Clean machines

11 September 2017

Cleanroom processes make special demands on lifting equipment, which hoist manufacturers and distributors are only too pleased to accommodate. Sally Spencer reports

Manufacturing processes requiring cleanroom facilities are on the increase and demand for appropriate lifting equipment is on the same upwards trajectory, with manufacturers either launching new products or modifying existing ranges.

“The demand for cleanroom compatible hoists has been driven by hi-tech manufacturing, especially electronics that must be made or assembled in a dustfree atmosphere,” said Andrew T Litecky, president and head of engineered sales at Shupper-Brickle Equipment Co.

Paul Jordan, director at Hoist UK, added that providers are expanding their cleanroom product portfolios through continual innovation.

“There are increasing options available for customers to explore, giving them a greater choice of solutions and the opportunity to work with providers like ourselves, who can offer a tailored service,” he says.

Lift Turn Move added that a number of its customers were expanding their production facilities and needed additional hoists as a result. “Other customers have had issues with old hoists and are wanting to purchase new up-to-date technology,” says John Jones, managing director. “Downtime is the biggest issue—and cost—they face.”

He adds that LTM’s new GP range has a higher duty factor, meaning more usage per hour and less maintenance. “We aim to lower the total costs of ownership with less downtime and simple annual maintenance procedures.”

Mennens has worked in the cleanrooms sector since 1998 when it began supplying semi-conductor specialist ASML. Since then the market has grown and in 2011 Mennens launched its dedicated brand, Cleanroom Cranes, and now offers “a total solution”. It works in close co-operation with Verlinde and uses its equipment in its cranes and hoists systems.

“The bottom line is that you don’t bring in any contaminants in the first place and then you can be sure you don’t contaminate your products,” says managing director Danny van Deuzen. “It’s not just about the hoist, it’s the complete structure. If you take a steel structure and start welding, you can create pinholes [which can trap contaminants]. We use non-outgassing electrical wiring and non-outgassing cleanroom kit. There are so many products available to prevent any type of contamination.” Drivers for change include an increased focus on ergonomics and safety, according to Sky Hook. “Lifting applications in these environments tend to come from maintenance and repair situations that have developed over time, or were overlooked during the initial equipment design,” says Thomas Christensen, design specialist at the family-run company.

Other factors driving demand depend very much on industry sector. For example, according to John Vander Linden, global product manager for powered chain hoist conductor industry nodes are becoming smaller and there is a desire to move from 300mm to 450mm wafer sizes, which increases the cost of contamination in a fabrication.

Meanwhile, in the food and pharmaceutical industries, “safety and quality are ever increasing public concerns” and manufacturers have to juggle the need to eliminate the risk of contamination while still controlling costs and maintaining or increasing productivity.

While there are several common denominators, specific demands vary according to the industry sector, according to Christensen.

“While the food industry stresses corrosion resistance due to the need for constant wash down, the semi-conductor industry stresses strict particle generation limitations and anti-static assemblies,” he says. “Defence and energy cleanroom environments tend to put more stress on heat generation through braking assemblies.”

Matt Downing, director of sales and marketing at the David Round Company, agrees that the demands depend on each customer’s quality and safety standards for their facility, and their surface finish requirements.

“Some require polished surface finishes,” he says. “In my experience over the last 20 years, the standards are much more stringent in pharmaceutical processing than food processing—however, that is slowly beginning to change.”

Downing said that stainless steel, lubricant-free, corrosion resistant and nonpaint flaking solutions were all top of the list of demands but added that even paint is usually viewed as unacceptable in most cleanroom settings. “It must be all stainless and easy to clean and maintain with as few particulates shedding as possible.”

Meanwhile, at Shupper-Brickle, Litecky said the top demands for its cleanroom customers were containment of lubricants in an enclosed oil bath and stainless steel components. He adds that Shupper- Brickle hoists “start with all moving parts in stainless steel or electroless nickel-clad. This prevents corrosion and minimises particles released into the air. It’s easy to wipe down and keep clean.”

Christensen at Sky Hook agrees that stainless steel is “the preferred structural material” but maintains that other finishes and coatings meet most cleanroom requirements “as long as care is taken to ensure proper quality during application”. “Demand will always focus on minimising particle generation from moving and rotating components,” he says.

