Marine and Intermodal Operations Technologies

GRAIL :: Automated Container Terminal

Ablaze personnel completed the design and construction of a working scale model of a robotic container handling facility. The system manages and controls the movement of cargo containers throughout a shipping facility- from the time a container arrives at the container yard to the time it is placed onboard a ship. The system features traffic management; redundant collision avoidance systems; fail safe design; an expert system for placement of containers in the yard; a unique data management system that uses color graphics to display the entire yard; an efficient network control system and a number of autonomous mobile robots. The robots include a highly reliable end effector; infrared communications; accurate positioning; extensive mobility; speed control; and on-board collision avoidance.

ISB :: Intelligent Spreader Bar

Ablaze personnel have designed and built a working tenth scale model of a robotic spreader bar. The spreader bar has two major features. First, it is able to be rigidly positioned in any combination of six degrees of freedom (roll, pitch, yaw, x, y, and z), under electronic control. In other words, regardless of the orientation of the container with respect to the crane, the spreader bar can be positioned to pick up the container. Second, the spreader bar has an innovative, yet simple laser-based sensor system that allows a computer to accurately detect the location of a container and develop the commands to position the spreader in 6 degrees of freedom directly over the container. The spreader can even detect, track and position itself over containers that are moving, such as those on the deck of a small ship in high seas. This spreader has been developed for use in transferring cargo at sea from one ship to another, but can be used in many other shipping applications particularly where automation is desired.

DARTS :: Direct Acquisition Rail-to-Ship Spreader

In conjunction with LMI, Bromma, DOD DSCLOG, US Navy NSWCCD, US Army MOTSU, Ablaze personnel developed a spreader bar and telepresence system to allow cargo to be transferred directly between intermodal railcars and container ships. The system provides RF video feedback to the train engineer to allow approximate positioning of the flatcars beneath the crane. The spreader is capable of performing side shifting of +/- 18 inches to adjust to the position of the container on the flatcar. In addition, the spreader is able to pick up two 20 foot containers at one time, even if the spreaders are separated by distances up to 63 inches.

Container Cell Elevator

Ablaze personnel have invented a patented container cell elevator system that is particularly effective in the open seas. The purpose of the device is to raise the top container in each cell to deck level where the crane can easily access the container. Once the crane removes the container, the in-cell device would retrieve the next container and raise it above deck. The system would also work in reverse; that is, the crane operator could place a container above deck and the in-cell mechanism would stow the container below deck. The cell elevator will increase productivity significantly because it will ease the task of picking and placing containers; and, since the device works in parallel with the crane, eliminates the need for the crane to enter the hatch, a major portion of the crane cycle.

Intelligent Multi-modal Software Systems

Ablaze personnel enjoy solving complex real-world problems in a straightforward, efficient manner. The key to providing such solutions is often combining traditional engineering techniques with artificial intelligence (AI). Problems with no suitable mathematical solutions can be solved using fuzzy logic, neural nets, heuristics, or rule-based expert systems. Ablaze personnel have designed and developed these intelligent systems for intermodal, marine, break bulk and transload terminals around the world. Such systems include optimizing the loading pattern and blocking of intermodal equipment for outbound consists; intelligent inventory control at container terminals; optimizing cargo loading patterns for container shipments; compatibility verification of hazardous materials; and traffic management optimization at marine ports.

Infrared Beacon Spreader Bar Communications

Ablaze personnel have designed and installed an infrared digital communications system to transmit data over 200 feet in broad daylight conditions. The transmitter is shock-mounted and located on a spreader bar of a container crane. The receiver is located on the trolley of the crane over 100 feet above the spreader. The system is used to transmit AEI (automated equipment identification) information to an inventory control system.

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