Title:
Maintenance vehicle for operations along an aerial ropeway of a mechanical lift installation
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A maintenance vehicle for performing operations along an aerial ropeway of a mechanical lift installation consists of a car suspended on the rope by connecting means which comprise a top part fixed to the rope, a bottom part fixed to the car, articulation means of the top part with respect to the bottom part, adjustment means of the angle between the bottom part and top part up to an inclined position of the car with respect to the vertical, and means for securing car in the inclined position.



Inventors:
Coudurier, Stephane (Grenoble, FR)
Martin, Philippe (Voreppe, FR)
Bonifat, Laurent (La Buisse, FR)
Tamisier, Franckie (Saint-Nazaire-Les-Eymes, FR)
Application Number:
12/216764
Publication Date:
02/26/2009
Filing Date:
07/10/2008
Assignee:
Pomagalski SA. (Fontaine, FR)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61B12/02
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Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
KUHFUSS, ZACHARY L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
OLIFF PLC (ALEXANDRIA, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A maintenance vehicle for performing operations along an aerial ropeway of a mechanical lift installation comprising a car suspended on the rope by connecting means comprising: a top part fixed to the rope, a bottom part fixed to the car, and articulation means of the top part with respect to the bottom part allowing relative swiveling, in a vertical plane parallel to the rope, of the top and bottom parts forming a variable angle between them, wherein the connecting means on the one hand comprise adjustment means for adjusting the angle between the bottom part and the top part, up to an inclined position of the car with respect to the vertical, and on the other hand comprise means for securing the car in the inclined position.

2. The vehicle according to claim 1, wherein the adjustment means comprise a cog-wheel fixed on the top part in a plane parallel to said vertical plane and operating in conjunction with an endless screw mounted rotating on the bottom part.

3. The vehicle according to claim 2, wherein the endless screw is fixed to one end of a transmission shaft equipped at its opposite end with a crank positioned inside said car.

4. The vehicle according to claim 1, wherein disengagement means are inserted between the articulation means and the adjustment means.

5. The vehicle according to claim 1, wherein the bottom part comprises an articulated operating arm.

6. The vehicle according to claim 1, wherein the car comprises at least one platform able to be moved by moving means between a retracted position where the platform is housed inside said car and an extended position where the platform is outside the car.

7. The vehicle according to claim 6, wherein the moving means comprise a hinge with an axis parallel to the floor of the car.

8. The vehicle according to claim 7, wherein the car comprises means for adjusting the height of the hinge with respect to the floor of the car.

9. The vehicle according to claim 7, wherein the car is equipped with means for adjusting the incline of the floor of the platform with respect to the floor of the car, in the extended position.

10. The vehicle according to claim 6, wherein the moving means comprise a sliding link in a direction included in a plane perpendicular to the floor of the car.

11. The vehicle according to claim 1, wherein the car comprises an electricity generating set and/or an electric power supply battery and/or a lubrication unit.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to a maintenance vehicle for performing operations along an aerial ropeway of a mechanical lift installation comprising a car suspended on the rope by connecting means comprising:

    • a top part fixed to the rope,
    • a bottom part fixed to the car,
    • and articulation means of the top part with respect to the bottom part allowing relative swiveling, in a vertical plane parallel to the rope, of the top and bottom parts forming a variable angle between them.

STATE OF THE ART

When operations have to be performed along an aerial ropeway of a mechanical lift installation, in particular on a rope pressing and guiding sheave assembly located on a pylon of the installation (in the event of an unscheduled incident or in case of programmed preventive maintenance), the personnel in question has to load all the indispensable equipment into a motor vehicle to be able to reach the pylon. The personnel then has to hoist this equipment up to the pylon catwalks before they can carry out the assignment proper.

It is clear that successive handling of the equipment results in a great deal of time-wasting, whereas hoisting it up to the catwalks represents a risk of falling for the personnel and/or equipment as well as being superfluously tiring. Finally, certain pylons of the installation may be inaccessible by motor vehicle, which leads to time being wasted and additional fatigue. These different drawbacks become all the more important in case of preventive maintenance during which all the sheave assemblies of the installation are checked, as this results in an increase of the risks involved and is more tiring for the personnel.

For operation of the installation, the document EP0227540 describes an installation in which the cars are coupled to the carrying-hauling ropes by hangers each of which is connected to the car by means for mobile association with the car, these means for mobile association enabling the position of the hangers to be modified with respect to one another and/or with respect to the ropes. The means for mobile association are articulation means making a swivel, sliding or rotating link with a horizontal, longitudinal and/or transverse axis. On the line, due to the gravity effect applied to the car, such articulation means ensure that the bottom part (and therefore the car) is automatically horizontal whatever the angle of incline of the rope with respect to the horizontal. Such cars do not enable operations to be performed on the line in comfortable and totally safe manner on account of the fact that horizontality is constantly maintained.