Vander Linden adds that, not only do requirements differ between industry sectors but also they can vary widely within a single industry, depending on the processes being served.

“For example, requirements in a dry, non-caustic environment may focus more on controlling risk of contamination by using food grade lubricants and drip pans for gear boxes,” he says. “In wet areas the needs focus more on corrosion resistance and in wash down areas equipment must be sealed to permit high pressure cleaning. Some areas may require a combination of these features.”

Stainless steel components—trolley wheels, hooks, sheaves and so on— eliminate the risk of corrosion and if providing an electrical enclosure, Columbus McKinnon makes sure that it is NEMA 4X and stainless, said Vander Linden. And, he added, for food sector applications, the company frequently changes to a food grade lubricant for its chain and transmissions.

Jordan, at Hoist UK, agrees that lubrication is “a major issue”. “Ideally there would be no lubricants wherever possible, but that is not always an option. However, we have provided customers with electric belt hoists from Verlinde’s BH series, which is a suitable solution as we have the ability to fit this unit with a lubrication-free Dyneema lifting belt. And, of course, all the lubricants in the gearboxes and so on can be biodegradable.”

Lift Turn Move sells a significant number of hoists to food preparation areas, such as big bag food handling, with many actions required per hour, so their top demands are high duty cycle, stainless steel, lubricantfree, non-flaking paint and corrosion resistance, according to Jones.

Jordan at Hoist UK adds that pharmaceutical and hygiene customers require uniform, non-horizontal polished surfaces that can easily be cleaned in stainless steel.

“We work with a number of customers across different sectors and have spent a considerable amount of time designing structural stainless steel members for gantry and crane bridge beams, which are designed with no horizontal surfaces and polished to BPE SF3 surface finish (0.76 micron),” he says. Clearly there isn’t a one-size-fits-all lifting equipment solution for cleanroom or hygienic environments and the majority of this type of work is bespoke and tailored specifically to individual customers’ requirements. So having a wide range of products and systems is ideal, as is having a dedicated design and technical team to work with individual customers.

“The equipment is built to order based on each customer’s requirements and specifications,” says Downing at David Round Company. “We have the capability to meet any requirements set forth for the construction of our hoists due to our engineering and design capabilities. We strive to offer the cleanest and most reliable, long-lasting units as they are built for heavy use and duty cycles.”

He adds that around 50% of David Round’s business is in custom-built solutions. “Some of that is stainless steel and some is custom non-stainless hoist, winch and floor crane designs built for rugged applications and, again, specific to each customer’s requirements.”

Among the company’s many product developments, he cites the stainless steel work positioner crane it exhibited at Interphex 2017 as an example. The 500lbcapacity work positioner has a lift height of 47.5 inches and features include a bead blast finish.

“We have already built several versions of this unit,” says Downing. “Some have powered lifts, some have manual lifts, some have custom-sized table tops and so on.” Custom built solutions account for “over half” of Sky Hook’s business and its cleanroom packages include replacing some of the uncoated components with materials that reduce particle generation and hold up better during wash down. “Everything from shafts, rollers, bushings, types of grease, coated cables and welded-in counterweights are brought into focus,” says Christensen.

Sky Hook’s newest product lines include a new LoadLock clutch brake design for smoother operation, an articulating arm to increase the Sky Hook’s range of motion and a pneumatic balancer option for customers lifting loads of relatively consistent weight on a regular basis.

“All of these products were developed from feedback we received from our customers during their search for a lifting solution and after they had already purchased one,” says Christensen. “It is always customised,” says van Deuzen, at Mennens/Cleanroom Cranes. “We try to stick to standard products but it’s always customised in terms of the supporting construction, or lifting height for example.”

He says that lifting capacity, speed, the way the hoist is manoeuvred—is it standalone, on a beam or a self-supporting crane—were all important considerations for customers.

“We have a range of hoists from 50kg to 10t and our basic policy is that we always use a belt for lifting. The belt is mainly made from Dyneema so we’re not bringing any grease or lubrication into the cleanroom. Then it’s a question of what the customer is going to do with the hoist—is it going to be two cranes working together, or a standalone system, is it a jib system? What is the lifting height and how many rooms do we have to build in the facility? “These are all questions we consider with the customer when we start the design.”

