On the Job: Equipment Manufacturer Takes on Challenge of Massive Proportions

14 Sep, 2005 Cadalyst

Germany's Greiner uses CoCreate software to quickly develop transport system for Airbus engine parts

Greiner Vehicle Technology is a leading designer of innovative transportation systems that facilitate moving large, heavy and awkward machinery via road and rail. Based in Germany, the company designs and manufactures solutions for transporting and lifting heavy equipment safely, and finds that the best projects involve unique engineering challenges. When the company was offered the chance last year to solve the problems involved with transporting press systems for the Airbus A380 engine manufacturing plant, it jumped at the project.

The Problem
The client had built the production line presses to manufacture the massive engine parts for the new A380 Airbus plane. The engines are so large that these presses were weighing in at as much as 300 tons - and they needed to be transported from a port in southern France to a production line approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles) away. Although Europe boasts many of the world's most modern bridge constructions, it also has older and historic bridges so admired by people everywhere - and several such bridges just happened to be on the main route for the presses.

Five bridges existed along the chosen route, with the longest bridge span being 148 meters (160 yards). How was the client to transport 300-ton machining parts across these bridges without damaging or destroying the structures? To add complexity, the presses for the engines were already waiting at the port town to be transported via road to the next location - the project had to be completed quickly, well before the French roads filled up for the summer breaks.

The Solution
In early 2004, Greiner was given the chance to solve the problems involved with transporting the presses. The company had to commit to having a working, fully tested solution by February of 2005. Greiner Vehicle Technology began working out the constraints involved - the sizes of the presses, locations of the weight and leverage points, constraints of the bridges and their structural personalities. Then the company commenced to design a vehicle that would manage weight distribution throughout the entire transport of the presses.

Simultaneous to winning the contract, Greiner decided to upgrade its design systems to 3D - using CoCreate's OneSpace Designer Modeling solution.

"Our task was to either strengthen the bridges or devise a transport vehicle that would relieve the stress on the bridges," states Michael Greiner, CEO of Greiner Vehicle Technology. "We rapidly implemented OneSpace Designer Modeling and started immediately on concept, design and finite-element analysis. Within a very short time we were manufacturing parts of the assembly even while the overall design was still being completed."

The Result
The design work undertaken by Greiner resulted in a highly innovative transportation system that would allow the presses to be easily transported on major roads and across the bridges along the way. The mechanism was implemented on a wide truck bed and designed to share the load onto a series of steel beams installed along the length of the bridge. Sometimes the steel beams could be shorter if there was just a single or small weakness in the bridge, or where there were enough structural supports under the bridge to bear the load without assistance. On the truck bed, the supporting structure of cross-beams was hydraulically extended from either side of the truck, and hydraulic trolleys were used to transfer the load from the truck itself onto the beams across the bridge.

Greiner designed a vehicle that managed weight distribution of the enormous A380 Airbus engines during transport over roads and bridges.

Greiner designed a vehicle that managed weight distribution of the enormous A380 Airbus engines during transport over roads and bridges.

The chassis of the supporting structure itself was equipped with a pendulum system to accommodate 2%-5% inclines of the road across the bridge - the hydraulic trolleys could automatically increase or decrease in height in accordance with the slope of the road, ensuring that these dramatically heavy loads remained stable and level.

This 3D drawing shows a hydraulic trolley mechanism from the Greiner transport system.

This 3D drawing shows a hydraulic trolley mechanism from the Greiner transport system.

Once the design was completed, Greiner applied for and was awarded a patent for what it called the over-bridge driving system.

The Process
As soon as the initial concept design, with known constraints, was under way, Greiner began planning and manufacturing the parts. According to the design team, design, engineering, analysis and manufacturing began in parallel using CoCreate OneSpace Designer Modeling as the key technology to enable this process.

"While we were still designing, we were running the production line," says Greiner. "Some local suppliers were also producing individual components even before the entire design was complete. The dynamic modeling methodology of OneSpace Designer Modeling made this possible."

Jochen Sailer, technical designer at Greiner, concurs. "Any engineering changes made to the 3D design could be quickly transmitted to everybody involved because of the nonhistory-based methodology to CoCreate's software. If we had used parametric (history-based) 3D modeling, we could not have made the rapid changes to the design that we needed. We were under pressure to create the perfect vehicle within a limited timeframe. We could not afford the time it would have taken to work back through a history-based 3D feature system."

On February 15, 2005, Greiner was ready to begin testing the system at the former Butzweilerhof airport in Germany. To complete the test, the transport vehicle had to move 295 tons of ballast across a 148-meter span. The test was successfully completed not just once with employees looking on, but a second time for French motorway authorities.

As soon as the test was completed, Greiner had to shift gears rapidly. The open window for transporting the presses was constrained to between early March and early April 2005. Although the presses could be transported along the A61 artery road during the day, the move required that each bridge be closed for several hours - meaning the activity would have to be undertaken at night to minimize disruption of normal traffic.

How Did They Do It?
Greiner Vehicle Technology focuses on using the best-quality materials, people and suppliers for its jobs. Quality of production is key to success, says founder Karl Greiner. "Quality begins in design with high-performance tools like OneSpace Designer Modeling. That's where you make your money. Take a clear idea, design it and produce it simply and efficiently. The solutions from CoCreate offer us exactly the tools we need for success."