While setting up a new plant, a leading manufacturer of wind blades relied on ElectroMech for an advanced crane solution for ensuring safe handling as well asreduced total cost of ownership.
Founded in the late 1960’s, the customer is a leading wind blade manufacturer with a global footprint. They account for approximately 13% of all onshore wind blades on an MW-basis globally and have reached a record high with the production of more than 10,000 wind blades in the year 2020. They supply wind blades to several leading wind turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) helping them to expand their global wind blade capacity. Recently, they have set up a large manufacturing plant near Chennai, India, which is spread over 776,000 sq. ft. and will cater to the requirements of leading OEMs.
ElectroMech approached the customer when this new plant was in the planning and designing stages and our team was closely involved while deciding the structural details of the new plant.
The length of the wind blades that will be manufactured in the new factory is 78m. The plant is specifically designed to handle long blades and to aide production of large quantities considering high demand. Being a dedicated plant for wind blades, it has 5 long bays running 255m each, and widths of around 42m.
Wind blades are manufactured using composite materials systems, which are a complex combination of fibre and resin, which when properly chosen will yield the highest possible strength and stiffness at the lowest weight. When these materials are laminated, very high bending strength and bending stiffness can be achieved. Large moulds are essentially used while manufacturing such long aerofoil shaped blades.
During the manufacturing, the long moulds and wind blades require to be handled carefully. It is important that the outer finish and the structural strength of the blades do not get compromised due to improper handling. Hence, a reliable handling system is extremely important.
As we were involved in the project right from the planning and designing stages, the customer asked us to suggest a crane solution that would be technically superior, and would not require a heavy structure so that they could save significant costs. They also asked us to plan the cranes in such a way that at every workstation, the right type of crane would be available for material handling.
Reliable crane solution for safe handling of 78m long wind blades
Since our interactions with the customer began during the early stages of the project, our team was able to carefully study the process flow, the proposed plant layout and material handling requirements at every workstation. These insights helped us in deciding on the crane locations, and the number and types of cranes.
The handling of the long wind blades and moulds was a major challenge and required an advanced technology solution to ensure high levels of safety and reliability. For this requirement, our team decided to use the proven Abus ZLK Double Girder Cranes featuring welded box girders. All the sections used for the main girders and end carriages are computer-optimised for high performance and low weight, resulting in higher strength and cost efficiency. Light girders mean reduced wheel load translating into reduction in structural costs. Abus ZLK Double Girder Cranes guarantee high functionality, flexibility, and ease of operation with intelligent functions using Abus LIS (Load Information System). These cranes also help in optimising power consumption as Abus uses energy-efficient motors, thus reducing operating costs.
In the new plant, wind blade manufacturing operations are to be carried out in five bays. We recommended the use of two Abus ZLK Cranes in tandem operation and multiple such sets in every bay, amounting to a total of 24 nos. of Abus ZLK Cranes.
Both the cranes in each bay are perfectly synchronised for combined lifting of long blades and moulds. Semi-automatic control effectively prevents the lifting speeds and travel speeds from getting out of sync as the cranes are equipped with frequency converters in cross and long travel motions. For enhanced safety, the cranes are set at gradual acceleration speeds and can easily be controlled via radio remote control.
Additionally, 2 nos. of Gantry Cranes fitted with Abus Wire Rope Hoists are installed at the lower tier for handling sub-assemblies and parts of the blade mould. The plant is also equipped with 6 nos. of Abus Jib Cranes, which are effectively used for handling materials at assembly stations and testing operations.
In all, 32 nos. of cranes are strategically located to integrate the material handling requirements in the entire plant and provide the appropriate crane at every workstation.
When all these aspects are considered along with assured and prompt after-sales service through our subsidiary, Cranedge, the customer can expect considerably high uptime of cranes.
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