OBJECT OF THE INVENTION

The object of the invention consists in providing a maintenance vehicle that limits risks and fatigue for personnel while at the same time reducing the time required for the operation.

The vehicle according to the invention is remarkable in that the connecting means on the one hand comprise means for adjusting the angle between the bottom part and the top part, up to an inclined position of the car with respect to the vertical, and on the other hand comprise means for securing the car in the inclined position.

When the maintenance vehicle arrives near the sheave assembly to be repaired or checked (due to the carrying and hauling performed by the aerial ropeway), the adjustment means are actuated by the personnel so that the angle between the top part and the bottom part is substantially equal to zero. This then results in the bottom part (and therefore the car) being substantially parallel to the rope. This inclined position of the car with respect to the vertical, then ensured by the securing means, facilitates the operation performed by the personnel directly from the car on the sheave assemblies which are also inclined in a direction parallel to the slope of the rope.

According to a preferred embodiment, the adjustment means comprise a cog-wheel fixed on the top part in a plane parallel to said vertical plane and operating in conjunction with an endless screw mounted rotating on the bottom part.

Other technical features can be used either alone or in combination:

    • the endless screw is fixed to one end of a transmission shaft equipped at its opposite end with a crank positioned inside said car,
    • disengagement means are inserted between the articulation means and the adjustment means,
    • the bottom part comprises an articulated operating arm,
    • the car comprises at least one platform able to be moved by moving means between a retracted position where the platform is housed inside said car and an extended position where the platform is outside the car,
    • the moving means comprise a hinge with an axis perpendicular to the rope,
    • the car comprises means for adjusting the height of the hinge with respect to the floor of the car,
    • the car is equipped with means for adjusting the incline of the floor of the platform with respect to the floor of the car in the extended position,
    • the moving means comprise a sliding link in a direction included in a plane perpendicular to the floor of the car,
    • the car comprises an electricity generating set and/or an electric power supply battery and/or a lubrication unit.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other advantages and features will become more clearly apparent from the following description of a particular embodiment of the invention given for non-restrictive example purposes only and represented in the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 represents, in transverse view, an example of a maintenance vehicle according to the invention in which the platforms are in the retracted position,

FIG. 2 is a transverse view of the vehicle of FIG. 1 in which the platforms are in the extended position,

FIG. 3 is a longitudinal view of the vehicle of FIGS. 1 and 2,

FIG. 4 is a top view of the vehicle of FIGS. 1 to 3.

DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

Maintenance vehicle 10 represented in FIGS. 1 to 4 is designed for maintenance personnel to be able to gain access along a mechanical lift installation comprising two continuously-running parallel carrying-hauling ropes 11, 12. This type of installation with two ropes arranged in the same horizontal plane results in a considerable increase of the lateral stability and the resistance to side winds.

In the figures, the two ropes 11, 12 extend in parallel manner between two terminals (not shown) equipped with pulleys. The two ropes 11, 12 form two continuously-running endless loops arranged on the same horizontal level and supporting cars (not shown) coupled on the line to ropes 11, 12, to run in a closed circuit on the up-line and down-line formed by the two rope loops. The two ropes 11, 12 are driven in synchronism by suitable motors.

According to the invention, maintenance vehicle 10 consists of a car 13 suspended on ropes 11, 12 by connecting means comprising a top part 14 fixed to ropes 11, 12 and a bottom part 15 fixed to the roof of car 13. Car 13 is of a different type from the cars normally used for operation of the installation, in accordance with the rest of the description.

Bottom part 15 comprises a suspension arranged in the vertical longitudinal plane of symmetry of ropes 11, 12 and articulated by articulation means on top part 14 which comprises a carriage supporting two pairs of detachable grips 16 to secure the carriage to the two ropes 11, 12 on the line and to disconnect maintenance vehicle 10 in the terminals by disengaging grips 16. The carriage supports two grips 16 for each rope 11, 12 and these grips 16 are offset with respect to one another in the longitudinal direction of movement of the carriage. The two grips 16 coupled to the same rope 11, 12 are arranged symmetrically on each side of the transverse axis of symmetry of the carriage.

The carriage is formed by two parallel longitudinal beams 18 which are joined to one another by a transverse tube 19 of circular external cross-section. Grips 16 of one and the same rope 11, 12 are fitted near the ends of one and the same beam 18. Transverse tube 19 is perpendicular to longitudinal beams 18. Longitudinal beams 18 and transverse tube 19 are substantially coplanar. The transverse distance separating longitudinal beams 18 is adjusted according to the distance separating ropes 11, 12, which distance is greater than the width of vehicle 10.

