Normally, PRECO customers use our technology to warn heavy equipment operators of impending danger; an obstacle, a pedestrian, another vehicle. Occasionally, some companies come to us with a completely different set of requirements in mind, such as UK-based Equipe Geosolutions.
Equipe Geosolutions develops new technologies for the global drilling industry. Among its products are portable drilling rigs used by the construction industry to probe the subsoil on which new buildings will be built.
These rigs are dangerous. In the past, workers were seriously injured and even killed when they became entangled in the high-speed drill shafts. For the past ten years, British law has required these rigs to be fitted with heavy steel-mesh gates that have improved safety, but at a cost. Productivity dropped by an estimated 40%. Workers had to open and close the gate each time they approached the drill. The gates also made it difficult to visually inspect the rig. Equipe Geosolutions was determined to find a more efficient way to protect workers.
What the company needed was a safety system that could remove the danger by creating a sort of invisible force field. The system needed to be able to instantly shut down the drill motor when it sensed a worker approaching—even if they were running. It needed to be able to operate amid dust, dirt, mud, icy environments, and flying debris. It needed to be vibration-proof, hardened against damage from heavy objects and, last but not least, intelligent enough to distinguish a flying rock from a moving hand.
After considering laser scanners and ultrasonic, Equipe Geosolutions decided on short-range radar and soon began talking with PRECO. Our engineers began working to address the company's requirements.
Engineering adjusted our technology to create specially designed PRECO PreView Radar object-detection sensors with the sensitivity to match Equipe Geosolution's detection requirements. They fitted the sensors with visible lights so workers could verify that the sensors were fully functional, used the PreView radar sensor's standard hardened cases, and added rubber cushions to reduce vibration. Finally, PRECO manufactured thousands of these new sensors to such exacting specifications that every unit we ship to our UK clients continues to pass stringent UK safety inspections without fail.
Equipe Geosolutions is now replacing the heavy metal gates on its rigs with its new PRECO- based Safer G Solution sensors. Today, when a worker approaches a rig at any speed (even running) and gets within about 4 feet (1.24 meters), the radar sensors detect the person’s presence and, within milliseconds, sends a signal to the drill motor to stop. It then takes the motor between 600-800 milliseconds to bring the drill shaft to a complete stop, completely and reliably removing any danger of the worker getting close enough to a still-spinning shaft to accidentally getting caught in the machinery.
Working together, PRECO and Equipe Geosolutions devised a solution that protects workers, allows the now-gateless portable drill rigs to fit into smaller spaces, and has returned productivity to levels unseen for the past ten years. The solution represents a milestone in PRECO history. PRECO’s heavy-duty sensors are being used to remove dangers rather than warn of them, and working with Equipe Geosolutions has expanded our ability to work closely with clients to develop new uses of our industry leading radar-based object detection technology.
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