Balancing act

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Counterbalance truck design is thought by some to have lagged behind the innovations seen in warehouse trucks. Counterbalance trucks, says Jungheinrich, have been seen as a tool to do a job rather than an integrated materials handling solution. And the company says it is committed to challenge this thinking and is investing heavily in the future design and operation of counterbalance trucks.

And, as if to highlight this, Jungheinrich has just won a design award for its rotating cab EFG D30 electric counterbalance lift truck from the Fork Lift Truck Association.

The AC powered EFG D30 counterbalance truck gives the operator “fly by wire” control of all the truck operations. He can rotate the cab 30 degrees to the left and up to 180 degrees to the right at the press of a button.

Designed for handling heavy loads and carrying double height pallets quickly and safely over long distances, the idea for the rotating cab came from operators who suffered from back problems when driving in reverse by looking over their shoulders. And the past few months have seen a number of high profile product launches in the counterbalance sector which put the emphasis on improved efficiency and safety. Green issues are also starting to play a larger role in the design of trucks.

Toyota has just unveiled the Tonero, a range of engine-powered forklifts designed specifically for the European market. There are seven models with load capacities ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 tonnes with a choice of diesel or LPG engines.

Product manager Benoit Meunier says: “Customers have confirmed that there are five important factors for them when acquiring engine-powered forklifts: safety, productivity, durability, comfort and the environment.

“Every customer has unique business requirements. For this reason, we offer the Tonero+ formula, which allows customers to specify additional features in the areas of safety, productivity, durability and comfort to meet their specific business needs.”

The Tonero offers a range of safety features, including enhanced visibility for drivers when the forks are at ground level, at lorry bed height and at maximum height, thanks to an overhead guard and mast design and lowered dashboard. It also offers Toyota safety technologies including the System of Active Stability (SAS), which dynamically protects both driver and load, and Operator Presence Sensing (OPS), which only allows truck operation if the driver is seated.

Toyota has designed the vehicle with one eye on the increasing environmental demands on industry. The range exceeds the emissions standards of European Directive 97/68/EC Emission Stage IIIa without any compromise in engine power thanks to a clean-burning engine. And the trucks are 99 per cent recyclable at end-of-life, further reducing their environmental impact. In addition, says Toyota, the Tonero’s noise levels are the lowest in the market.

The Bauma show in Munich last month was chosen as the venue for the first global unveiling of Hyster’s H6.0-7.0FT series. This is the latest, higher capacity addition to the Fortens range of IC-engine forklift trucks. This introduction follows on from the launch of the H1.6-5.5 tonne capacity models in 2005 and 2006.

It is designed for heavy duty applications, such as paper, manufacturing, bottling or construction industries. The truck is available as either a 6.0 of 7.0T machine, in “Fortens” or “Fortens Advance” configurations.

The Fortens version features a 2-speed electronic powershift transmission, (2-forward / 2-reverse) and the Fortens Advance features the 3-speed DuraMatch transmission (3-forward / 2-reverse). As well as being the first 3-speed transmission available in this capacity range, it also offers the familiar features and functionality of other DuraMatch transmissions, such as Auto Deceleration System, Controlled Power Reversal and Controlled Roll-Back on Ramps.

All the electrical systems on the Fortens range are managed by a dedicated on-board computer system, the Pacesetter VSM which uses a CANbus communications network, and manages all truck electrical systems to optimise performance and increase overall reliability while enhancing diagnostic capabilities for maximum uptime.

This summer, Hyundai will launch 10 new models of its “Dash 7” series of counterbalance trucks. To be expected are six LPG forklifts ranging from 1.5 up to 3 ton and 4 diesel powered forklifts ranging from two to 3.3 tonne. With these new releases Hyundai is now very close to completing the “Dash 7” range, consisting of battery, LPG and diesel trucks as well as reach and tow trucks.

Following the launch of the FBN series 4 wheel electric counterbalance truck, Mitsubishi has introduced a cushion tyre truck that shares much of the same technology. The FBC15-30N series.

Cushion tyres also allow a more compact design for the truck’s chassis. The resulting small dimensions, together with responsive hydrostatic power steering and high stability, make the FBC15-30N manoeuvrable and productive.

As in the FBN series, the truck’s mast and fork assembly has been designed for maximum visibility and high strength. The mast channels are narrow but deep. The hoses and chains are positioned behind the mast channels, and angled at 45 degrees to take them out of the driver’s view. The fork carriage has a square structure, rather than rectangular – again minimising obstruction. And the unique shape of the cross members increases torsion strength – at all heights – while leaving the view clear.

Rapid access features give quick and easy entry to all areas for checks and servicing, while the truck’s 500-hour service interval, and the low maintenance requirements of its systems and components, further reduces downtime and costs.

Seven models are available in the series, with capacities ranging from 1.5 to 3.0 tonnes. In addition to a high level of equipment fitted as standard, customers can choose options including a strobe light, quick-disconnect couplers, a seat-operated parking brake and a lateral battery slide.

Mitsubishi has also launched a five year warranty package in the UK. The package promises low operating costs and long-term protection against unexpected repairs. The warranty stays with the truck and not with the original buyer – which helps to maximise its second-hand value.

Mitsubishi’s general manager Terry Foreman says: “Our customers need to be assured of excellent back-up. That’s why we choose the dealers in our network so carefully – and it’s why we have invested so much, and continue to invest, in the training and in the electronic systems.

