Have you ever wondered why products are designed a particular way?
New materials, technologies, and access to production processes have allowed products in almost every industry to be improved at a never-before-seen pace. However, we felt that some of the most commonly used external load products hadn't taken advantage of these advances. When we formed Taeron Systems, we decided to apply new ways of thinking to helicopter equipment design: 3D printed prototyping, rapid iteration, user focus, and use of cutting-edge materials.
So what significant improvements can be made in a synthetic longline? To answer this question we had to identify the weaknesses in current designs:
- Uncertain Degradation - Most strength lost in today's modern HMPE longlines happens from exposure to UV and particulate which causes internal fibre abrasion. Even the best zipper or Velcro covers do not completely seal off the rope fibre from the environment, which means lines have to be rated to a lower WLL or given a shorter service life to compensate for uncertainty in residual strength.
- Expensive Covers - Current longline covers (zipper or Velcro) are expensive due to the amount of manual labour involved in construction. Weak points such as zipper teeth or stitch lines wear out and may reduce the effectiveness of the cover and/or require an expensive replacement.
- Wasted Components - Textile components should have a service life due to the inherent degradation over time; however metal components do not suffer the same progressive degradation (unless damaged/corroded/etc.). This means that each time a longline is retired, the termination hardware is discarded, increasing costs.
- Lack of Interchangeability - Cargo Hooks may specify a primary ring size in the Flight Manual Supplement. With current longline designs, lifting rings must be either spliced into the eye of the line, or an additional removable link must be added, increasing weight and complexity.
To address these weak points, we have designed our XLine synthetic longlines with the following innovations:
- Custom Jacketed Plasma Rope - We worked with a leading rope vendor to design a HMPE rope with a thin urethane jacket which is flexible and low-weight. This allows us to completely seal off the load-bearing fibre from the environment, reducing environmental degradation and uncertainty.
- Machine Woven Cover - To reduce labour costs and consequently the price to the end-user, we had to find a sheath material that would provide an additional layer of protection and contain the longline electrical cord. The material needed to be able to shrink down to a streamlined profile for good flight characteristics and be more affordable than a traditional cover. After many trials and tests, we came up with our Braided Flex Cover, a simple, robust, and affordable material that saves up to 75% of the cost of a traditional cover.
- HEET Termination - We needed to have removeable end hardware to allow the Braided Flex Cover to be installed over the eye of the line. To maximize overall cost savings, we decided to make this component an "on condition" item which could be reused through multiple lifecycles of the line, reducing ongoing costs. The result: HEET (High Endurance End Termination). The HEET is interchangeable between our 3500 lb and 6250 lb WLL lines, protected with colour-coded tear resistant urethane rubber end caps, and allows interchangeability of lifting rings and other end hardware (locking hooks). For maximum longevity, the lifting shackle is designed to be a custom high strength stainless steel component, and the rope eye is supported on an anodized aluminum insert riding on bronze bushings. HEET is an advancement on the longline state of the art.
We're very proud of our XLine product and look forward to it entering widespread operation in the helicopter industry, where we expect it to lower costs and increase safety. We will be updating this blog with additional details on our product designs, general external load tips, and other useful information.
Taeron Systems looks forward to working with you - please don't hesitate to reach out to us directly with any questions on our equipment or to introduce yourself.
Colin O'Neill and Paul Allard - Co-Founders, Taeron Systems Inc.