Summer 2017

Staying in the lines

JF Prolec launches world-leading self-limiting system which looks set to revolutionise the construction industry.

James Fisher Prolec has launched an innovative new self-limiting system, which uses GPS-tracking or sophisticated photo-imaging to create a 3-dimensional ‘safe working envelope’ for any confined-space construction operation. The new system, which looks set to transform industry standards, recently impressed representatives from major construction companies at a product demonstration day.

The team at JF Prolec was originally approached by Transport for London (TFL) three years ago to ask about developing its PME 500 system (which is widely used to limit the movement of diggers within safe parameters). The current system ensures safety, but it requires a separate time-consuming manual setting of the working envelope every time a digger moves from one part of the site to another.

Machine self-limiting innovation

To answer this demand, JF Prolec has developed PCX Pro which can be configured to meet the most exacting construction scenarios by creating a safe working envelope directly from plotted GPS co-ordinates, from a hand-held GPS ‘rover’, or, if GPS is unavailable, from photographic surveys.

The information gathered is then fed into JF Prolec’s movement restriction hardware, allowing the vehicles to ‘see’ where they are in relation to potential hazards and restrict movement to avoid them. In practice, this will allow operators to manoeuvre their vehicles and work effectively without needing to worry about overhead power lines, passing trains and other infrastructure that could be damaged or pose a danger.

Although there are many self-limiting systems on the market, the process of setting parameters is complex, time-consuming and open to human error. A set of co-ordinates has to be punched in every time the machine physically moves.

A world first

The new JF Prolec system is the world’s first to harness the power of GPS to provide a highly accurate and endlessly changeable set of co-ordinates within which the excavator can work. It is a way of automating the process so that it becomes faster, more reliable, more accurate, and, consequently, safer and more efficient.

The new system will save construction companies considerable time and money. This is particularly true for TFL which has to rely on short pockets of available construction time and steep penalties if these windows are exceeded (£60,000 per minute, per train).

How PCX Pro works

At its most basic level (option 1 in the graphic), the system will pick up references through GPS receivers which will automatically re-set the excavator’s safe limits within seconds of moving its location.

On many occasions, for instance when operating underground, in culverts or behind large buildings, GPS is not available. But the new JF Prolec system can work from GPS points generated at the start of the project by a hand-held GPS ‘rover’,  maps or surveys to create a safe working envelope within which the excavator can move freely (option 2).

However, the current top of the range JF Prolec system (option 3) makes use of sister company, Return To Scene’s sophisticated R2S Mosaic software (previously featured in Pelican) to create a 360 degree immersive photographic image of the construction site. This uses photography to create a ‘point cloud’ which clearly identifies hazards. Once the photographic co-ordinates are fed into the system and hazards marked, any number of excavators can work within this safe envelope, confident that they will not breach any hazards.

Nigel Shaw, product and engineering director for JF Prolec says:

"This use of 3D survey data in combination with movement restriction hardware is a world-first in virtual plant restriction technology.

"We expect the system to transform the industry and set a new benchmark in this area, opening doors to new applications across construction, such as motorway works and construction in built up, city environments."

TFL is already renting a set of equipment on a trial basis.

Confident construction infographic

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