Vacuum lifting

7 December 2001

A metals processing company in Germany found that a vacuum lifter was the solution to its handling problems

Inovan is a metals processing company, based in Birkenfeld, Germany, that specialises in the manufacture of stampings, bent parts and compound parts. It is part of the Prym group which, under the name Prymtec, is an established player in the sector of materials, stamping, surface treatment, shaping, welding and connection technologies for electromechanical and electronic components. Inovan's factory produces these components mechanically and also treats their surfaces by electroplating and related methods.

Raw materials are generally delivered in the form of coils and many of the finished products are also in the form of coils. Depending on the parts to be produced, these coils of metal strip are delivered in a range of diameters and weights. They then have to be handled as part of the production process. Lifting them onto the feed reel and off the take-up reel is a process which often involves turning them several times.

Since the metal strips are narrow and thin, often only 0.1mm thick, manual coil handling with ropes and cranes would frequently damage them. The very weight of these coils also resulted in damage to the metal strips. Inovan was therefore looking for a better practical solution to the handling problems.

The solution One of the requirements for the new handling solution for safe transport and precise positioning of the coils was that it should be easy to use and should be able to turn the coils through 90°. Further requirements were to achieve damage-free transport of the coils, simple handling and a high degree of flexibility. Also, the handling solution should be an investment in the future, since today's electroplating equipment and machine tools can already handle coils with a maximum strip width of 90mm and a maximum diameter of 1200mm. This means that they can weigh as much as 600kg or more. The chosen handling system was the VacuMaster Coil 1000-90, a vacuum lifting device from specialist supplier J.Schmalz GmbH. The VacuMaster Coil is designed for the transport and handling of coils or rings of split strip. The model number 1000-90 indicates that it has a safe working load of 1,000kg and can rotate coils through 90°. Schmalz also offers models with lifting capacities of 500kg and 750kg.

Inovan's VacuMaster Coil 1000-90 is a crane-mounted lifting device which can be used anywhere the crane can be positioned or where suitable lifting tackle is installed. Inovan uses it in the vicinity of the electroplating equipment, where it handles coils with a width of 74mm with weights of up to about 400kg. The coils are delivered laying flat on their sides on pallets. The vacuum lifter is used to pick them up, swivel them through 90° to vertical and place them on the reel mandrel.

After the strip has been treated and wound onto the take-up reel, the vacuum lifting device lifts the coil from the reel mandrel, swivels it back to the horizontal position and places it on a pallet again. The coils are laid flat on the pallets to prevent them from telescoping.

In contrast to the old transport method, using ropes and a crane, handling can now be done without damaging the strip and without movement restrictions. The vacuum lifting device is claimed to be easily controlled using the ergonomically designed operator handle. In many cases, two coils have to be handled successively because the feed or take-up reel can accept two coils at the same time.

Depending on the intensity of the electroplating process and the capacity of the equipment used for this, up to 15 loading and unloading operations are carried out each day, involving coils of different dimensions and weights. This can now be done without problems and by a single operator.

With its 1,000kg capacity, the vacuum lifting device has enough surplus capacity for handling heavier coils which might be introduced in the future.