Looking over the horizon to new concepts in street sweeper design & engineering

The equipment used to keep our streets clean has evolved significantly over the last 10 years to become the cleanest, quietest and most efficient machinery anywhere in the world. The world┬╣s largest manufacturer, Johnston Engineering, based in the UK, looks into the crystal ball to what could develop within the sector over the next 10 years.

Developments have thus far been largely driven by customer requirements and, in recent years, by legislation," explained Johnston Engineering's Marketing Manager Steve Douglas. "End-users are quite rightly demanding machines that are simpler to operate and maintain, while delivering better performance levels. Increasingly stringent European legislation has also resulted in manufacturers concentrating development resource on reducing noise and noxious emissions."

Optimum mix
"The 5000 Series represents the optimum mix of features and performance levels demanded by today's customers and legislators. Our challenge as we move into the 21st Century is to build on engineering knowledge and expertise acquired since 1904, and continue to offer machines which fulfil tomorrow's customer needs as well as today's."

Mike Sandford is Johnston Engineering's Scientific Project Leader, and is, therefore, at the forefront of new generation product development. "What would have been considered 'Blue Sky' technology as recently as 10 years ago is now commonplace. Some of today's Blue Sky concepts will inevitably become core product, as the end-user requirements of safety, environmental probity and legislative compliance become increasingly important," stated Mr Sandford. "There are several projects in the embryonic stage, and we are working together with third parties to develop concepts into working prototypes."

'Intelligent Sweepgear'
One development under research in conjunction with prominent Research Institutions is that of 'Intelligent Sweepgear'. Mr Sandford explained, "The sweeping equipment could have sensors fitted which detect the size, bulk and mass of material to be ingested. Once identified, engine speed, brush speed and tilt, nozzle gap and water spray pressure would adjust automatically, according to the needs of the immediate environment. Not only does this have implications for efficient use of water and fuel, minimised emissions, minimised wear and tear on the engine and sweepgear but perhaps the most important benefits of such systems are the implications for the operator, as he does not have to concentrate so much on material pickup.

"This increases safety and a major contributor to driver fatigue is eliminated. Other benefits could be realised in lower overall noise emissions and increased vehicle longevity."

Microprocessor
As part of this ongoing research which focuses on man-machine interface, voice activated microprocessor technology is being investigated as a feasible alternative to joysticks and conventional control panels.

Other developments involve new engine technology, currently being pioneered by major engine manufacturers.

Much development has already been undertaken to improve electronically controlled engines, incorporating innovations such as pre-programmed constant engine speeds and failsafe systems.

Mr Sandford continued, "Electronic feedback on the throttle control would enable the engine speed to change according to the load demand, optimising operational efficiency and fuel economy. Failsafe systems operated electronically will incorporate a self diagnostic feature which will shut down cylinders should a failure occur, allowing the engine to run on other cylinders until the end of the shift. Using this 'cycling' technique, the operator will be able to finish the job before having to diagnose the failure."

This not only allows continued productivity and minimal downtime as the machine is capable of staying on the road, but running at constant speeds minimises engine wear and tear, and gives consistent and economic fuel consumption levels.

Fuels & emissions
No future technology focus would be complete without talking about fuels and emissions. "We remain well below Euro legislation limits, and are working together with engine manufacturers to ensure that total emissions are continually driven down," said Steve Douglas.

Hydraulics and fuel concepts
"We are also currently looking at other concepts for further development, such as water hydraulics and alternative fuels for both chassis and auxiliary engines. These include gas and electricity, although it is possible that a hybrid (diesel-electric) engine will emerge before a fully electrically powered engine," concluded Mr Douglas.

End-user priority
These represent only some of the very real concepts which the largest sweeper manufacturer in the UK is developing. But, concluded Mr Douglas, it is still the end- user who remains the priority at Johnston. "All of these ideas will enhance our ability to provide the tools to enable our customers to run their businesses more productively and efficiently, which has always been our aim. We are looking at the next generation of technologies to help them do just that."


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