We were approached by a Carpet Transport Company to design and develop a specialised container trolley to be used inside a shipping container to maximise the use of space within the transporting vehicles.

The system needed to be self-contained, portable, self-powered and able to carry a maximum weight of 15 tons.  The loading bays in which the system to be used were not level, so it had be capable of being loaded and manoeuvred on sloping surfaces to a maximum of approximately 5 degrees.

The risk with this project was to develop a system with a high degree of stability on a sloping surface.  The extreme weights involved also increased the difficulty in developing a solution.

Research

Research for this project was difficult to undertake. It involved physically inspecting the carpet rolls, the transport vehicles and the current loading technologies.  A huge effort was invested in identifying the needs of the people performing the loading operations.  Extensive data was gathered to be used during the design stage

Further research was conducted in the area of independent power sources as this was a critical aspect of the project.  Many different options was reviewed, such as actuators, electrical motors, air and hydraulics.

Design

Using the data gathered during the research phase, extensive effort was devoted to design the system.  Many trails were conducted on various power source options.  Air was originally the preferred method, however the results were poor.  While the trolley was empty or on a flat surface, air provided the required power, however when the trolley was loaded or the surface was sloped, insufficient power was generated.  The most successful source was hydraulics, however further design effort was necessary to increase the power output.

Development

Once the power source was selected, the unit was developed.  Difficulties were experienced with the operational aspect of the system.  The operation of the unit was preformed remotely and it was found, during development, that the remote control could be accidentally activated, such as when placed in a pocket, etc.  To overcome this problem, an isolator was incorporated in the development

Testing

Following the construction of the unit, on-site testing was performed.  At one stage a hose burst which increased the risk of damaging the carpet from the oil.  A drip tray was incorporated to capture any possible leakage.  The problem was investigated to identify the reason for the burst, and it was discovered that the operator stopped too suddenly which effectively increased the pressure inside the hose.  The addition of locking mechanisms resolved the problem and reduced the inertia created by sudden stopping.  Other operational issues were discovered which required re-engineering to address.

Testing & Final Modifications

Final testing of the redeveloped locking mechanisms produced positive results.  Following a period of time, several mechanical breakages and hydraulic failures were report.  Issues involved flat batteries were also experienced.  Investigations were undertaken and most of the problems were found to be administrative – units not being charged and locking pins being lost.  The flat battery issue resulted from an incompatibility between the charging method and positioning of the charging equipment within the shed – it was necessary to run leads across the floor, which was not acceptable.  Several modifications were made including a fixed location for storing the locking pins and the development of a weather-proof connection for the battery charging operation which allowed the unit to be charged in more open spaces.

Result:  Successful Outcome

We have since manufactured numerous units for our client and have significantly increased the cost efficiencies of their operation.