Engineer Klaus Kubatzki and CEO Armin Van der Lelij of the design office Quickloading are real tinkerers. If they see a problem, they must solve it. One of the problems Kubatzki encountered at Munich Airport was the tedious stowing of luggage on the plane. Different sizes and shapes should be accommodated saving as much space as possible, and the loader must also be fast, otherwise work will come to a standstill - and in the worst case the machine will miss its starting slot. The solution seems simple: even before the actual loading can begin, the luggage is already packed in boxes at the airport, which also fills the last corner in the plane. The ideal shape for the plane, the right dimensions so that existing transport systems can continue to be used, as well as airworthy holding systems and aids for handling by the loaders - all this called for a lot of brain power. But success proved the two inventors right, and the product gave rise to the company of the same name: Quickloading.
Since 2007, the two of them have been searching for - and finding - more and more solutions, all of which are aimed in the same direction: To facilitate and accelerate the handling of aircraft. Armin Van der Lelij knows: "When the plane is on the ground, it costs money, a lot of money. So both the airline and the airport have a great interest in keeping this time as short as possible in order to reduce costs. A second factor is also the question of the number of personnel engaged in handling and maintenance work. " For the airport operator, there is an additional problem: take-offs and landings are not evenly distributed throughout the day, there are time slots that are more heavily used, for example in the morning and evening. Here the pressure on throughput times is particularly high.
Time is money. It is therefore important that aircraft on the ground are handled quickly. The equipment used for this purpose is usually in continuous operation and should function for as long as possible without maintenance. Furthermore, the operating temperatures in Siberia go down to
With the material iglidur Z Rink GmbH & Co. KG achieves very good wear results in the application. The material is very temperature-resistant and also offers good compressive strength. The maintenance-free and lubrication-free operation ensures that the service life of the vehicles has been increased. The low moisture absorption of the plain bearing material helps prevent the material from freezing and possibly cracking.
One of the first projects following the Quickloading system was an aircraft de-icer, which also included the nose wheel suspension. "We developed this for use in Krasnoyarsk, the third largest city in Siberia," explains Van der Lelij. "The temperature there is at times -55°C. When refuelling and loading, the machine lowers itself on the nose wheel by up to 15 cm - but this is only possible if the suspension does not freeze. If that happens, the plane has to stay on the ground. " A kind of "jacket" for the nose wheel, which was fed with diverted air from the de-icing system, quickly provided relief. However, suitable materials also had to be used for the extreme temperatures. For example, the hoses used were not allowed to break even at extremely low temperatures.
However, couplings and sealing rings posed a tough challenge. "Lubricants were not an option for us. The used materials must not absorb water that would freeze," says Van der Lelij. So the two tinkerers put together a series of requirements and set out to find a suitable supplier. They finally found what they were looking for at igus in Cologne. "The iglidur product range was just right for us. Lightweight, robust, weatherproof and lubrication-free, these were our most important points, certified in the iglidur Z version down to -100°C - that was the end of our search. " And in Krasnoyarsk, no MD-11 had to stay on the ground anymore because of icy nose wheels.
Word has gotten around in the industry. "After our initial successes, we had built up a reputation as a problem solver for airport operations," says the Quickloading CEO, "which is why customers approached us with commissioned developments. This was also the case at Christmas 2013: Munich Airport ordered new couplings for the ventilation systems in aircraft interiors. This developed into a project that ended in a complete pre-conditioned air equipment system. Not only the couplings, but also the hoses and finally even the transport trolleys were newly developed by Quickloading. Here too one could fall back on the experiences from Siberia. Lubrication-free plain bearings on the remote control of the couplings as well as on the moving parts of the PCA carriage were supplied by igus. In airport operations, these extreme conditions must be withstood: They are outdoors all year round, exposed to the cold in winter and direct sunlight in summer. Acidic agents are used to de-ice the aerofoils, which drip onto hoses, couplings and trolleys. But they can handle it.
And the igus plain bearings offer another advantage: "Since the moving parts do not have to be lubricated, the transport trolleys do not need to be taken to the workshop. Instead, the inspection can take place on site. And if there are no other reasons for maintenance, the PCA system is used without interruption - this is also an enormous cost advantage for the airport operators," emphasises Van der Lelij. Couplings that are lighter and at the same time less susceptible to damage, more robust hoses and a higher degree of leak tightness, which enables enormous savings in compressed air supply, have also contributed to the fact that the Quickloading solution is now being used everywhere in Munich Airport and also at other airports. +
Quickloading is also using the hoses and couplings developed in-house for a third product: The Fanblade De-Icer (FDI). The lower weight compared to conventional systems makes it possible for a single employee to supply both engines of an aircraft with contour nozzles and to run the de-icing process largely automatically, so that he can also attend to other aircraft in the meantime. With previously used systems, two employees were each tied to one machine until the work was completed. The EFM (Body for De-icing and Aircraft Towing at Munich Airport) has given the designers outstanding praise for this: It is the only system with which EFM can solve this task economically, in other words, one in which the total costs are lower than the fees collected.
This is naturally an incentive for the Quickloading team. And the next project is also already in the starting blocks: The "Swiss Army Knife" under the coupling bars. If the aircraft are towed from the parking area towards the tarmac, the coupling bar suitable for the aircraft type must be used, as the attachment points are not standardised. Tugs are often only equipped with two or three different towbars and can therefore only be used for certain types of aircraft; either that or the appropriate towbar has to be fetched from the depot, a time-consuming activity. For Armin Van der Lelij, a problem for the brand "can't be". As early as 2011, he therefore began work on a tow bar that initially combines four, and now even six different couplings. These are arranged in a cartridge so that the head can be changed to the appropriate system within 30 seconds. A spring-loaded and adjustable undercarriage with which the Quick Towbar Changer can be balanced, ergonomic handles for one-man operation and of course lubrication-free, weather-proof plain bearings from igus.
Armin Van der Lelij offers the Quickloading designs to airport operators and maintenance companies worldwide. Very few people have heard of lubrication-free plain bearings so far. But certifications and word of mouth from Lufthansa and Munich Airport are convincing arguments. Finally, the products are put through their paces in our own tests. So far there have been no complaints.
Even for Quickloading itself there were no problems worth mentioning. "Once we had the occasion that the intended component did not meet the requirements. And igus was able to help us there by switching to another series where the material was changed to suit us," Armin Van der Lelij describes the collaboration so far. Another time the development could not keep up with the mechanical requirements. Here, too, a change of material was called for. In addition, the components were not only mechanically pressed in, but also additionally bonded - after which everything worked as desired.
Numerous igus products have already been used in previous developments, and this will remain so in the future. "We use the materials iglidur G, iglidur Q, iglidur X and iglidur Z, and these in all possible types. For example, thrust washers, piston rings and bushings with and without flanges," says the CEO of Quickloading. "The extensive range helps us to cover our requirements, because the mechanics leave us hardly any leeway. " The variety of materials and the wide range of products were the most important arguments for choosing igus. "In any case, we wanted to avoid having to purchase these components from different suppliers," emphasises Van der Lelij. Potential interested parties who want to see for themselves whether the plastic delivers what it promises are invited to Munich Airport: "One of our prototypes has been in continuous use there since 2011 - what more can I say?