Pushing boundaries

20 August 2018

In recent years Hiab brought a number of new products to the market, most of which have been developed at the Test and Innovation Centre in Hudiksvall, Sweden. Sotiris Kanaris visits the facility.

Hudiksvall used to be the home of Hiab’s manufacturing facility before the multi assembly unit was opened in Stargard, Poland.

Today there is a number of Hiab divisions there, but according to director of innovation and business development Stefan Onkenhout, the Test and Innovation Centre is the most dominant part.

At the building of the Test and Innovation Centre one can see welding robots, the latest technology equipment for welding and material analysis, a mini assembly line for prototypes and an indoor product testing area. There is also a large outdoor area which is used for testing.

In recent years the R&D staff have given emphasis to welding, developing their own welding standards.

“We have been really pushing the boundaries on welding. We are developing our own welding standard because we understand we need to control certain properties of the weld in a different way than the one available with the open standards,” Onkenhout says.

In order to create the standards but also assess the work of external suppliers, the team has created a process of checks through which they obtain extensive data on welds. Samples from welds are taken from where there are high stresses or complex areas to weld. The samples are polished and scanned.

A dedicated software then checks whether the piece has failed against welding standards. The researchers also look for defects, shapes or geometries that would determine the strength and fatigue. A separate piece machine is used to analyse the hardness, while robots using laser scan the surface of the weld to find if it is consistent to the company’s standard. A tensile fatigue tester machine is also used, which works by pulling the piece statically or dynamically until it breaks.

“There are so many properties when it comes to welding we have learned the last couple of years. It allows us to have less steel per tonne-metre of crane capacity, therefore a lighter crane,” Onkenhout says.

Hiab’s R&D team in Hudiksvall has also been pushing boundaries with the integration of new technologies to the company’s offering.

An example is the HiVision 3D control system, which was developed in collaboration with Hiab’s forestry crane R&D department in Finland.

This system allows operators of Hiab’s Loglift/Jonsered forestry cranes to operate them from the truck cabin using 3D glasses.

“HiVision was created because we wanted to increase the distance between the operator controlling the crane and a potentially hazardous working area. Our challenge was to make sure that the operator has the depth vision, hence the stereo cameras. With a single camera is tricky to realise whether you are one metre away from the log or at the loading point. With the stereo vision and the goggles is extremely easy,” Onkenhout says.

Hans Ohlsson, director, medium range, loader cranes says through the development of HiVision and the Crane Tip Control (CTC)—a software feature in HIAB’s HiPro control system—Hiab simplified crane operation. He says it is important because one of the main issues of fleet owners is recruiting experienced operators.

Vision Lab

The manufacturer is now looking into other ways to use technology to facilitate customer operations.

The team of the Vision Lab, part of the Test and Innovation Centre, are looking into how Augmented Reality (AR) can be used to improve service and maintenance on the machines.

The Lab, which opened in February, can fully adapt and simulate every condition that crane operators face.

The lab is completely sealed, without windows to eliminate light pollution. Lighting can be controlled for testing in realistic conditions.

They are also working on new Object Detection Systems assisted by Machine Learning in Neural Networks. It’s still in an early stage, but Hiab’s goal is to train the system to quickly and accurately recognise a multitude of different objects. The combination of thermal and visual imaging is a prerequisite for a more robust security solution that detects and classifies people and objects near the machine regardless of lighting conditions.

Crane development

The R&D department for the medium crane range is based in Hudiksvall. Ohlsson says all new models are developed and tested at the facility, as well as the samples of new components. At the Centre they also test-assemble cranes using prototypes. The mini test assembly line is also used for training employees from Stargard’s factory.

Since 2016, Hiab has renewed its models across all the ranges, with the introduction of new valves, a new control system (developed at the Test and Innovation Centre), new piping and faster cylinders.

“We started with the medium range by creating 24 new models, completely new 20tm cranes as well.

Then we renewed the light crane range. The new control system will be featured on these small cranes and the new models will have quality improvements. The heavy cranes ranges has been renewed as well last year, and new 30-40tm cranes were introduced,” says Ohlsson.

The company is also working to constantly improve the hydraulics. Apart from working on its own products, Hiab is part of the Hudiksvall Hydraulic cluster.

The Hydraulics Cluster, comprises a joint effort between SMEs and large industry groups all situated in and around Hudiksvall— with a core of companies specialized in hydraulic applications.

Explaining the idea behind the cluster, Onkenhout says: “Since we are not competing with each other, we figured that by sharing our knowledge we can actually expand the total amount of knowledge and skills when it comes to hydraulics and hydraulically controlled equipment and products.”

Despite the closure of the manufacturing facility there, Hudiksvall remains an important part of Hiab. The innovations and product developments that occur there establish Hiab as one of the frontrunners in a very competitive industry sector.

Inside Hiab’s Test and Innovation Centre
Hiab has invested heavily in analysing welding processes
The outdoor area of the Centre is used for testing