Precision Crane Control Material Handling

Eliminating the sway of huge payloads through state-of-the-art controls technology is one outcome of a research lab driven by a unique industry/university partnership.

Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Georgia, on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), is one of the foremost multidisciplinary research centers focusing on next generation manufacturing technologies: the Manufacturing Research Center (MARC).

For nearly a decade, Siemens, through the Siemens Cooperates with Education (SCE) program, has worked with the university in supporting MARC with a substantial financial commitment, as well as donations of  equipment, software, and sometimes guidance. Each year it also funds two students from Europe to come to MARC and participate in its work.

The MARC team, typically consisting of graduate students and PhDs doing research, have turned the Siemens’ commitment into a series of challenging projects. The first one was an innovative realization of a full-sized gantry crane. Cranes are often considered rather simple devices, but the MARC team infused the tool with intelligence. It provides advanced zone control, whereby the operator, without touching a part, can direct the crane to any location using an advanced optics system. During this project, the MARC team also developed a new type of sway control. In a normal crane, the payload being positioned sways back and forth when the crane starts or stops moving. The MARC system incorporates sway dampening features that largely eliminate sway from motion along gantry cranes—a notable advance and one of the first highlights to emerge from the MARC projects affiliated with Siemens.

Ideas Taking Flight

MARC’s current project results from The Boeing Company’s recognition of Georgia Tech as a strategic university partner to investigate and develop innovative manufacturing technologies for potential application in the aerospace industry. To support this effort, an Aerospace Manufacturing Laboratory was established within MARC: 2,000 square feet configured to advance manufacturing techniques for aerospace structures, consistent with the technical and research talent available at Georgia Tech.

The lab is equipped so that large structures can be transported by mobile platform, lifted and located via an overhead crane system, and positioned within certain tolerances for further machining, fastening, or inspection via wireless communication.

To date, emphasis has been placed on incorporating technologies that would facilitate material handling with precision, including tight tolerance control and reduced performance variation.  One research project associated with overhead crane use focuses on input shaping, which has been shown to significantly reduce the residual swing that accompanies the hoisting and movement of payload.  Even when hoist distances are large, the shaping process reduces residual oscillation amplitude well below the level obtained with time-optimal, rigid-body commands.  An integrated control system within the laboratory— Siemens’ contribution to the project—is critical for this and other projects to succeed.

A control room is under development to house an electrical cabinet that supplies power to the crane and control cabinet. A Siemens S7-Embedded Controller, incorporating a touch screen, will be used to operate the motion system with an emergency stop. The crane bridge and each trolley will be equipped with aSiemens Motion Controller (i.e., Simotion) for precise movement. To locate position, several sensors—laser and vision systems—will be used. Communication with the control cabinet will be wireless (IWLAN).  A user will be able to control the crane via various input devices (e.g., laptop, mobile touch panel, or pendant). These devices will be connected to the embedded controller (EC31) over Wi-Fi (W788) with digital input (32 DI), Ethernet (Scalance X208), and/or Profibus (CP5603) capability.

The embedded controller will perform calculations based on signals from the input devices with the desired velocity command, including command shaping. These calculations can be done via WinAC (Soft PLC) or Windows XP, which communicates with the soft PLC over shared memory extension (SMX), custom code extension (CCX), or a controller management interface (CMI). It will also be possible to bypass the command shaping in the PLC and send the raw position or velocity commands to the bridge and trolleys so that they will calculate the command shaping.

The velocity commands are then sent via Wi-Fi to a Simotion controller.  Four Simotion controllers will be available, one for the bridge and one for each trolley.  With trolleys moving in the x-y plane, the bridge has two friction drives. The y-positions are measured via SICK laser sensors. The error between desired position and current position will be evaluated in the Simotion controller or in the PLC, whichever way the operator or crane maintainer wants it to be done. Each trolley will also incorporate a laser to measure the x-position with a camera to monitor sway and z-position locations.  All collected data measurements are sent to the embedded controller for processing.

“The innovative concept here is the redefining of the manufacturing process through dynamic tools deployed on mobile platforms and the automation technologies driving them,” says Robert Carper, training business developer and “Siemens Cooperates with Education” promoter at Siemens Industry.

In traditional manufacturing, particularly in the manufacturing of large items, a massive conveyor belt or a crane moves a part along a fixed trail or assembly line. People or robots then interject their value-add. “This system is unique in that other elements may come to the mobile platform or the platform can move to another piece of tooling,” explains Carper. “This allows dynamic scheduling of interactions between manufacturing elements, which maximizes manufacturing throughput.”

Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >> 

Preventing Arc Flash Accidents

According to Fire Engineering Magazine, there are around ten arc flash incidences per day in the United States. These incidents occur when workers:

  • rack circuit breakers from an unsafe distance
  • come in contact with a high-amp source with a conductive object
  • unintentionally create a spark near a high-amp source with a conductive object
  • use equipment with insufficient parts, improper installation or excessive wear and tear
  • work near gaps or breaks in insulation
  • work in an environment where there is dust, corrosion or impurities on a conductors surface

Check out Siemens’ new technology aimed to prevent arc flash accidents…


New Robotic Technology Aims to Prevent Dangerous Arc Flash Incidents

July 27, 2011 by Siemens

Many arc flash incidents are related to racking circuit breakers, chiefly in the power industry. A new robotic device allows a worker to rack circuit breakers from a safe distance of over 75 feet away.

An arc flash is an electrical explosion that results from a low impedance connection to ground or another voltage phase in an electrical system. In other words, an arc flash is an electrical breakdown of the resistance of air resulting in an electric arc. This can occur when there is sufficient voltage in an electrical system and a path to ground or lower voltage.

“An arc flash is a potential disaster,” says Tim Rowland, automation specialist at Industrial Electronic Supply. “A high energy arc flash can cause substantial damage, fire, injury, and/or death.”

The energy released in an arc flash rapidly vaporizes the metal conductors involved, blasting molten metal and expanding plasma outward with incredible force. The result can cause destruction of equipment, fire, and injury—not only to workers working on the equipment, but also to others nearby.

According to CapSchell, Inc., a Chicago-based research firm focused on workplace safety issues, between five and ten arc flash incidents occur on a daily basis in the United States. A good percentage of these are related to racking circuit breakers. Despite provisions in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations requiring the dissemination and use of proper personal protective equipment, arc flash accidents result in injuries ranging from minor burns to loss of hearing to death.
Move Back!

“Move back” are two words every child hears from a parent when moving towards some danger. inoLECT, a Baton Rouge, La.-based provider of integrated electrical system solutions for the power generation, utility, industrial and electrical engineering fields, has created a remote racking device, the inoRAC™, which greatly reduces the risk of arc flash injuries by allowing operators to remotely rack breakers at distances of over 75 feet from the equipment. A simple idea—move the person away from the potential danger—has been effectively realized in the inoRAC robotic device.

“Standard practice has been for a technician to first don an arc flash suit, essentially a fire suit,” says Rowland. “Then he gets the toolset, goes to the unit, and hand cranks the breaker until it engages. Hopefully, nothing adverse happens, however, statistics show that things do.”

Enter the InoRAC. A small, motorized robotic device, the inoRAC uses Siemens technology and a long communications cable to enable the operator to be out of the area of potential arc flash while doing the breaker service.
Safety for Operators and Equipment

While workplace safety was the driving factor behind the development of the inoRAC, protecting equipment assets is an associated benefit. “In many competitive racking systems, torque wrenches are used,” says Josh Norton, business development manager at inoLECT. “Torque values must be set manually.”

On these units a dial is set to determine the amount of torque put onto each breaker. If a breaker is over-torqued, it can be damaged, making the plant less reliable. “With our unit, the operator never has to do that, because the proper values are already programmed into the PLC and touchscreen,” Norton continues. “When the end user details what breakers they have on their site, we program all the information into the inoRAC. It’s never a question. It’s already set.”

Further, the unit can be programmed to match established racking procedures, important because each customer has specific procedures to rack their breakers. The inoRAC can incorporate these specifics, a huge benefit to customers by ensuring compliance with standard operating procedures, even by inexperienced personnel.

“The new guy is always the one who gets nominated to rack breakers,” says Norton. So even from day one, he can follow the steps. As long as he uses the unit, he will always be doing the correct procedure, which increases his safety.

Norton points to the use of a Siemens variable frequency drive as an important part of ensuring equipment integrity. “We use a variable frequency drive that allows us to speed up and slow down the racking process,” he says. The device slows down the racking process just prior to insertion to protect the equipment.

“We sell remote racking devices to protect the operator, which is priority number one,” says Norton. “But we also want to protect the customer’s equipment, because if we tear up their breakers, our device is not going to be used. We go one step further than everyone else by truly protecting equipment by doing torque monitoring, position monitoring, and revolution profiling.”

