Innovative hydraulic lift system builds 156-ft diameter, free-standing grain bin

Application Update: Said to be the world's largest, the bin's building methods are the result of a four-company collaboration, and new design and control methods - October Control Engineering.

09/27/2010


Combining innovations in controls and hydraulics into a system of jacks that could communicate wirelessly, an engineering partnership enables the building of grain bins to take a giant step forward.

In Brainard, NE, EAD Control Systems, LLC has partnered with RC Hydraulic Systems, Lowe Construction, Inc. and Brock to erect the world’s largest free-standing grain bin. This bin has a 156 ft diameter, holds 1.3 million bushels, and stands without a center structured support.

EAD Control Systems and RC Hydraulic Systems utilized three years of research, design and continual testing of hydraulic jacks to devise a lift system that could build such a bin. The objective of the research was to produce a self-contained system that decreased the cords and cables used during the lifting process in order to speed up construction while ensuring the safety of the crew and grain bin. 

EAD Control Systems and RC Hydraulic Systems designed the system of hydraulic jacks, which are manufactured locally.  Lowe Construction is the only company erecting grain bins of this magnitude, and Brock is the only company manufacturing free standing bins.

During testing, one jack held 48,000 lb. A common 90-ft diameter grain bin typically requires 50 jacks during construction; the self-contained system of hydraulic jacks invented by the team requires fewer than 20 jacks, saving space and materials. For the 156-ft diameter bin, 30 hydraulic jacks were used and collectively they were able to support more than 905,000 lb. 

All of the control panels, wireless and hardwired, function off of a main operator panel system that monitors every jack’s status.  This includes weight load and height to ensure proper functionality. The weight on each jack is evenly distributed, while the height stays within the targeted parameters. 

The building process

The building of the record-setting grain bin began with a concrete foundation supported by 276 concrete columns to a depth of 70-ft to ensure proper stability. Lowe Construction, with materials provided by Brock, constructed the 300,000-lb roof, which is built on the foundation. Jacks are then set in place on the interior of the roof as close to the wall as possible. The jacks are then bolted to the concrete floor of the bin. 

Once everything is in place, the jacks are bolted to the first ring of the grain bin, which is attached to the roof. A computer automatically sets the jack heights then raises the entire bin to an exact predetermined height. Lowe Construction then bolts another ring to the first ring. Once the second ring is completed, the jacks are unbolted from the first ring, lowered automatically by the computer, then bolted to the second ring, ready to lift the bin again. The process is then repeated until the structure reaches the desired height.

It takes only four to five minutes for the hydraulic jack system to go full stroke or complete a full lift. Because grain bins are susceptible to strong winds during construction, the fast stroke time reduces the risk of the bin tipping over, therefore making it safer for the workers.

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- Edited by Renee Bassett for Control Engineering, www.controleng.com.



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