March/April 2014

The best in new technology

Compiled by Herb Mathisen and Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco

◢ People catch this machine’s eye

ARES-PRISMMost obstacle-detection systems that use radar and ultrasonic technology are great at detecting objects and warning large-vehicle operators before potential accidents occur. “But they tend to sound the alarm very often,” says Marie Grandpierre, spokesperson for Francebased company Arcure. The reason is these technologies do not distinguish the human form from other objects. “[They] can’t tell the difference between a person and a tunnel wall, for example,” she says, adding the alarm can go off up to 20 times a day. “The biggest risk is that the operator can get used to the alarms and start ignoring them,” Grandpierre explains. “Or at the very least, the constant ringing can be annoying and disturb worker productivity.” Arcure has come up with an alternative: its Blaxtair system consists of a camera that transmits 3D images to a monitor in the vehicle cabin and to a hard drive. “If there’s a pedestrian between the wall and the vehicle, Blaxtair sets off both a sound alarm and a visual alarm in the monitor,” says Grandpierre. This alarm also warns both the operator and pedestrian. – A.L.-P.

◢ Key to a longer life

CovergallDirty oil in engines and hydraulic systems poses real problems. “It accelerates wear and inhibits reliability,” says Herb Martin, CEO of FilterMag, an Arizona-based provider of magnetic filtration solutions. Unfortunately, to provide adequate lubrication to systems, filters need to have a certain porosity, which means that particles under 20 microns can get through. “Over the years, the tolerances within engine systems have become tighter and tighter, but filters have not evolved to address this,” explains Martin. The millions of tiny particles that collect in an engine or hydraulic system between oil changes can therefore act like a grinding paste that shortens the engine’s life. FilterMag has created an additional filtering system that snaps onto regular filters and extends an engine’s life by 30 to 60 per cent, according to Martin. Using powerful magnetic technology, the filtering system catches particles as small as two microns, without affecting the oil flow. “Rebuilding a Caterpillar engine costs a minimum of $200,000, and they rebuild them about every 15 to 18 months,” says Martin. “So even just a 30 per cent increase in the engine’s life is worth $60,000 to $80,000 in savings. The investment in our product is around $3,000.” – A.L.-P

◢ Shipping containers as building foundations

Climactic_ChamberWhat if you could send up your construction supplies in shipping containers that double as your building’s foundations? Britespan Building Systems, an Ontario-based company, has constructed more than 30 such buildings at remote mine sites in Canada, custom-designing fabric structures that use shipping containers as a foundation, in a variety of dimensions for many different applications. Mike Pollard, a former building design and sales consultant, says the dimensions of the structures, which in the past have been up to 24 metres wide and 31 metres long, with an 18-metre clearance, are limited only by local conditions and engineering practicalities. The shipping containers are anchored to the ground or filled to a required weight to account for wind and snow loads. Galvanized steel trusses are then erected with the fabric stretched on top. With one building, Pollard explains, the customer had stacked shipping containers three-high, and fitted them with electrical and water infrastructure to allow for offices, washrooms and additional storage spaces. Other benefits to the buildings are their portability. The fabric and trusses are taken down, stored in the containers, and can be rebuilt again later. The buildings can be insulated, and Pollard said the fabric allows much of the daylight in. – H.M.

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