Airfloat Wins Steel Industry Award for Technical Innovation

Company Honored by Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA) at Annual Meeting

The Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA) has named Airfloat, LLC the recipient of its 2012 Recognition in Innovation Award. Last year, the company designed and built an innovative new machine for the assembly, disassembly and transport of backup chocks used in the manufacture of rolled steel. The machine uses air bearing (or “air caster”) technology to float 30,000-lb. bearing housings on a thin film of compressed air. The award was presented to Airfloat at the SMA Annual Members Conference, held May 14-16 in Washington, D.C.

“We are honored to receive this prestigious SMA award,” said Jason Stoecker, president of Airfloat. “We feel it’s emblematic of the innovative work we’ve been doing to advance and modernize heavy load movement.”

The Airfloat transporter is a fabricated steel structure, constructed of heavy-walled structural tube and laser-cut steel plate. It is designed for operation with plant air systems on approximately 300 SCFM of air at 80 psi, depending on loading and flooring conditions. Lifting pins engage the bearing housing, and a four-post hydraulic lift system raises it off the ground. The operator steers the bearing into approximate alignment with the backup roll shaft using track-type and front-wheel steering. Then patented balance deck technology gently eases the bearing onto the shaft, automatically making slight adjustments to keep the two in proper alignment.

Previously, the company for which the machine was built used an overhead crane to attach bearing housings to backup roll shafts. The operation required multiple workers and frequently resulted in costly scoring damage to the backup roll. The Airfloat transporter, in contrast, allows a single operator to perform the same operation – at ground level. What’s more, it virtually eliminates scoring damage. For this reason, the client expects the machine to pay for itself in less than a year.

About the SMA

The Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA) consists of 36 North American companies that operate 130 steel plants and employ approximately 40,000 people. SMA members account for over 70 percent of domestic steel production. The SMA also has 129 Associate Member companies (including Airfloat) who provide goods and services to the steel industry.

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