Based in Casa Grande, Arizona, Lucid Motors selected the German company to come up with a trio of state-of-the-art tool handling cranes. The project has been handled in tandem with Orbit Industrial, Bang Kransysteme's very first certified partner in North America. Prior to work beginning on the Lucid Motors project, the Orbit industrial services and maintenance team undertook crane training at the Bang Kransysteme German headquarters, with a successful outcome of a full qualification to service and maintain the company's process cranes. The load test and commissioning phase at Lucid Motors was completed in three and a half days.

Christoph Bang, CEO of Bang Kransysteme, explains the background and origins of this project: “Porsche AG together with Schuler AG (a manufacturer of presses), has established a huge showroom-factory (see to showcase the most modern press shop automation solution worldwide. We won the Porsche-Schuler tender four years ago and it's working really nicely and is showcased around the world to all automotive production facilities. It’s a great reference.

“Lucid Motors liked that concept and also aimed to have a quick change-over of dies and for that they required a system with two fully automatic indoor overhead travelling cranes.“

Taking these requirements into consideration, Lucid Motors expressed an interest in buying from Bang Kransysteme. “They said OK, yes, we want that press and those cranes for their business. So they bought the whole package for the new plant in Casa Grande, Arizona. So that's how it came about,” says Bang.

He says that the project has provided another “very nice” marketing opportunity. “The cranes are state of the art with their load-handling devices, automated gripper, anti-sway systems, straight running systems and full automation. And also, the cranes include people recognition systems, so that the crane can actually interact in the production environment without being fenced off as it used to be.”

The cranes belong to a greenfield project, having been fitted in a new factory. The package consists of a die gripper crane, blanking bay (where sheets of material are cut or stamped into smaller pieces known as ‘blanks’) crane for coils, and a semi-portal crane (which is a single leg with floor rails at one end of the crane bridge and a high-level rail at the other) for die maintenance.

“The class E (CMAA classification) die gripper crane will handle all die transports between press and die storage,” says Danny Schönfeld, leading project manager for the press shop cranes project at Lucid Motors. “Dies with a dead weight of up to 56t are transported in semi-automatic mode [full automatic mode is possible in the future].”

The crane spans of 94ft. The blanking bay crane has a coil weight lifting capacity of 35t and also spans 94ft. Meanwhile, the semi portal crane has a lifting capacity of 55t/18t and a span of 89ft.

Being automatic, the cranes provide a number of benefits. Schönfeld says that the main benefit is safety – they are equipped with the latest safety technology – with the second main benefit being speed, which is crucial when it comes to changing the dies. “Another big benefit is [space-saving with] the die handling device, which can stock the dies much higher than when in manual mode,” says Schönfeld. “So the highest lev el is three dies in a row [in manual mode], and with the die handling device… you can go up to six dies on top of each other.”

Safety features include items such as sensors on the safety programmable logic controller (PLC) that check a crane is functioning correctly, and a braking arrangement that means that if one system fails, a second one comes into operation.

“So you get the electrical safety features on one side and the mechanical safety features, which include, for example, double redundant drive system [where two separate and identical drive systems work in parallel to ensure high reliability and fault tolerance], and the safety factors of the ropes, the gearboxes and the brakes,” says Bang. “It's actually a very robust system. This is necessary because cranes are running in a 24/7 operation.”

Automation is one of the major trends in the crane industry, adds Bang. “More than half of our cranes either have semi-automation or full automation systems. It's hard to find people who are willing to do such repetitive work tasks – nobody wants to be sitting in a crane cabin any more all day.

“So it's automation in combination with remote control operating system desks as well. These are the two major trends that we are experiencing and these are growing more and more.”

A major asset of using remote operating desks is that it can help operate multiple cranes from one workplace. “It's safer, faster and altogether more efficient in a production environment,” says Bang. Schönfeld adds that full automation at one of Lucid Motors’ latest press projects, enables process cranes to be integrated into production environments.

“Sophisticated security technology featuring advanced sensoring for people recognition in combination with camera-based anti-sway systems allow for the area beneath the crane to be used without a fence. The process crane becomes a large-capacity robot – integrated in a working environment,” he says.

Bang says that his company is developing AI technology too: “We are now also developing some AI in which the crane memorises from experience which is the fastest die change yet and which one comes most often – to know whether to place the dies at the back or the front.

“You don't have to sort this out as an operator – so these are the next steps that we are thinking about.” Although at the time of writing some of the production plant’s parts have yet to be installed, Schönfeld says that one of the cranes is already going through the factory acceptance testing on site.

“While they are not using the crane for setting up the press machinery, Lucid Motors has provided very good praise for our delivery, service and commissioning. They are happy with what we are doing,” says Bang.

Summing up the project Schönfeld concludes: “Given that we have some differences between the US and Europe, it is a very interesting project for us, and we are looking forward to doing many more in the future.”