Overhead travelling cranes have caused lights to fail prematurely for decades, but new developments in LED technology have extended crane lighting by up to 10 times.
Material Handling Bridge Cranes are a vital part of the production process that lift heavy loads and travel through some of the hottest and harshest environments in an industrial plant.
Crane operators must simultaneously balance production output, maintenance downtime, and safety procedures.
- Travelling Bridge Cranes create heavy vibration and shock for traditional lighting.
- Continuous crane operation creates irregular voltage spikes and dips, wreaking havoc on most electronic drivers and creating flickering lights.
- Older cranes with 250 vDC input require complicated step-down transformers for lighting installation.
- Overhead cranes block high bay lighting, creating dark shadows for crane operators.
- Melt shop and ladle cranes travel through environments that produce too much heat for lights to survive.
These challenges create a continuous 6-9 month maintenance cycle that never ends, leaving you with outstanding safety issues, insufficient labour, and requiring special lift trucks to relamp fixtures and replace bulbs and ballasts. This results in unplanned shutdowns and costly maintenance downtime in your highest production areas.
Overhead cranes are arguably the most critical and vital component of plant production, making it considerably more important to find a permanent and long-term solution that ensures safety and production uptime for up to 10 times longer.
THE SOLUTION… OR SO WE THOUGHT
Old lighting technology still has bulbs and ballasts that can’t handle constant vibration; the filaments are fragile.
LED Lighting promised a solid-state lighting solution for cranes that would be able to handle the vibration. But LED lighting came with a new set of challenges for cranes including limited voltage options and electronics that are more sensitive to voltage spikes, dips and surges.
LED lighting is also heat-sensitive, resulting in LED lighting not lasting long in hot environments.
THE NEW SOLUTION
Here are 7 ways to avoid crane lighting maintenance issues with a more sustainable solution.
1. DC Voltage
Direct Input Drivers, Not a Step-Down Transformer
DC-powered cranes can’t operate with AC lighting or drivers unless you can convert the AC power to DC power. These converters can be costly, heavy, and time-consuming to install and maintain. It leaves more components to cause future problems.
Cranes that run on 480 or 600 volts often have to step down to 120 volts to enable the light to work. Doing this increases the weight of the fixture and is time-consuming and costly. Therefore, complicated and more expensive to maintain.
A lot of brands will market a high-voltage driver, but they are shipping a transformer together with the light for you to install which is why the price is high, the weight is heavier, and maintenance and longevity are not ideal.
What you need is a driver that is direct input…plug and play. This option is less expensive, easier to install, easier to maintain, lightweight with no extra pounds, and no extra cost.
Meanwell and Inventronics are top-end driver brands for LED lighting, which both offer a direct input driver for 480 volts and 250 VDC, and Powerland offers a 600-volt direct input driver, so no converters or step-down transformers are required.
Using a direct input driver is going to save you time, money, complexity, and labour downtime while providing a longer-lasting solution with fewer components and less ongoing maintenance.
2. Wide Range Driver
Voltage Spikes, Dips, Flickering
Cranes that have a heavy operation with bulk handling loads are often running in continuous use. This continuous use causes voltage surges and spikes above and dips below the input power. The cranes are not receiving a steady voltage all the time. The voltage is constantly adjusting or changing and causes the crane lights to flicker.
Bringing the light out of the suggested voltage range more often will shorten the life span, causing your lights to fail prematurely. The solution is to have a driver with a built-in voltage range input, rather than a single voltage input.
Not only do you want your input voltage to be a range, but you also want the range to go higher and lower than the suggested input to survive the spikes and dips above and below the voltage input.
Again, Meanwell and Inventronics drivers offer a wide voltage range so that they are built specifically to handle frequent increases and decreases of voltage, without damaging the driver or the components on the driver.
For example, a Meanwell driver’s range is 90-305Vac (127-431Vdc) and an Inventronics driver’s range is 90-305Vac (127-300Vdc). This gives you wiggle room on both ends of the input voltage.
