in a case complete with wireless hand held display, spare batteries and load shackles. Driven by customer demand for a lightweight and compact load link, Power Jacks Load Monitoring Solutions designed and manufactured the latest and smallest load link in their range to date, says Kirk Anderson, managing director of the load monitoring division at Power Jacks. The small size is made possible by using the latest technology for battery and electronics.

The company manufactures load cells from 5-500t, load shackles from 25-1,500t, and a wide range of mechanical screw jacks, linear actuators and gear boxes, all of which have a recently-introduced feature of in-built load monitoring capabilities.

The company, based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, provides products and services to more than 80 countries, covering sectors including energy, oil and gas, nuclear, defence, automative and industrial automation.

Scotload, also based at Aberdeen, developed the SmartLoad range of load cells, which enable operators to connect load cells to any handset, rather than each load cell requiring one dedicated handset each, improving system control and flexibility. Up to four load cell readouts can be displayed on the handset at a time, improving efficiency, explains Kyle Milne, technical sales engineer at the company.

The load cells have on-board data logging, and so are not dependent on the handset to record data, and log events including jolts, overloading and weight of load, all of which are time-stamped. This enables the operator to detect when an operation may not longer be safe, improving efficiency and safety.

Launched this year, the system can also display the calibration certificate through the load cell software, and is available for Zone 1 and 2 cranes for use in hazardous areas.

Straightpoint launched an ATEX and IECEx versions of its Radiolink Plus wireless load cell. The explosion- proof unit meets Zone 0 classification for use in an explosive gas atmosphere and is unprecedented, says the company, in below-the-hook force measurement technology. Roshan Divarkan, design engineer at Straightpoint, says: "We don't believe there is another wireless load cell on the market that is Zone 0 certified, which makes this a tremendously significant product launch for the sectors that require such technologies. The requirements of the oil and gas industry were a primary focus throughout the design and certification process."

The system is being assembled on a new production line, and a separate storage area has been created at Straightpoint's Havant, UK headquarters, with all production personnel now specially trained in the assembly of the explosion proof units.

JCM Load Monitoring showcased a pad eye testing kit that uses hydraulic pressure, rather than weights, to test capacities from 9.5t-25t. This makes the testing process a one-man job, says Chris Murray, workshop manager at the Aberdeen-based company. JCM is now working on developing equivalent systems to measure capacities of 0-9.5t and 25-50t.

The company also sells load cells from 500kg-500t, with a tested data transmittance range of up to half a mile (800m), shackles with in-built load cells, and has developed a hands-free remote control for its load cell fleet, which attaches to the operator's forearm to enable them to work freely and at height. Hooks, shackles and beams Red Plant is the UK distributor for Elebia safety hooks, manufactured in Spain.

The hooks have a magnetic catch, which both orientates it and enables the operator to close the hook from a distance of up to 100m, using a remote control. This improves safety compared to working at height to close the hook, says the company.

The remote control monitors whether the hook is under load, the weight of the load, and if it is fully attached to the magnet. All data, including the time spent under load by the hook, is downloadable through a USB port.

Available in 5t, 10t or 20t capacities, and suitable for inaccessible environments such as nuclear facilities due to the remote control feature, the latest version of the safety hook also offers longer battery life.

Also available from Elebia through Red Plant are straps with magnetic attachments, to attach hooks in advance. This improves efficiency and safety when working with multiple hooks on beams, says the company.

RUD was promoting its VLBG bolt-on swivel hoisting rings, which feature two sets of ball bearings to provide smoother 90° turns and better overall movement.

The rings are available from 1/3t capacity upwards, with only the 200t-capacity ring yet to be added to the new range. The products were launched in May 2014 and introduced to the UK market this year.

Also on show was the ICE bolt, made from patented higher-grade material and the result of RUD's work with a steel manufacturer. It can potentially increase the working load of the bolt, as the material offers improved strength while maintaining ductility.

Van Beest launched its fixed nut shackle around a year ago, designed to be particularly suitable for applications where vibrations or movement are present and could cause a plain nut to come loose. The shackle, available in capacities of 3.25-85t, has an extra bolt through the nut and an accompanying pin to help to prevent it coming loose.

The company also recently introduced 20mm Grade 10 hooks and components to its portfolio, with the higher-grade, lighter material allowing the components to be smaller. Gunnebo showcased its GrabIQ hook shortening system, designed to be a safer option as it prevents the hook from being shortened incorrectly by the operator. The chain can also be shortened from the bottom, rather than requiring the crane hook to be lowered.

GrabIQ has already seen global success, says the company, and Gunnebo is now introducing the system to the UK market.

US manufacturer Caldwell attended LiftEx with a view to looking into UK distribution of its reinforced fibreglass composite spreader beams. The beams are as strong as conventional beams but only half the weight, and are non-conductive and non-corrosive, making them suitable for subsea use.

The company also offers a remote-control rig release system to accompany the beams, eliminating the need for an operator at the centre of the beam to release the rigging.

Caldwell supplies beams up to 10t in capacity, and has previously worked on projects with Seaworld, and the US armed forces, which required an alternative to steel beams when testing radar detection. Modulift launched its Trunnion spreader beam at the beginning of November, designed to provide an efficient and lightweight system without shackles.

The Trunnion is a standard modular spreader beam that uses the same struts and bolting configurations as conventional beams, and is compatible with current and legacy equipment. Using the beam can reduce the cost of rigging, and the time required for rigging, by up to half, says Modulift.

