Tools & Technologies

By Michael Hughes

Heavy movement with ease

AeroGo Air Cushion Vehicles can move loads ranging from a 500-pound engine block to a 290-ton ship.Material handling issues can create quite a conundrum across numerous manufacturing and supply chain platforms. Large and awkward items create safety issues, and solutions can be expensive, compromise your facility's flexibility and damage your building and your inventory.

AeroGo Air Cushion Vehicles can be a cost-effective and safe alternative to cranes, conveyors, wheeled vehicles, rollers, rails and drag chains. Their specialized drive systems can be handled safely by one operator who can precisely move loads ranging from a 500-pound engine block to 60-ton construction equipment to a 290-ton ship.

Air caster technology is benefiting a number of industries, including manufacturing, energy, aerospace and shipbuilding. The omni-directional movement inherent in Air Cushion Vehicles eliminates first-in, first-out requirements and fixed move paths in production. Air casters can actually spin engines around as needed, letting your workers access tools and new parts easily. And their intuitive operation, multiple e-stop switches, independent safety relay and audible and visual alarms make plants safer.

Air Cushion Vehicles significantly lowered production costs at the Carrier Chiller plant in Charlotte, North Carolina, said senior product engineer Jens Lamba. They are much more flexible than overhead cranes, and loads, which range from 25,000 pounds to 125,000 pounds, are not an obstacle.

"The casters have made it a continuous flow through our manufacturing facility instead of having stop/starts," Lamba said. "[Cranes] were less flexible and made us look more like a job shop than a continuous production facility. They tended to slow the process."

In the energy sector, Air Cushion Vehicles can easily move oversized, awkward, unbalanced or heavy components such as tanks, storage casks, nacelles, pumps, motors and turbines. The technology can transport power distribution transformers throughout the manufacturing process. Aerospace manufacturers can move tooling, work stands, satellites, rockets or entire aircraft.

And shipbuilders have found that AeroGo's technology can maneuver heavy loads through tight spaces in shipyards and mobilize components once considered immobile because of their heavy weight. Simply adding or removing more air casters can scale an enterprise's material handling capacity up or down.

Air Cushion Vehicles are easy to implement and can be installed quicker than conveyors, drag chains and cranes. They operate well on standard troweled and sealed concrete floors while minimizing damage to expensive epoxy coated floors. Unlike cranes, they don't require permanent installation. They can be relocated and used in any facility with compressed air. They also don't require risky rigging operations and adjust automatically for uneven loading.

Maneuverability is another plus for Air Cushion Vehicles, which move through six steering modes and rotate within their footprints. They allow for controlled and safe accelerations and decelerations, do not require direct loading and can be used for multiple loads.

Michael Hughes is IISE's managing editor.