Materials in Motion

Easy Overhead Crane Modernization

When purchasing a large system like an overhead crane, facility managers and factory owners generally expect to see long-term service life and a huge return on investment. Many overhead cranes and lift systems are in service for decades. While the aging process and consistently changing compliance standards can present challenges, there are ways to modernize or upgrade aging equipment, breathe new life into your production process, and keep your lift system going strong as long as possible.

There are a lot of crane upgrades and modernizations that can help keep your overhead crane working smoothly and safely for years to come. Some of the more common modernizations are things like structural upgrades, mechanical changes, crane technology, and automation. But, today we’re here to discuss three of the most cost-effective and easiest overhead crane upgrades available: variable frequency drives, remote control systems, and jib retrofit drives.

Variable Frequency Drives

An overhead crane’s existing motors can be replaced with variable frequency drives (VFD’s) to provide fine-tuned control when executing maneuvers and reduce severe impacts caused by stopping and starting. Changing your single speed motor to a variable frequency drive also provides greater flexibility, enhanced performance, increased production, and reduced personnel. Because no two applications are exactly the same, VFD’s provide the crane or hoist user with a variety of operating modes. Even a single speed motor can be controlled by a VFD, which helps to reduce the high starting currents of AC induction motors and minimizes the shock on the load and equipment. Multiple control modes (or speeds) are available; many manufacturers design two-speed VFD’s (high and low) and you can choose your speed or feet per minute (FPM). But, some manufacturers will provide up to five modes or more. Having speed options allows your crane to adjust for its specific application at that current time.

Remote Control Systems

Adding a remote control system to your overhead crane is one of the most typical modernizations. The addition of a remote control system allows operators to operate overhead cranes from the floor rather than an operator’s cab. This not only makes the crane system much easier to control, it also frees up cab operators to complete other tasks.

Although pendant pushbutton stations bring the operator closer to the load and eliminate the need for a signal person, they aren’t as safe or efficient as remote wireless control systems, which don’t require cords. Since the pushbutton station is suspended from a hoist or on a separate festoon track, the operator may have to dodge obstacles like hanging cords.

Remote wireless controls can be transmitted by radio frequency (RF) signals or infrared light. Radio frequency signals are far more popular in the United States, accounting for 98 percent of remote control transmissions. Radio frequency signals are much more effective than infrared light, which contains short operating ranges; line-of-sound dropouts; and interference from dust, debris, and bright light.

Retrofit Jib Drives

Retrofit Jib Drives are used to convert an existing manual rotation jib crane to motorized rotation for a fraction of the cost of a new powered crane. These jib crane conversion kits are ideal for powering the rotation of heavier loads or when your production situation makes manually rotating the jib unsafe, impractical, or unproductive.

Many jib drives feature a modular design that bolts onto the back of any mast-style head assembly. Jib drives often contain a high-efficiency electric motor and ultra-reliable worm gear reducer. The worm gear drives a set of large steel rollers fitting with polyurethane treads for exceptional durability and traction on the crane’s mast. Rollers are constantly kept at the correct pressure against the mast via a spring-loaded tension adjustment mechanism, assuring smooth operation.

Kristina Harman

Technical Writer | Spanco.com

Kristina Harman is the senior technical writer and content manager for Spanco, Inc. Kristina has twelve years of experience in content development, technical communications, and copyediting. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in English from Towson University and a Master of Education Certification in English from Johns Hopkins University. She is a member of the Society for Technical Communication and the American Medical Writers Association.

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