Mechanical handling refers to the use of mechanical equipment for the transfer, lifting, suspension, storage, control and protection of materials, goods and products throughout the process of manufacturing, distribution, storage, consumption and disposal.
Common examples of mechanical handling equipment are:
- Cranes and hoists
- Trolleys and trucks
- Manual manipulators
- Robotic manipulators
The design and engineering of mechanical handling systems can present a fascinating and intricate challenge to the Mechanical Engineer. In the most complex cases, mechanical handling design is truly an exercise in multi-disciplinary, analysis-intensive engineering. For example, the design of a bespoke Electric Overhead Travelling (EOT) Crane is likely to involve some or all of the following:
- Design of the hoist load path, from the hook to the hoist motor and braking systems. This will include:
- design/selection of the hook, rope and reeving systems;
- mechanical design of the hoist drum and rope termination points;
- mechanical design/selection of the hoist gearbox, hoist motor and braking systems.
- Design of long and cross travel systems, to enable the transverse movement of the crane bridge and trolley, respectively. This will include:
- design/selection of the bridge and trolley wheels and bearings;
- design/selection of the long/cross travel gearbox, motors and brakes.
- Structural design of the crane bridge and trolley steelwork.
- Design of the rail-wheel interface, including selection of the rails and rail fixtures.
- Consideration of the interface between the crane and the supporting civil structure. This may include:
- Design of crane runway beams, bearings and surge-girder ties;
- Definition of crane loads into supporting structures as input to Civil Engineers in their design of fastening systems, corbels, steelwork, walls and slabs;
- Specification and design of crane control systems and development of the functional analysis as input to the Electrical, Control and Instrumentation (EC&I) Engineers. This may include:
- Definition of control limits for hoist, long and cross travel.
- Definition of loading limits;
- Definition of accuracy/resolution of hoist/travel movements;
- Definition of Human-Machine Interface (HMI) requirements, such as operational modes, control interface and audio-visual feedback;
- Definition of control interlocks.
- Consideration of personnel access