When Wiggin Alloys first installed a Hovair air film system in 1983 to move a forge press tool train under a 1,750 tonne forging press, little did the company know that, in partnership with Hovair, now part of the industrial division of British Turntable Co Ltd, the company would still be using the same air film system in their manufacturing process 25 years later. In the hot and dirty environment of the forging plant, the Hovair air skates have withstood the test of time.
The Hereford based forging plant, now known as Special Metals Wiggin Ltd, produce high performance nickel based alloys for the aerospace, petrochemical and automotive industries. As such they require robust and reliable systems to ensure continuity of supply to these demanding industries.
Three sets of four Hovair air skates are used to inflate and lift the 12,000 kg tool train clear of the floor, whilst controlled airflow creates an almost friction‐free film of air between the skates and the floor. Once the train is 'on air', a drive motor and chain arrangement move the desired tool under the press.
The high capacity of the air bearings, low floor pressure and low frictional coefficient means that the heavy load can be moved easily using low power drive motors without damaging the floor in the way that wheels would.
The maintenance supervisor of the forging machining, James Sinclair, says: “The skates provide ease of use, low maintenance ‐ and ease of maintenance when needed ‐ just swapping skates and air tanks as required, with the balancing valves evening the lift height of each set.”
Hovair air skates come in a range of sizes and capacities, with a set of four capable of moving between 2,000 kg to 120,000 kg. In addition to air skates, Hovair designs and manufactures bespoke air film and materials handling solutions to customers' specific requirements.
British Turntable's comprehensive materials handling and engineering solutions portfolio also includes HGV access turntables, materials handling carousels, large revolves capable of carrying a military tank or an aeroplane, and distribution rights for Jung lifting equipment in the UK.