Enter the Autoflaker

Published:  08 September, 2017

An automatic high-volume hose recovery unit for easy recovery after large-scale incidents has been developed by Hytrans Fire Systems, reports Ann-Marie Knegt.

Hytrans has built its reputation on supplying the pumps and hoses that make it possible to deliver large volumes of water over great distances. Once the incident is over, however, it is necessary to put the long, heavy hoses back in the hose containers. Due to the sheer weight and size of the hoses, recovery is hard work.

International sales manager for Hytrans, Johan Kramer, explains that the company has delivered hundreds of powerful hose recovery units, but that these still require someone standing in the recovery container to flake the hose. ‘This is a narrow space, and it can become heavy work, especially if you have to flake 12-inch hose for several hours.'

Environmental conditions can make the job of a high-volume hose flaker even more challenging. It can be very hot, or cold and wet. ‘You have to be careful when handling heavy hoses,’ Kramer points out. ‘Nonetheless, recovering a hose from an air-conditioned vehicle cabin does make life easier for everyone.’

Now Hytrans has taken hose recovery to the next level with the launch of the Autoflaker, which has been designed to simplify this essential task.

The conventional Hytrans hose recovery unit recovers 1km of 8-inch hose within 30 minutes and a 12-inch hose within 45 minutes, requiring a crew of three to four people.

Kramer explains that using the Autoflaker range, which includes the HRU300AF (10 to 12-inch hose) and HRU200AF (4 to 8-inch hose), is not necessarily quicker than using the conventional hose recovery unit, but it does make the job a lot easier.

‘It also frees up resources that would have normally been working on flaking the hose. Instead, this person can be deployed somewhere else, because the Autoflaker only needs a driver.’

The hose recovery system usually works from the hydraulics of the hooklift system. It is also possible to mount a diesel-driven power pack in the front cabinet of the container so that it can operate autonomously.

Kramer explains that with automatic flaking, the challenge was to get the hose in the container correctly. ‘When you are doing this manually, you have to watch how you flake the hose. It needs to be stacked in such a manner that it can be deployed again safely at speeds of up to 40kph, so the couplings must always face the same way. When the coupling is facing the wrong way, the man in the hose container has to pick it up and flip the hose and coupling out in the correct direction.’

In addition, the couplings should not be stacked all in the same place because of load division. Therefore, the system is calibrated so that the optimal flaking pattern is achieved. Kramer explains that this was a challenge during the design process of the software for the flaker. The last coupling also needs to be at the back of the container and accessible when the door is opened.

'Unique in all our hose recovery units are the double pressure rollers that open up automatically when the couplings come through,' adds Kramer. 'This function is controlled by computerised electronic eyes.'

All product development is done in-house by the company’s own software, electrical, and mechanical engineers.

‘Currently, we have created a Hoselayer with Autoflaker that can hold 1,700m of 12-inch hose, to be used for major hazards mainly in the petrochemical and nuclear industry. For municipal fire brigades, we have an AutoFlaker 200 that handles 4 to 8-inch hose. This can be transported together with our submersible pump system, HydroSub150.

The Autoflaker has been designed to last, and it is made from high-grade stainless steel and aluminium. All hose containers have stainless steel walls because couplings scratch easily, and Hytrans doesn’t want to risk damaging the container or corrosion occurring. These will last considerably longer than the trucks they are on.

‘Most of our units operate in highly corrosive climates or extreme environments, so everything we build, we build to last. We are aware of the initial capital cost, but it is an investment that lasts for years. Our equipment is built for larger incidents, so you may not use it every day, but when you do, you must be able to rely on it,' argues Kramer.

'You really have to see our equipment in action to find out what it can do. We have submersible pump units that can deliver 45,000lpm at 12 bar, and we always have hose packages in stock. We have recovery units in stock for demonstrations, and two demo trucks that we can send all over the world. You can tell people how fast and how easy our equipment is to use, but they need to see it for themselves.’

He adds that Hytrans has specialised in floating hydraulically-driven pumps and moving water over large distances since 1988, and brings all that expertise to its product development. ‘Almost 30 years of experience has been integrated into our designs. We train end users all over the world, either with our own trainers or via our specialised distributors. We are not just selling pumps and mobile water movement systems; we sell full water supply systems to meet our clients’ specific challenges.'

  • Operation Florian

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