The Gas Division of the Linde Group, a major global manufacturer and supplier of industrial gases, has ordered twelve bespoke electric pallet trucks from Sichelschmidt GmbH Material Handling which have been developed to meet the stringent requirements of the Explosion Group II C directives. Deliveries of these are being rolled out to Linde production facilities across Germany to ensure the highest levels of safety in this exacting EX category environment.
Following a successful tender bid for the Linde Group, Sichelschmidt is pioneering a new chapter in the explosion proof handling sector by designing and manufacturing a truck from the ground up that is able to operate in areas where hydrogen and acetylene are present – a global first. Previous options were limited to using EX protected trucks already on the market, which needed to undergo a series of protracted additional testing in order to be declared fit for purpose. The volatile nature of acetylene and hydrogen means that they fall into the highest Explosion Group II C category with acetylene being particularly prone to ignite. In conjunction with air or oxygen it becomes inflammable in very broad concentration levels (from 2.3 to 82 Vol.-%).
Acetylene is widely used in welding and cutting operations and hydrogen is set to play an ever increasing role as an energy carrier in the automotive vehicle sector. When decanting the gases into commercial containers such as gas bottles, electric pallet trucks are considered to be the handling solution which offers the best operational flexibility.
After detailed discussions to determine the client’s requirements and with regard to ATEX guidelines it quickly became clear that the way forward was a complete redesign, as Director Ralf Sichelschmidt explains: “In the past we have received numerous enquiries from the gas and chemical sectors for a specialist truck of this nature, but the development costs to supply just one unit were too high to contemplate. The order of twelve trucks however made this a commercially viable undertaking.”
The compact and powerful electric pallet truck d125 was used as a basis for the new model which features Sichelschmidt’s high performance AC drive, developed in house to offer high levels of productivity and quick turnaround alongside low energy consumption.
Other new features include an EX compliant electric AC motor, a new housing for the control system as well as specific measures taken by Sichelschmidt to address mechanical explosion protection. The optimised forks are a further innovation on the Linde trucks: with just two length variants a total of ten differing types of containers can be lifted and transported. The forks can be quickly and easily unscrewed and interchanged, fulfilling Linde’s requirements for very flexible operation at the company’s sites.
The first orders have been delivered to the Linde Group’s Hydrogen Competence Centre north of Munich with the remaining machines shortly to be operational at various Linde Group acetylene works and hydrogen filling plants. Five of the trucks have also been fitted with mobile weighing systems from Mettler-Toledo, which are certified according to Ex Zone 1 / Explosion Group II C.
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