Floating 100 tonnes on air transforms warehouse capabilities


Hovair air film technology by Movetech UK, combined with new flooring from Sika UK, has provided London & Cambridge Properties (LCP) with a highly practical and cost-effective solution to LCP’s need to double capacity at their specialist warehousing facility at Burntwood Business Park, Burntwood, Staffordshire.

The warehouse specialises in the storage of items up to 100 tonnes in weight and is the only storage facility of its kind within a 100 mile radius. With only a third of the warehouse accessible by the main, 100 tonne capacity, crane, demands were dramatically exceeding LCP’s supply capabilities, and customers were being turned away. It was vital, therefore, that an economic solution be found that would allow LCP to expand its capacity for heavier items such as electric transformers imported from Germany and Australia.

Richard Allen, Building Surveyor for LCP, explains: “With only a third of the warehouse having the capacity for larger items, and another third being used for smaller storage, served by a smaller crane and forklift trucks, we were left with the final third to convert to storage for 85 tonne electric transformers. The problem was: how?

“A potential solution, was to construct a rail system that would criss-cross the warehouse floor which was not very practical and wasted valuable space

“The air film solution offered by Movetech UK has proved to be the most practical and cost-effective solution by far, particularly as we have been able to keep the whole of the rest of the warehouse operational during installation.”

Close collaboration with Movetech UK engineers using their in-house Hovair technology, has resulted in the design and manufacture of an air film transporter with a total design capacity of 100 tonnes. The original initially focused on a wheeled solution that used hydraulic jacks and machinery skates, but the air film option offered much greater flexibility and is more user friendly.

Unlike wheels air bearings allow loads to be moved in any direction. Eight 40″ high pressure air bearings are incorporated into the design of the LCP transporter, as are a central guide wheel as a point of steering and to allow straight line moves, and 100 tonne lifting beams.

Steering and propulsion of the transporter are provided by an air powered tugger which also houses the controls for the transporter.

LCP have had a series of stillages made to accommodate the transformers. Once the transformer is in position, the 100 tonne lifter beams pick the stillage and transformer off the floor and position them on the transporter before moving them to the allocated storage area.

A new compressed air system has been installed specifically for the air film equipment, and, to optimise the performance of the air film solution further, a specialist floor has been laid.

Hovair air film technology, incorporated into air skates, transporters and turntables, is frequently used in the aerospace, nuclear and automotive industries to improve efficiency and speed up production and assembly flow-lines. Effectively hand operated ‘hovercrafts’, air film transporters are capable of moving objects of almost any size or weight in any direction with ease and precision.

As they run on a thin film of air, they require exceptionally smooth surfaces for operation. LCP therefore chose an advanced flooring system from Sika that offered durability, resistance to chemicals and a waterproof, smooth gloss finish. This smooth surface also limits the resistance of the flooring, reducing the compressed air requirements and thereby making the whole system more energy efficient.

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