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Lifting the A350 to the skies

Lifting specialists, RHC Lifting Limited, has completed the commissioning process of one of Europe's most technically advanced crane systems at GKN Aerospace's new wing composite manufacturing facility in Bristol, UK. The new manufacturing facility is to become a centre of excellence in composite aircraft wing structures.

To aid the semi-automated manufacturing operation, RHC Lifting designed, manufactured and installed two SWF Krantechnik branded multi-latching crane systems. Each system has a span of 32 meters, across three bays, with cross travel speeds of 5m/min, long travel speeds of 40m/min and hoisting speeds of 0.83-5m/min.

System One, located in the Clean Room, has three 10t SWL top running single girder latching cranes and two tandem pairs of 5t SWF Nova low headroom hoists, each bay has a gantry length of 41m with one transfer point in each bay. System Two, located in the Assembly Area, has five 6.4t SWL top running single girder latching cranes and four pairs of tandem 3.2t SWF Nova low headroom hoists, each bay has a gantry length of 104m with five transfer points.

To ensure the cranes met with the specialised requirements for the manufacture of composite structures, RHC Lifting incorporated a number of key design features to both systems including: inverter drives on all motions including hoisting for smooth and precise movement, anti-collision and exclusions zones to ensure components move around the facility safely, load displays, reeling drums and digital outputs to allow vacuum lifting beams to be fitted in the future.

All crane beams and hoists have their own Siemens PLCs, which are all controlled, wirelessly, by a floor mounted Siemens central control safety PLC. This allows all hoists to travel on any crane beam on the system and gives infinite configurations of the crane system. Two floor mounted Siemens HMI screens will display schematics of the systems, including information on loads, current locations of crane beams or hoists, as well as basic maintenance diagnostics to reduce the need to hire mobile access platforms for all breakdowns.

Seven Autec C26PRO radio remotes, with Sirio joystick transmitters and infra-red start up will allow GKN Aerospace employees to capture and release cranes and hoists, increasing the efficiency of moving loads between different processes in the facility.

Philip Goodway, One of RHC Lifting's Directors, said "winning the contract was a great honour; as it is RHC Lifting's biggest order to date. The cranes offered a number of technical challenges which we had to overcome to deliver the perfect solution for GKN Aerospace's highly specialised requirements."

Now the cranes are fully operational, RHC Lifting will provide GKN Aerospace with after sales care including, operator training, servicing, statutory inspections and provide 24/7 breakdown cover for the two year warrant period, as offered to all of RHC Lifting's customers.

The new GKN Aerospace manufacturing facility in Western Approach will be the focus of the company's A350 XWB participation, producing the A350 XWB rear wing spars and trailing edge assemblies, with production due to start at the end of this year.

GKN Aerospace's General Manager, Charles Paterson, stated: "Our Bristol based operations, at Filton and Western Approach, represents the core of our world-leading wing structures activity. RHC Lifting's crane systems sit at the heart of the new, state of the art manufacturing and assembly facility at Western Approach which will employ advanced GKN Aerospace developed processes and incorporate sophisticated automated production equipment to allow us to manufacture highly complex composite wing structures to exacting aerospace standards."

Press release issued by RHC Lifting Limited on September 3, 2010


 Contact details from our directory:
RHC Lifting Limited Cranes, Lifting Equipment
GKN Aerospace - Filton Additive Manufacturing, Aircraft Structural Components, Wings, Wing Flaps, Fuselage Sections


 Related aircraft programs:
Airbus A350 XWB


 Related directory sectors:
Handling Equipment
Airframe Assemblies

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