© Timo Müller

Dock shel­ters: Quite inflated

When trucks are loaded and unloaded, inflat­able dock shel­ters close the gap between the vehicle and the loading ramp. Until now, this has involved fans blowing at full power the entire time with a lot of energy lost in the process. Dutch company Van Wijk has a better idea.

Inflat­able dock shel­ters are impor­tant for logis­tics compa­nies. They close the gap between the docked truck and the ware­house, protecting the building inte­rior from external envi­ron­mental influ­ences. Drafts, rain and wind, as well as insects and dust, stay outside. The desired inte­rior temper­a­ture remains stable with neither heat nor cold escaping. Sealing off ware­houses is funda­mental, espe­cially in sensi­tive areas such as the food industry. The inflat­able dock shelter is acti­vated at the push of a button. A fan fills cush­ions mounted at the top and sides with air within 20 seconds. The air pres­sure must remain constant during loading and unloading so that the cush­ions reli­ably seal the space between the dock and the truck.

In super­mar­kets, online ship­ping facil­i­ties, and distri­b­u­tion centers, dock shel­ters effec­tively — and now, thanks to RadiCal, also effi­ciently — protect against weather and temper­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions. (Photo | Van Wijk)

This used to consume a lot of energy, espe­cially when the loading process took longer. Erik Stoffer, Sourcing Manager at Dutch company Van Wijk, knows the problem. “The fan worked at full power during the entire loading process. Even when the cush­ions were completely inflated. It was really unnec­es­sary.”

The RadiCal in scroll housing was a perfect fit for inflat­able dock shel­ters. (Photo | ebm-papst)

Van Wijk is one of Europe’s leading manu­fac­turers of dock levelers and dock shel­ters. The company manu­fac­tures and sells them under the brand name “Loading Systems.” Its customers are spread all over the world and include super­market chains, furni­ture manu­fac­turers, online ship­ping giants, and other large distri­b­u­tion centers. To meet its own quality stan­dards, Van Wijk was looking for a partner to find a more energy-effi­cient solu­tion for the inflat­able dock shel­ters.

A fan on an energy-saving mission

That’s how the part­ner­ship with ebm-papst came about. They had just the right fan for the inflat­able dock shel­ters: the RadiCal EC centrifugal fan in scroll housing. The fan was actu­ally designed for resi­den­tial venti­lation, but ebm-papst recog­nized its poten­tial to shine in other areas as well, as Archibald Bakker, sales engi­neer at ebm-papst Benelux, explains: “Since Van Wijk was looking for an energy-effi­cient solu­tion for inflat­able dock shel­ters, the RadiCal in scroll housing was a ­perfect fit.”

The fan shuts down the power as soon as the cush­ions are filled. The pres­sure remains constant.

Erik Stoffer, Sourcing Manager at Van Wijk

A vane anemometer is posi­tioned in the fan’s scroll housing. This sensor measures the actual air flow and trans­mits the data to the fan’s inte­grated control elec­tronics. The control elec­tronics adjust the speed of the EC motor to the desired setpoint value, thus regu­lating the air volume. Erik Stoffer is enthu­si­astic about the new solu­tion: “The fan shuts down the power as soon as the cush­ions are completely filled with air. The pres­sure in the cush­ions remains constant during the loading process even though the power is low.” The result: a 35 percent reduc­tion in the application’s energy consump­tion. This not only reduces oper­ating costs, but also protects the envi­ron­ment.

The RadiCal in a scroll housing was the perfect choice to create an energy-effi­cient solu­tion. (Illus­tra­tion | Timo Müller)

Onwards and upwards

But that’s not all. The inflat­able dock shel­ters are set to become even more envi­ron­men­tally friendly in the future. Van Wijk sees a need to opti­mize the cush­ions, which are constructed from sturdy, wear-resis­tant PVC, by making them thinner. The advan­tages are obvious: “Thinner mate­rial means lower mate­rial consump­tion. This not only saves produc­tion costs, but is also more envi­ron­men­tally friendly,” says Stoffer. “We will then be leading the way not only in reducing our energy, but also our mate­rial consump­tion.”

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