The articulation means, which first comprise transverse tube 19 fixedly attached to top part 14, also comprise a sleeve 20 fixedly attached to bottom part 15 and enveloping transverse tube 19 with bearing rings fitted intermediately. Sleeve 20 is thereby mounted rotating around transverse tube 19. Sleeve 20, which is formed by a dismountable double-shell assembly, forms an integral part of the suspension referred to previously.

The four grips 16 form a rigid connecting quadrilateral between ropes 11, 12. This results in a very great stability of car 13 to roll and yawing, whereas the articulation means provide a very great freedom of movement of car 13 for pitch by swiveling of sleeve 20 around transverse tube 19. In other words, the articulation means of top part 14 with respect to bottom part 15 allow relative pivoting, in a vertical plane parallel to ropes 11, 12 (i.e. the vertical plane of symmetry of ropes 11, 12), of top part 14 and bottom part 15 forming a variable angle between them (not shown). The articulation means on the other hand do not provide any possibility of relative pivoting in a transverse vertical plane.

Each grip 16 is advantageously mounted on the carriage via a damper unit 17 allowing a slight rotation of one grip 16 with respect to the other one on one and the same rope 11, 12, and of grips 16 of one of ropes 11, 12 with respect to those of the other rope 11, 12 to prevent any slewing of the carriage.

Four support arms 21 forming an integral part of the suspension provide a rigid connection between sleeve 20 and a frame 22 securely affixed to the roof of car 13. Frame 22 belongs to bottom part 15 of the connecting means and can comprise an assembly of at least two longitudinal beams and at least one transverse beam.

According to the invention, maintenance vehicle 10 further comprises adjustment means of the angle between bottom part 15 and top part 14, up to an inclined position of car 13 with respect to the vertical. During this adjustment, car 13 performs a swiveling movement in the vertical plane of symmetry of ropes 11, 12, said swiveling movement being achieved by sleeve 20 swiveling around transverse tube 19. In the alternative embodiment represented, the adjustment means comprise a cog-wheel 23 fixed on top part 14 in a plane parallel to the vertical plane of symmetry of ropes 11, 12. Cog-wheel 23 operates in conjunction with an endless screw 24 mounted rotating on bottom part 15. More precisely, cog-wheel 23 is securely affixed to the median part of transverse tube 19, the axis of cog-wheel 23 coinciding with that of transverse tube 19. The nominal diameter of cog-wheel 23 is such that the teeth are salient outwards from sleeve 20 through a pass-through slot arranged in the thickness of sleeve 20 in a cross-sectional plane of sleeve 20 perpendicular to the axis of the latter. It is clear that cog-wheel 23 can be formed by a complete wheel having teeth over the whole of its periphery, but can also be formed by an angular sector only. Endless screw 24 is further fixed to one end of a transmission shaft 25, equipped at its other end with a crank 29 positioned inside said car 13. In practice, endless screw 24 is mounted rotating on bottom part 15 as it is mounted fixed to the end of transmission shaft 25 which is itself mounted rotating on bottom part 15. For this purpose, transmission shaft 25 is guided in rotation, at its bottom part, in a first bearing 26 fitted on the end of a support 27 securely attached to frame 22 and extending in the direction of the floor of car 13, and, at its top part, in a pair of second bearings 28 securely attached to sleeve 20. Transmission shaft 25 is, in this particular alternative embodiment, perpendicular to the floor of car 13.

It is apparent from the foregoing that actuation of crank 29 by the personnel embarked on board car 13 drives transmission shaft 25 in rotation. This results in rotational movement of endless screw 24 with respect to bottom part 15. The teeth of endless screw 24 being engaged in the teeth of cog-wheel 23, the rotational movement of endless screw 24 causes relative swiveling of sleeve 20 around transverse tube 19. In other words, manual actuation of crank 29 enables the angle that the top part 15 and bottom part 14 form between them to be adjusted as required.

If no action is exerted on the adjustment means and due to the effect of gravity applied to car 13, free swiveling of sleeve 20 around transverse tube 19 ensures that bottom part 15 (and therefore the whole car 13) is automatically horizontal whatever the angle of incline of ropes 11, 12 with respect to the horizontal. In this horizontal position, maintenance vehicle 10 is moved along the line by the carrying and hauling performed by ropes 11, 12. When vehicle 10 reaches the proximity of sheave assembly to be repaired or checked, the personnel presses a stop button 36 which emits a stopping order, by secured remote control, to stop running of ropes 11, 12. After ropes 11, 12 have stopped running, crank 29 is actuated by the personnel to adjust the angle between top part 15 and bottom part 14 so that it is substantially equal to zero. After this adjustment, bottom part 15 (and therefore car) is substantially parallel to ropes 11, 12. This inclined position of car 13 with respect to the vertical (position which is not represented) facilitates maintenance operations by the personnel directly from car 13 on the sheave assemblies, since the latter are inclined parallel the slope of ropes 11, 12.

