Manufacturing Today - August 2017 - 13

JOHN MASSENBURG | COLUMN BY

Air Caster History in
Manufacturing

Air Casters, Wheel Casters
and Floor Surfaces

AUGUST 2017 manufacturing-today.com

13

T ECHNOLOGY

N EWS

L EGAL

load movement based upon the surface in the facility. Among the more
recent developments is a composite air caster specifically designed to
cross gaps and steps, a major problem
that previously hampered air caster
functioning. A membrane within the
composite caster meters airflow to
facilitate maneuvering on all types of
uneven or gapped flooring, in particular wooden planks and suspended
floors - two environments that limit
the effectiveness of wheeled casters.
Air caster technology has been
successfully applied in clean rooms
where contamination has to be avoided at all costs. Air casters, with their
low friction, can move semiconductor processing equipment and other
specialized or sensitive equipment
without damaging the flooring while
isolating the load from vibration.
Clean room equipment can weigh as
much as 30,000 pounds. Wheel casters and rollers with their considerably higher friction, can damage the
flooring, contaminate the clean room
and compromise the seal, especially
if the flooring is uneven or raised. Instead of causing grooves - the likely
result of heavy loads carried by wheel
casters or rollers on epoxy flooring, the air casters literally float the
multi-ton load into the desired location - a time and cost savings application for a sensitive area.
It is important not to overlook
the value that an integrated system

A LFAB INC.

Plant and asset managers have always
been concerned with maintaining facility flooring when wheel casters or
rollers are used to move heavy equipment throughout the shop. The issues
here are friction and wear. Concrete
and epoxy floors, expensive to begin
with, are subject to grooves and other
damage from wheeled casters. Repair
costs are likely to negatively impact
operating budgets. That concern was
at the forefront for a GF Machining
Solutions facility in Lincolnshire,
Ill. The plant had installed an expensive new epoxy floor in a room where
multi-ton milling machines were
previously moved by forklifts. Jesus
Ledesma Jr., refurbishment and facilities manager, said the only way to
protect the floor was to change the
load moving system.
"The floor didn't take to forklifts
and we didn't want to damage it, so we
turned to air casters," Ledesma said.
"Now I don't have to use forklifts in
this room anymore and the air casters
are easily controlled."
"With air casters, the coefficient of
friction is nearly zero, so it takes very
little effort to get the load moving,"
said Forrest Ramey, maintenance superintendent of the power and industrial division of Hawaiian Dredging
Construction Company. "We could
have used rollers, but a much higher amount of force would have been
needed to move the load."
Uneven flooring is another problem area. Earlier versions of air casters were incapable of dealing with
irregular floor surfaces, but advanced
technology has led to development of
different air caster types designed for

"the floor didn't take to
forklifts and we didn't
want to damage it, so we
turned to air casters.
now i don't use forklifts
and the air casters are
easily controlled."

B UY AMERICAN

Heavy industry's first introduction
to the use and value of air casters occurred in the 1960s when General Motors was seeking a more cost-efficient
and flexible alternative for moving
components though the assembly
process. The first air casters had significantly less load carrying capability due to the casters' materials of
construction - sheet rubber, which
is not particularly strong. Adding reinforced fabrics to the rubber sheet
greatly increased load-carrying capabilities. Modern air casters can handle
higher air pressure giving increased
capacity in a smaller space and providing additional lifting capabilities.
Those improvements served one of
the nation's largest aerospace corporations well. Following GM's lead,
Boeing adopted air caster technology
for moving its heavy equipment by
adopting the use of reinforced fabric,
e.g. urethane and neoprene.
Fundamental to the growing use of
this technology for heavy industry is
the increased air pressure capacity
of the air casters. Unlike the pressure limitation of the earlier casters,
many of today's reinforced fabric
models can handle from 60 to 75 psi,
resulting in three to five times the
lifting capacity of the GM air casters
of a half-century ago.
Some casters rely on various types
of liquid instead of air for their operation. In parts of Asia, the working fluid is seawater instead of compressed
air, which is used for moving concrete
caissons. Other casters use machine
tool coolant for their working fluid.
Traction drives and PLCs are responsible for another outgrowth of
air caster technology - the air cushion transfer cart, which is capable of
moving multi-ton transformers and

pressure vessels as well as automating
assembly lines in factories.


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Manufacturing Today - August 2017

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Manufacturing Today - August 2017 - Cover2
Manufacturing Today - August 2017 - 1
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