Joyce/Dayton has been in the business of making lifting jacks for a long time-over 125 years. While new materials, electronics, and the advent of integrated systems has changed the technology profoundly, the basic business of engineering them remains the same.
Design News: How has the technology changed?
Furlong: It's interesting that the base technology actually goes back to ancient times, when the first gears were basically pieces of tree trunks with sticks bored in so that they meshed almost like a gear set. While the operating principles of the technology remain the same, the most significant change in our product line has been the advent of new materials. For example, while lead screws were once made of cast threads they are now available in a pre-heat-treated, stress-relieved condition.
Q: How has the advent of electronic controls changed your industry?
A: What I find fascinating is that we have the capability today to combine very old technology with very new technology. Electronic controls now allow us to push the envelope-achieving higher speeds and frequencies. We're also going to be seeing more demand for what I would call a "smart" jack, which has the capability of sending a position readout.
The downside, of course, is that we tend to generate lots of heat as a result of these faster speeds and higher performance. That's where the development of new materials has helped us out, though. We're constantly experimenting with new and different materials, such as engineered plastics.
Q: What are some of the hot new trends in the application of lifting jacks?
A: In a word-ergonomics. Years ago, people bent, they squatted, they did whatever they needed to do in order to access a part in an assembly operation. But with the whole ergonomics movement today, the goal is to match the machinery and the equipment to the worker.
So lifting jacks are being designed into a whole range of equipment today, including lift tables and assembly fixtures. Instead of workers having to bend and stoop to access a part, that part is delivered to them at a comfortable working height.
We're also seeing some very novel uses of our lifting technology today. In the aircraft industry, for example, our jacks have been applied to assembly fixtures that automatically adjust so that they remain plumb. There is some very creative engineering being done today.
Q: What specific elements does a system involving a lifting jack consist of, and how popular is this concept with your customers?
A: More and more of our customers are asking us to provide all of the components of the lifting system-including the machine screw jack or ball screw jack, power transmission components, motors, limit switches, positioning or reading devices, and PC controls. I think one of the reasons this concept is so popular is that many companies today have scarce engineering resources and rely on our expertise in applying this technology across a whole range of applications.
Q: What do engineers need to know about lifting jacks in order to successfully apply them in their designs?
A: Most engineers, particularly mechanical engineers, have been exposed to gearing and materials, which are two important aspects of lifting jacks. What they probably have not been exposed to is how to take their coursework in thermodynamics and their coursework in machine design and their coursework in gearing and apply those concepts to a lifting system. But rather than needing to become an expert on the technology, a design engineer who wants to apply a lifting system should have a good handle on the parameters of what they are trying to accomplish.
Our new electronic jack selection program, called JAX, is designed to help engineers optimize their designs. By plugging in the application parameters, some of which I mentioned above, engineers can basically play "What if." At its core, engineering a system involves making a series of trade-offs, and this tool is designed to help engineers investigate those choices.
Greg Furlong has spent 28 years at Joyce/Dayton Corp. in technical sales, marketing, and administrative functions. In his present position he serves on the executive committee of the company and also has responsibility for product and market development. Key to this activity is anticipation of new trends and development of products and programs that help the design engineer incorporate products seamlessly. Furlong is currently Allied Chairman of the Power-Motion Technology Representatives Association and active with the Conveyor Product Section and Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor Subcommittee of Material Handling Industry of America. He has a B. A. from Wittenberg University and an MBA from Wright State University.