The connecting means between car 13 and ropes 11, 12 further comprise securing means for blocking car 13 in the inclined position. It is clear that these securing means will be actuated by the personnel after the above-mentioned adjustment has been made. In other alternative embodiments, it is possible to provide for blocking to be automatic as soon as the personnel releases crank 29 after adjustment of car 13 to the inclined position. Such securing means can be achieved by any known mechanical means (for example a return-check ratchet mechanism) enabling positive securing of car 13 in the inclined position. The securing means can be unlatched as soon as required, in particular during movement of vehicle 10 on the line, for the comfort of the personnel.

It is further possible to provide disengagement means (not shown) inserted between the articulation means and the adjustment means. Such disengagement means will be used so long as the maintenance vehicle is on the line and at a distance from the sheave assembly to be repaired or checked. Such disengagement means can be achieved by any suitable known mechanical means.

To allow easy access to a sheave assembly of the installation after maintenance vehicle 10 has been conveyed to this sheave assembly by ropes 11, 12 and after car 13 has been adjusted and secured in the inclined position, car 13 comprises at least one platform able to be moved by moving means between a retracted position (FIG. 1) where the platform is housed inside car 13 and an extended position (FIG. 2) where the platform is outside car 13. The example illustrated in FIGS. 1 to 4 comprises two longitudinally opposite platforms, referenced 30, 31, respectively arranged upstream and downstream from car 13 (in the longitudinal direction of movement of vehicle 10) when they are in the extended position. When car 13 is in the inclined position and platforms 30, 31 are in the extended position, floors 301, 311 of platforms 30, 31 are substantially parallel to ropes 11, 12. However, to compensate an excessive incline of the car in the inclined position, car 13 is equipped with adjustment means (not shown) for adjusting the incline of floor 301, 311 of each platform 30, 31, when it is in the extended position, with respect to the floor of car 13. When a platform 30, 31 is in the retracted position, its floor 301, 311 is pressed onto the outside of the corresponding wall of car 13. In FIG. 4, only platform 30 is represented in the extended position. Ladders 38 provide access to platforms 30, 31 from the floor of car 13.

In the example illustrated, the moving means associated with a platform 30, 31 comprise a hinge, respectively 302, 312, the axis whereof is parallel to the floor of car 13. Each platform 30, 31 is mounted on car 13 by a swivel link with an axis parallel to the floor of car 13. Car 13 comprises means for adjusting the height of hinge 302, 312 with respect to the floor of car 13. The moving means can however comprise a slide link sliding in a direction included in a plane perpendicular to the floor of the car.

Whether the moving means associated with a platform 30, 31 comprise a hinge or a slide link, movement of platform 30, 31 from one position to the other can be triggered either manually or by electrical means.

To guarantee maximum safety, each platform 30, 31 comprises a guard-rail 303, 313 fitted on floor 301, 311 of platform 30, 31 in such a way that guard-rail 303, 313 is unfurled when platform 30, 31 moves to the extended position and folded back when moving to the retracted position. Guard-rails 303, 313 can however be assembled fixed on floors 301, 311 without departing from the spirit of the invention. The tubular structure of each guard-rail 303, 313, and also a gate for access to car 13, can be covered with coating panels 37, which may be transparent.

To facilitate the operations carried out along aerial ropes 11, 12, bottom part 15 comprises an operating arm 32 articulated around an axis perpendicular to the roof of car 13 and which may be telescopic. Car 13 further comprises an electricity generating set 33 and/or an electric power supply battery 34 and/or a lubrication unit 35 and/or one or more toolboxes 39 housed under fold-down seats 40.

Finally, it is clear that the invention can be adapted to a mechanical lift installation having a single aerial rope, such as for example a gondola car or a chair-lift. In this case, the top part of the connecting means is formed only by a grip for securing to the rope whereas the bottom part is formed by a hanger securely attached to the vehicle. The articulation means of the grip with respect to the hanger allow a first relative swiveling of the hanger and grip in a first vertical plane including the rope, and possibly a second relative swiveling in a second vertical plane perpendicular to said first plane. According to the invention, the connecting means will comprise means for adjusting the angle formed between the grip and hanger in the first plane, up to an inclined position of the car with respect to the vertical in the first plane, as well as means for securing the car in the inclined position.