Power & Motion Technology | Crane Systems | by Norm Davis | Jun 04, 2020
In recent years, the use of radio remote controls has become increasingly more common as an alternative to a corded pendant assembly in the material handling industry. Why? Radio controls have been found to increase safety and productivity while reducing downtime. In-field operators have also found them easier to use than corded pendant assemblies. And, as technology continues to evolve, radio controls have become more cost effective than ever.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of radio remote controls.
In the material handling industry, radio controls are commonly used to control cranes and hoists. In these applications, operators must be aware of their surroundings to ensure the crane is free of obstacles and can safely lift loads.
Radio controls allow the operator to control the crane from a nearby location, rather than being tethered to the crane with a hard-wired pendant cord. This increased mobility allows the operator to position themselves at key locations throughout the lift, giving them the ability to:
Not only does this help keep the operator safe, it also protects other workers in the area and helps prevent damage to surrounding equipment and the load itself.
Radio transmitters are designed with ergonomics in mind. By reducing fatigue on operators’ hands, radios allow for continued accurate control of equipment, even after hours of operation, helping to maintain safe operations throughout a worker’s shift.
For applications that require an operator to control many functions, pendants can often become cumbersome and less operator friendly. Radio transmitters are designed to provide ease of use, even with numerous controls, while maintaining proper size and spacing to accommodate a gloved hand.
As previously mentioned, radio controls can improve operator mobility. Not only does this increase safety, it can also reduce cycle times. The operator is not tethered to equipment with a pendant, so they are free to move throughout the facility to keep production running efficiently.
Operations requiring numerous machines to get the job done can be challenging. Radio controls allow a single operator to easily control multiple cranes and hoists simultaneously, without the need for wires between the equipment. Now, one operator can safely and effectively perform operations that would have required multiple operators using wired controls.
When using pendants in material handling applications, it is not uncommon for pendants to be damaged and require repair. When pendant repairs are needed, they often result in longer downtimes when they are the primary means of control with no backup. This leads to the equipment being unusable until the needed repairs are completed. When using radio controls, if a transmitter is damaged, a spare transmitter can be put into operation immediately, which greatly reduces the amount of time the crane is inoperable.
It is also easier to protect transmitters from damage in the first place, as they can be easily stored in a secure location when not in use, unlike a pendant that is continually exposed to the workplace environment.
Radio remote control systems are ideal for several unique applications where wiring can be cumbersome and time consuming to install, such as pitch and catch systems, tandem or multiple unit control, and festoonless crane systems.
Pitch & Catch systems offer a high level of protection when a crane operator needs to ensure that another individual cannot take control of the crane until their operation is complete and they are in a safe position.
With “first-come-first-serve” logic in place, these systems are designed to prevent a second transmitter from taking control of a receiver while a first transmitter is already in use. Ensuring operator safety, the “Pitch & Catch” feature locks the receiver onto the transmitter, even in situations when the receiver is intentionally powered off, batteries fail, the RF signal is interrupted, or the transmitter turns itself off from inactivity. The only way the lock is removed is when the correct transmitter is connected to the receiver and successfully transmits the “Pitch” command. After the receiver accepts the “Pitch” command from the correct transmitter, it releases its lock on that transmitter so it can communicate with the next transmitter.
This system is ideal for applications where an operator is working on or around a load for extended times and movement of the crane by someone else could injure the operator. With Pitch & Catch in place, another operator cannot operate the crane from a spare transmitter because the receiver is locked onto the original transmitter and will not respond. This helps ensure the safety of the crane operator at all times.
Another application where radio remote controls can be beneficial is for the control of multiple cranes independently and in tandem. In this application, one transmitter controls multiple radio receivers without the need to wire between units. This allows the operator to:
With the rising cost of conductors, radio controls can cost less than the material required to provide a festoon system. By placing a receiver on the bridge panel, a receiver on the hoist panel, and conductor bar along the girder, a transmitter can control both receivers and the crane. This eliminates the need for festooning between the bridge and trolley panels.
Columbus McKinnon offers a radio remote control option on virtually every electric wire rope hoist in our product line. Radio systems can be installed at our factory prior to shipping and are also available for field installation. Whether you require single- or multi-function control, we have off-the-shelf and built-to-order radios for your application needs.
The Flex Fit series of wireless controls is a flexible and cost-effective option for mobile hydraulic applications. Compared to restrictive, hardwired pendants or stationary consoles, wireless Flex Fit controls help improve operator mobility. Operators are not tethered to equipment with a radio, and therefore are free to move away from the machine and potentially dangerous situations while keeping equipment running efficiently. Learn more and get a quote today!