Columbus McKinnon says that, with the exception of a range of stainless steel trolleys, which it catalogues, virtually all of its cleanrooms business is customised. And it’s taken the step of appointing “a global voice of the customer manager who takes deep dives into industries to identify latent customer needs so that we can continue to add features that they value”.

As just one example of its “a la carte menu”, Columbus McKinnon can offer a 100% stainless steel hoist or, for customers with less stringent applications and tighter budgets, it can offer Niclad coatings. “We offer trolleys in quarter-ton through to two-ton capacity that are manufactured from stainless steel,” says Vander Linden. “These trolleys also feature sealed stainless steel bearings that are ‘lubricated for life’.

We see these as the ultimate cleanroom trolley as they can be paired with most hook-suspended hoists of the same capacity, they are impervious to corrosion in most environments, are suitable for wash down, and have virtually no risk of contaminating processes in the area where they are used.

“Additionally, we have a single phase, variable speed unit—the Shopstar VS— capable of 63 fpm in some capacities. We offer this with another new product, the CM Rocket Pendant—an extremely ergonomic pendant, which is IP65 (NEMA 4/4X). This pendant is durable, lightweight and easy to use with the gloves that are typically used in a cleanroom environment.”

Lift Turn Move said that it customises all its applications into the cleanroom sector. It offers GIS GPR food grade hoists and trolleys up to 120kg lifting capacity.

The corrosion resistant electric chain hoist is suitable for use in food, pharmaceutical or chemical industries, wastewater treatment plants and outdoor use.

GIS introduced its new generation GPR 500 food grade hoist in January this year. “This hoist is easy to maintain,” says Jones of Lift Turn Move. “The modular design of the electric chain hoist means that wearing parts can be quickly and easily removed and replaced—and thanks to the polygonal connection, without the need for special tools. This saves time and costs, which both service technicians and customers appreciate.”

Paul Jordan says that providing customised solutions has always been a large part of Hoist UK’s business and that its in-house design and manufacturing team and CNC machinery enables it to manufacture what is needed for a project, whether that’s an adapted solution or something that is 100% bespoke.

“We are an approved distributor of Verlinde lifting equipment and some of the products we provide for cleanroom and hygienic applications are more standard, serially produced products which then have components changed at Verlinde to be more compliant with the cleanroom working environment, before being modified further once we have them in our works,” says Jordan. “Our Verlinde range of equipment gives us the best platform of a unit to start this customisation programme for a customer without having to design a hoist from scratch,” he said. “Although we have developed a range of small cleanroom wire rope hoists of our own for suitable low duty applications of 250kg SWL and below.”

About 25% of Shupper-Brickle’s business is in customised solutions, says Litecky, and lately the company had seen increased demand for ultra-close headroom wire ropes and chain hoists. “The application often includes a monorail beam attached to the ceiling, so the hoist must not only meet the cleanroom requirements but it must be compact enough to operate in limited space.”

The requirement for higher duty lifting equipment is steering the direction of research and development, says Lift Turn Move, while Mennens/Cleanroom Cranes says that after having spent time over the last few years perfecting the design of smaller hoists, it was now looking at controls and “how to keep them as clean and simple as possible”. Van Deuzen adds that Cleanroom Cranes is now widening its scope by supplying tooling.

Columbus McKinnon says it was currently adding intelligent features to its hoists that will provide customers notification of maintenance needs, as well as preventative maintenance alerts. “At CMCO we are always looking to add additional value-added features,” says Vander Linden. “The addition of Magnetek to the Columbus McKinnon family has opened up a wide array of features that will benefit industries— including cleanrooms.”

This Hoist UK underbraced jib crane was made completely in stainless steel 316, with a polished finish
Sky Hook’s newest product lines include an articulating arm
A twin-hook cleanroom dual-rail hoist with freestanding runway, from Electrolift
Mennens/Cleanroom Cranes supplied a company specialising in after treatment and cleanroom packaging of components
One of LTM’s GIS hoist and cranes at work in the food industry
David Round Company’s new stainless steel work positioner crane was exhibited at Interphex 2017-07-18