3. Surge Protection
Cascading Internal & External
Despite the ability of the drivers to have a wide voltage range, the voltage can still dip and spike above and below the recommended voltage range due to heavy loads and severe usage.
Overhead cranes are an extremely harsh application for lighting and will shorten the driver’s lifespan unless it has surge protection. It’s recommended to have at least 20 kV of surge protection. This can be internal protection on the driver itself and external protection at the luminaire.
A cascading surge protection effect helps save the driver from constant spikes and damage and will prolong the driver’s lifespan. You want at least 10 kV which is standard for Inventronics and MeanWell drivers. These are the top two drivers for industrial LED lighting and as such, they come with the best built-in internal surge protection which is vital for crane lighting. Citel offers fantastic industrial external surge protection at the luminaire which gives you another 20 kV cascading protection. These solutions make all the difference and can extend the life of your luminaire and prevent the continuous maintenance cycle by up to 10 times!
4. Heavy Duty Brackets
Airplane Safety Cable & Heavy Vibrations
Most high bay lights can be mounted using a hook or loop mount. This standard installation method doesn’t work well on overhead cranes due to constant vibration and thin aluminum brackets are too weak to handle most travelling cranes, causing the brackets to break and the lights to fall, which causes safety issues.
With heavy-duty stainless steel brackets and airplane safety cable, the bracket is strong enough to withstand vibrations, and the cable is thick enough to hold a falling bracket as a last resort.
5. High Temp Melt Shop Environments
Temperature Sensitive Components
Melt shops, furnace rooms, and other steel-making production areas often create high ambient temperatures or hot temperature blasts. LED Drivers, chips, and electronics are extremely sensitive to heat.
In order to withstand these temperatures, it’s important to use an LED light rated for higher temperatures. Special high-temperature glass is also required to withstand the temperature blasts and protect the components within the fixture.
A remote-mounted driver may be required for extreme ambient temperatures or if an LED fixture remains in a hot environment for a long span of time.
6. Dark Shadows Are Unsafe for the Crane Operator
High Foot-Candles, Brighter Lights, & High Mounting Heights
Bridge cranes run on rails that are below the high-bay lighting that is mounted on the ceiling. This means the crane operator box, which is typically under the crane rails, will be blocked from the high bay lighting.
Some travelling cranes are 80-90 feet high. At this height, most high bay and crane light fixtures don’t have a high enough lumen output to produce enough foot candles on the ground. High-powered, high-lumen output fixtures are required to produce a high foot-candle reading on the working plane underneath the crane.
Good quality, bright lighting that doesn’t fail is important for crane operation and safety. With this lighting, as the crane travels across the building on its rails, the best lighting is travelling with the crane, making it safer for the crane operator and the working plane directly below the crane.
While there are some make-shift solutions for crane lighting, be careful that your high-powered LED lights don’t come with multiple drivers. Multiple drivers add weight to the fixture and can create a maintenance nightmare when dealing with multiple failed drivers or issues.
Higher-lumen LED lights don’t typically come with drivers that are available with a DC input voltage, or with wide-range input voltage options…meaning again, with the high-lumen high-wattage light, you’ll have to use step-down transformers which adds weight, an increased price and creates more maintenance issues.
Nichia and Seoul have some of the brightest LED chips in the world and have the most experience in developing them. These high-lumen chips are powered by MeanWell and Inventronics drivers that allow for both DC input and a wide-range input voltage. Our highest lumen output can be up to 96,000 lumens with 600 watts, from one single, lightweight DC or HV input driver that is easy to install. This 96,000-lumen fixture can give you 80-100 foot candles at the working plane, creating an ideal working environment for your crane operator and the electrical installation and maintenance team.
7. Lighting Maintenance Downtime
Investing in Lights That Are Easier to Maintain & Install
All of these issues combined can cause more lighting maintenance downtime. Maintenance downtime, especially in the highest production areas of the plant, can be more costly than the equipment itself.
Investing in higher quality lights with top-rated components specifically designed for overhead cranes can save you money on the backend with labour costs and production downtime. This high-quality lighting will prevent maintenance issues in the future, creating a better ROI.