Alternative energy is the talk of the town right now, and solar energy is right at the heart of it. With the public at large on a solar kick, backed up by funding from the government, the industry is booming, and demand is high for galvanized I-beams to construct solar sites. The galvanizing process protects the steel beams from corrosion as the sites are constructed in the middle of the desert.
CAE designed and constructed an I-beam processing and galvanizing plant that makes use of 100% recycled steel. We were responsible for the plant’s entire process, manufacturing conveying, punching, sawing and racking systems. The process begins when a huge fork truck about the size of a long island mansion picks up a 60 ft. long bundle of 21 I-beams and drops them onto a conveyor line. From there they’re conveyed into a building and cut to the necessary length. After that they’re lifted off the line by a robot and put into our custom punch, where both flanges are punched at the same time.
The holes that are punched will serve to connect the various beams to one another. Our custom punch has interchangeable, predesigned hole patterns. These patterns are switched out by a machine attendant, and the process is done in batches.
After each beam is punched it is conveyed and lined up with 14 other beams in front of an operator. The operator hooks the beams to a cross carrier, and then a fork truck comes and picks up the carrier with all 15 beams hanging from it. From there the carrier is brought to a staging frame, where it waits until 30 such carriers are assembled. Those 450 I-beams are then moved from the staging frame to a carrier rack. After that the rack makes it way to the galvanizing plant. There, the beams are washed off and dipped in molten zinc.
For similar systems we designed in the past, robotic grippers employed permanent magnets to pick up the steel beams. An air cylinder was then used to push the beams away from the magnets when necessary. Permanent magnets were used as an alternative to electric magnets for the simple purpose of avoiding a dangerous situation were the power to go out.
This time we designed the grippers to utilize neodymium rare earth magnets. These were smaller and more powerful for their size than the magnets we used before, and proved to be a more cost effective gripping solution.
We built the entire I-beam processing system from scratch. Today it is in full operation, galvanizing steel I-beams for use in constructing solar panel site support frames, as well as the rotating platforms where the panels sit and follow the sun.
From in-plant system upgrades to new plant design and construction for an emerging industry, Computer Age Engineering has your automation needs covered.