The beams are initially available in three capacities, from 250-1,000t.

Finnish crane rental company PS Lyfttjänst Nostopalvelu has set up Aluexbeams, to manufacture lightweight aluminium lifting beams. Launched earlier this year in Finland and Sweden, the company moved into the sector after it was unable to find an existing solution on the market, says Patrik Sundström.

The company currently produces 5t- and 10t-capacity beams, weighing 35kg and 45kg respectively. This compares to a 10t-capacity steel beam weighing around 140kg, says Sundström.

Ropes and slings
Tagattach was promoting the Grip Rope, or G-Rope, a lightweight safety tagline with a memory foam core, designed to retain its shape after winding up to avoid kinks and knots. Available in 25mm and 50mm diameters, and lengths of 3m, 5m, 7m and 10m, the hi-vis, reflective tagline is resistant to fraying, and also floats, making it suitable for off-shore applications.

The company also produces the Tagattach retractable safety tagline, available in lengths of 8m and 15m. The rope retracts into a polymer casing, making it resistant to tangling and knotting, and features automatic recoil and braking.

To improve safety when working near energized power lines, Tagattach developed the Guardian Line -- a modular, non-conductive device that fits onto taglines and G-ropes and helps to prevents electrocution should the rope come into contact with a live power line.

Legislation in the US states that if a lift is taking place near energized power lines, a non-conductive hook block is required, says Tagattach's Tony Walker -- but this is currently only an optional measure in the UK. SpanSet has developed the Magnum X round sling, with a high performance core fibre that helps to make it more compact, lighter, and easier to handle, says material handling manager Martin Relton. The slings are available in capacities of 10-300t.

The company also offers the NoCut protective sleeve, made of a synthetic UHMPE-based material designed to prevent cutting occurring on extremely sharp edges.

Away from slings, SpanSet was promoting its TAP tower attachment point for wind turbine tower sections. The TAP is available in capacities of 17t, 25t and 35t, with two or four of the units typically used when lifting a wind turbine section. The system is designed to be quicker and easier to apply, and lighter than alternative units -- the company also offers the Vario TAP which can accommodate a range of different turbine section diameters.

Remote technologies
One of HBC Radiomatic's key latest development is the Radiomatic Photon crane remote control, which features a video screen on the handset connected to up to eight cameras positioned on the crane. Using the system, launched around one year ago, the operator can view the feed from any of the cameras.

As well as offering multiple viewpoints, the control provides full control of the crane, and information including the load weight, wind speed, height of lift, and crane positioning.

Using the system when visibility is low can help to improve safety, adds Mark Hollyhead, technical sales manager at HBC Radiomatic. Ikusi UK was promoting its Twin Synchro system, which uses a dualband frequency built into one receiver to enable operators to drive a crane and synchronise the movements of a tandem crane, ensuring the tandem crane is operated correctly.

The company also launched its Secure Crane Access Point at LiftEx, a security system designed to prevent non-operators or non-authorised personnel using cranes remotely.

The Access Point, which houses crane remote controls, can use software to connect to company databases to show the training status of each operator, highlighting if an operator is eligible to control a given crane, and reminding companies when further training is due.

Other features include a maintenance mode, to prevent the crane being operated when maintenance is taking place, and a log of activity and use of the crane. The Access Point is also a battery charger for the remote control, and makes it easier to prevent the remote control from being misplaced, says the company. Pro-Lifting UK showcased the ProPick crane camera system, manufactured by US company 4Site Technology.

The UK company distributes the system as part of a range of services. The latest version of ProPick includes a camera that features automatic light adjustment and night-vision, and an optional 12-hour recording loop. The camera is attached to the crane with a magnetic-mounted battery pack supplied with two 10-hour or 20-hour batteries, and is small enough to fit between the cheek plates on the crane's hook block, thereby preventing damage.

Pro-Lifting also provides consultancy services, lifting management and 3D lift planning, and specialised lifting labour. The company also produces 3D animations of lifting jobs to help the lifting team understand their roles, and can make animations based on past incidents and accidents to help teach staff of the lessons learnt.

Industry body the LEEA (Lifting Equipment Engineers Association), which organises LiftEx, recently introduced a new training module for the maintenance of mobile cranes.

"The diploma level course covers all main areas of a mobile crane," says learning and development manager Andrew Wright. "This includes the structure, electrical and hydraulic systems of the crane, auxiliary attachments, load ropes and rigging equipment, load cells, safety systems, and so forth."

The LEEA has already held the course in Oman and in the Dubai, and plans to hold another in Saudi Arabia in early 2016. The sevenday courses include a mobile crane hired for the event and conclude with a one-day practical assessment and theory exam.

Ikusi UK showcased its Secure Crane Access Point for remote controls, to improve security around crane operation.
Tagattach’s product range includes a retractable tagline, shown here with the company’s Aluminium TagHook.
RUD’s range of VLBG bolt-on swivel hoisting rings use ball bearings to give smoother movement.
The Elebia safety hook can be remotely controlled and is distributed in the UK through Red Plant.
The Radiomatic Photon remote control from HBC Radiomatic features a video screen that connects to up to eight cameras.
Van Beest has developed a fixed nut shackle, with an extra bolt through the nut and an accompanying pin.
A Finnish crane company has established Aluexbeams to manufacture lightweight aluminium lifting beams.