Although it has been said that the market for radio remote control products moves fairly slowly, even the slightest seeming upgrades can make a big difference in terms on an end-user operations productivity.

Trade shows are always a good opportunity to catch up with the manufacturers and find out whether they are currently focusing on expanding their product range, improving current offerings or growth of their operations and capabilities.

Hoist magazine took the opportunity to do just this at the recent Intermat 2012 exhibition in Paris, and found a mixed bag of priorities.

While some, like Italian manufacturer Autec, have indeed been focusing on expanding their distribution base to take advantage of the prime emerging markets in countries like Brazil and China, that’s not to say there haven’t been some notable advancements on the product development side in the offing. This issue Hoist takes a look at some of the latest to be announced.

Hoist has had a hands-on look at one offering from Hetronic that is still in the prototyping stage, along with an updated and improved version of the GL-3 remote.

Hetronic’s prototype is the Hetronic Touch, a tablet style device designed to be used for remote data monitoring of machines being controlled using Hetronic transmitters.

Based on touch-screen technology, the device features a robust, ruggedised casing with the only interface necessary, other than the 7" colour screen, being a large on/off button easily operated by the user even with gloves on.

The Hetronic touch can either be used as a standalone unit to receive feedback and monitor performance, or the screen can be integrated with some of Hetronic’s existing product range.

Commenting on one potential application for the device in railway switching yards, a Hetronic spokesperson said: "The Hetronic Touch has up to one mile in range so the operator shunting the locomotives can actually have video installed one end so that when shunting these mile long trains they can see what is going on at the other end and have control of the train."

Hetronic will be showing off the HTouch soon at an upcoming rail tradeshow in Germany.

But as well as breaking new ground with the prototype H-Touch, responding to customer demand, the company has decided to revisit and revamp a customer favourite. Hetronic’s GL series of remotes are compatible with a range of applications, including electric overhead travelling cranes, and feature an ergonomic design allowing easy access to control joysticks and switches.

Designed so that users can choose between up to three dual-axis digital or proportional joysticks or a maximum of six fully-proportional paddle levers on each remote, GL series transmitters are powered by two rechargeable batteries supplied, with a battery charger as standard.

Although customers can opt for ‘off-theshelf’ versions of the remotes, Hetronic’s GL series was originally manufactured with the ability to extensively customise its transmitters for each application at the forefront of the design rationale. So it comes as little surprise that Hetronic has concentrated on the fundamentals of the GL-3’s lightweight but sturdy design while simply adding a little more functionality to produce an updated model, new this May.

Most instantly noticeable on the transmitter is a resized visual display unit, now in full colour, which according to Hetronic was a particular demand from some of its customer base.

The significantly larger dimensions of the screen compared to its predecessor allows the monitoring of several attributes of the target machinery simultaneously, as shown in the photo.

A more subtle development is the strengthened casing of the remote, particularly at the corners, intended to absorb as much of the shock of accidental drops as possible.

HBC Radiomatic
German radio remote control manufacturer HBC-radiomatic recently announced that its "wii-style" Pilot controller is now through the prototyping stage and available on the market.

One of the most significant changes from the prototype to the finished version is the addition of the ability to control the crane on the horizontal axis though tilting hand movements.

The integrated inclination function allows control of the left and right hoist movement by tilting the control to the left or right, as well as the initial up and down hook movement seen on the prototype at the firm’s stand at CeMAT 2011 in Hannover.

It is activated if the operator constantly depresses the release button on the Pilot. The controller gently vibrates with the hoist’s increasing speed. With an intuitive control style, reminiscent of the controllers for the Nintendo Wii games console, the addition of control of travelling movements and speed is a vital component of the device.

HBC-Radiomatic says that despite the prototype’s appearance at CeMAT last May, units of the transmitter have only become commercially available to customers in the last month.

Oliver Meister, responsible for PR management at HBC-Radiomatic, said: "The concept is based on an integrated inclination function. By the horizontal and vertical inclination of the transmitter, the operator can control machine or crane drives.

"The speed of the drives can be controlled by the inclination angle. The more the transmitter is inclined, the higher the speed. This offers a completely new operating experience. "Now there are two drives to be controlled by hand movements.

Furthermore, we have added a bunch of new safety features such as user identification."

Previously only available for users requiring remote control for mobile hydraulic applications, Magnetek’s established Flex Pro series of remotes has recently been released for use with electric overhead travelling cranes.

Having been on the market for mobile hydraulic applications for over three years, the capabilities of the Flex Pro will already be known to some, and Magnetek thought it was important to make the same measure of precision control available to overhead crane users.

Remotes in the Flex Pro series are of a rugged design, featuring a tough, sealed nylon housing for the casing that is IP66 rated for environmental protection. Despite this it is also ergonomically-shaped, which along with its compact size and light weight enables easy one-handed operation according to Magnetek, and ensures minimal operator fatigue when using the remote.

Available in two configurations, either 8-button or 12-button units, operation of the Flex Pro’s pushbuttons can be configured as proportional, on/off or a combination of the two. Adjustable speed control is also available on the controls with four settings: 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% of output.

The remotes operate using NiMH batteries, and Magnetek provides the option for customers to purchase a rechargeable NiMH battery pack.

Although not capable of two-way communication when used in this way, Magnetek says the Flex Pro series of remotes can be used with the firm’s Radio Drive Serial Interface.

When utilised with Magnetek’s Radio Drive Serial Interface (RDSI) module, which replaces the need for relay cards by connecting to several drives via a three-wire serial interface, the Flex Pro remote can be used for one-way communication.

Magnetek says the RDSI module can automatically detect the drive types available, and as drive contactors are not needed when using the module, the amount of wiring needed is reduced, thereby reducing labour costs with this set up.

Magnetek’s manager of radio controls, Eugene Novak, believes the number of uses for the Flex Pro remote, owing to the flexible applicability of the unit’s design, is particularly wide-ranging.

"Flex Pro offers our customers a precise control option for improving overhead crane performance, productivity and safety," he comments. "The capability to proportionally moderate speed is just one of Flex Pro’s flexible features and our custom engineered systems make even more possibilities available."