By monitoring torque, the linear position of the breaker as it goes on the stabs and the number of revolutions the breaker has turned, the inoRAC provides triple redundancy to protect the equipment.

“We want to see all three in operation at the right level and time,” he says. “If I know a breaker takes 20 revolutions to rack it in, at around 18 revolutions I want to slow it down, to ensure that I’m not tearing anything or hitting it at full speed. I want to slow it down and ease it up to the stop.”
Universal Application, Continuing Development

Norton says that one of the advantages of the Siemens components in inoRAC is the flexibility they provide. “They help this product achieve its goal of being a universal product,” he says.  The inoRAC can work across the electrical spectrum from 480 volts to 38 kV and with a wide range of make and model of breakers.

According to Norton, inoLECT’s next generation of remote racking devices will incorporate Siemens’ next generation micro PLC, the Simatic S7-1200. “This PLC will allow us to do wireless operation,” concludes Norton. “That is definitely something customers will want. We see the market wanting remote operation for anything electrical, and we want to be a part of doing remote operation across the entire electrical spectrum within a facility, not just racking breakers. That’s where we are headed.”
To see the inoRAC in action, click here to view a short YouTube video.



Anymeeting is an online meeting application that allows you to plan your meetings by sending e-mail invitations, creating custom registration forms, selling webinar tickets and promoting your meeting over various social media sites. anymeeting also allows you to create and display PowerPoints and other documents with screen sharing, application sharing, video conferencing or audio broadcasting.

Click here for more information on anymeeting.



f.lux is a free program that automatically adjusts your computer’s display to adapt to the time of day. It makes the color of your screen warmer at night and like sunlight during the day. f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time, eliminating harsh nighttime screen lighting and that ‘eerie blue screen glow’.

Click here for more information on f.lux



oluto is a service for people who help others with their PCs. If you’re a power user, you probably receive phone calls from friends and family for everyday tech support. If you’re not a power user, you probably have someone you call. That’s exactly where Soluto comes in: it’s a web application that helps power users help their friends, family and colleagues.

Click here for more information on Soluto

KingSoft Office Suite Free 2012


Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012 is a completely free office productivity suite, which includes three programs that reflect the different purposes and tasks required in any working/personal environment. The Writer is fully equipped modern word processor, Presentationcreate effective multimedia presentations and Spreadsheets handles all your data processing and analysis requirements.

Click here for more information on KingSoft Office Suite Free 2012



NirLauncher is a package of more than 100 portable freeware utilities for Windows, all of them developed for NirSoft Web site during the last few years. NirLauncher can be used from USB flash drive without need of any installation and all the utilities in the package are completely freeware, without any Spyware/Adware/Malware. The NirLauncher package includes variety of tools that you may need for your daily computer use, including utilities to recover lost passwords, to monitor your network, to view and extract cookies, cache, and other information stored by your Web browser, to search files in your system, and more.

Check Out NirLauncher

AOMEI Free Partition Manager


AOMEI Partition Assistant Home Edition is the latest and completely free hard disk partition manager software. It carries out magic hard disk and partitions management, advanced system optimization, and easy copy wizard to keep your computer running smoothly and faster.

This freeware is compatible with both 32 bit & 64 bit versions of Windows operating systems, including Windows 8, Windows 7 (SP1 supported), Vista, XP, and Windows 2000 Professional. It has the ability to resize and move partition, extend system drive, merge partitions, split partition, allocate free space, copy partition, copy disk on MBR and GPT disk, with all data protected.

Click here for more information on AOMEI Free Partition Manager

Rasberry Pi


The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

Check Out Raspberry Pi



With SugarSync, you decide which folders you want to sync and where you want to sync them. SugarSync is a free 5GB account and works in the background so your most important data is always backed up and available to you — regardless of your location or the computer you are using. You can start editing a file on your office PC and finish it on your Mac at home.

Click here for more information on SugarSync



Bobsled is a service anyone can use to make communicating with friends and family easier and more fun. Bobsled Calling lets users place free calls to Facebook friends and any mobile or landline number in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico. Users can place calls from most browsers or from our iPhone and Android applications.

Click here for more information on Bobsled



Rainmeter displays customizable skins, like memory and battery power, RSS feeds and weather forecasts, right on your desktop. Many skins are even functional: they can record your notes and to-do lists, launch your favorite applications, and control your media player – all in a clean, unobtrusive interface that you can rearrange and customize to your liking. Rainmeter is at once an application and a toolkit. You are only limited by your imagination and creativity.

Click here for more information on Rainmeter