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Automation & Assembly


With air casters, two to three workers can easily move 20,000-lb (9000-kg) trailers in any direction.


identified 14 distinct types of applications that lend them- selves particularly well to air‐bearing technology. Here they are, in no particular order: Crane Bay Transfer: Troughout manufacturing, overhead


cranes are used to move heavy loads. Tese heavy loads be- come handling problems when it is necessary to move beyond the reach of the cranes. Examples: movement between parallel cranes and movement between cranes that intersect. Typical air‐bearing solutions of this type include: • Handling steel plate and shapes between stock areas and parallel manufacturing areas. One automaker uses an air-bearing shuttle at one of its stamping plants to keep a press-feeding workstation supplied with parts. Te operator works from the center of the shuttle as an overhead crane places full containers on the leſt end of the shuttle. When the operator empties a container, he or she activates the shuttle to move the platform right and bring in a new container. While the operator works, the crane removes the empty container on the right end and replaces it with a full container.


• Air‐film equipment is used in heavy construction equip- ment assembly lines that have a 90° turn. Te overhead crane moves equipment along the line until it reaches the turn. Te equipment is then placed on an air‐bearing plat- form for movement to the perpendicular crane bay area. Turntables: In comparison to conventional mechanical


48 Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing


systems, air bearings provide a low‐cost design approach for turntables. Tis is also an excellent application for air bearings since movement is constrained to rotation and the surface is controlled. Maintenance costs for air bearing turntables are lower since they have fewer moving parts. To date, air bearing turntables have been used mostly for


line‐feed applications. For example, an automaker uses a six-position, 27' (8.2-m) diameter turntable on an assembly line to allow an operator to quickly select the proper muffler for the three truck models produced on the line. Te turn- table reads a signal transmitted by the assembly line network telling the turntable which muffler is right for the particular truck model next on the assembly line. Te turntable then chooses the fastest rotational direction to the operator’s posi- tion, allowing the operator to quickly and accurately finish the process. A forkliſt truck is used to replenish empty muf- fler containers. Assembly Lines: Given the significant dimensions and


weights cited above it might seem as if air bearings only are used on assembly lines for mammoth products. In fact, the technology is used with less weighty components as well. • Heavy Loads—Rather than assemble large, heavy items in one position, these difficult items can be placed on air‐ bearing platforms and moved from assembly station to assembly station. For instance, a maker of mining equip- ment uses a custom air-bearing transporter to insert


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