Another recent introduction is Nissan’s four-wheel BX Series of 1.5 to 3.0 tonne capacity electric lift trucks.

The range has been designed using Nissan’s Risk Reduction System, first introduced on its three-wheel TX Series launched in 2005. The concept is applied individually to each truck from Nissan and combines design elements for increased visibility and manoeuvrability with a range of physical features to maximise stability, control and handling.

The BX Series is AC TECH-powered and available in cushion-tyre (1.5 – 2.5 tonne) and pneumatic profile (1.5 – 3.0 tonne) versions. Long wheelbase versions are also available.

A major development in the model’s Risk Reduction System has been the introduction of cushioned stability control. A flexible damping system installed between the vehicle’s rear axle and frame provides lateral stability for both the truck and its load, allowing safer cornering at higher speeds and reducing the possibility of the forklift overturning. Unlike other stability systems, which can be turned off by the operator leaving the forklift vulnerable, the Nissan system is permanently engaged and is also completely maintenance free.

In addition, a mast lock system automatically prevents the forks from being lowered and the mast from being tilted when the operator has left the seat. The system also acts automatically to restrict travel speeds and acceleration when the truck is turning, and to reduce lift speeds when travelling. If the accelerator is released when the truck is on a gradient, an anti rollback device ensures that the truck can reverse only slowly, while a style of parking brake is foot operated to prevent accidental release.

For maximum uptime, Nissan has applied regenerative modes to five of the BX Series’s systems, putting power back into the battery during standard operations such as changing travel direction, deceleration, lifting and lowering, and engaging the footbrake. Further power saving has been achieved through its load-sensing hydraulic power steering system.

Nissan has started developing a fuel cell vehicle based on the Nissan BX Series 4-wheel electric forklift.

By using the fuel cell technology it is expected that the uptime of forklift trucks can be multiplied when compared to current days’ battery powered trucks.

Downtime will be significantly reduced as only a few minutes are required to fuel hydrogen in the high pressure storage tank on the forklift. The hydrogen is used to react with oxygen from outside air and produce electrical energy in this process. This energy is used by the electric motor to power the truck.

Still has updated its product range in the internal combustion engine-powered truck sector. The LP gas models R70-40/45/50 T with capacities of 4.0 and 4.5 and now also of 4.99 tonnes (load centre 500 mm) have been reworked from the ground up.

All the operating cost-reducing and environmentally protective product characteristics of the RX70 concept have been adopted as the basis for construction design. This applies in particular to the hybrid technology drive with encapsulated electrical three-phase generator and drive motor for utilisation even in rough working environments. The basis for this is a six cylinder VW industrial engine with a 3.2-litre displacement and 55 Kilowatt rating. The diesel versions will be available for ordering from the middle of the year.

Still says the R70 range has the lowest fuel consumption in its class, so corresponding carbon dioxide emissions are also reduced.

A hydraulic variable displacement pump supplies the oil for the operating and steering hydraulics but only as needed, thus also saving on fuel. The intervals between maintenance cycles are extended from 500 to 1000 operating hours.

The R70-40/50 was systematically designed for demanding applications. The encapsulated three-phase drive, a completely enclosed under-body, a combined oil and water cooler with a cooling capacity increased by approximately 20 per cent and a temperature-regulated hydraulically driven pusher fan provide the greatest security against breakdowns, even in dusty or aggressive environments.

Still used the Bauma show to launch its fingertip hydraulic control for forklift trucks. The hydraulic levers for sensitive operation are located in a cavity at the end of the adjustable armrest, which means that they are in a somewhat lowered position. The finger and hand muscles are thus subjected to less work-related strain. Still has also made it possible to adjust the armrest to the length of the driver’s arm.

Linde recently opened a 100,000 sq ft development centre in Aschaffenburg, Frankfurt. The company invested £6.25m in what Linde spokesman Dr Stefan Rinck described as the company’s new “think tank”. The site will provide the tools and space needed for future Linde developments, where the focus will be on reducing development time and tackling product costs before beginning production. According to Rinck, the company plans to: “conduct more research and tests during the initial stages of development, as conceptual modifications are relatively cheap during this period.” The production of the first half million vehicles at the Aschaffenburg plant has taken near on 50 years. With its development centre in place, Linde expects the next half million to be much quicker.

The pressure is now on companies to step up their ergonomics policies, as the European Union has tightened up legislation on the health and safety of drivers. The effect of continuous vibration, specifically for drivers of front-loaders, is under scrutiny. Linde is developing and advancing its vibration protection technology, which involves making changes to the design of its trucks, resulting in better safety for its drivers. The current series of Linde trucks follows a design where the lift mast is decoupled from the chassis and attached to the compact axle, which results in less strain on the truck itself and the driver. The operator compartment is fully isolated from the truck frame and noise control measures deflect engine noise away from where the driver sits. Linde expects vibration to be kept to a minimum by adding more shock absorbers to the chassis.

Linde is also taking a number of eco-friendly initiatives. More than 90 per cent of the materials used in construction can be recycled to the raw materials chain. Waste and heat energy are also returned to the production cycle and reusable materials are selected over disposable for construction, as a means of conserving resources. The company is developing its “Pure Motion” programme, which addresses environmental issues and will set the standard for all future truck designs. For example, hydraulic controls measure out the power needed for the operation of each truck. As a result, energy consumption is tempered and the economy of the trucks is improved.

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