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  1. #1
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    Default Make your own Air Skates?

    Anyone ever made their own air skates for moving machines? Im contemplating it - but cant justify the cost of buying a setup for the little use they will see. And sometimes I end up with free time and can afford to make something that I cant afford to otherwise buy.

    Ive seen very little on designs other than the sort of air bag/cushion style... but was wondering what other workable options there might be design wise.

    Heaviest machine presently is 10-11k lbs - and likely wont ever go a lot heavier than that... (my forklift is 16k and it struggles with the 11k machines - she's old and worn) - three lathes, a VMC, and a EDM I can move with a pallet jack if needed.

    Curious to hear any thoughts or ideas - well, other than "just go buy a set".

    Wade

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    You'd be far better served to make your own regular skates and forget the air.

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    Ok, interesting... wasnt what I expected to hear.

    I have regular skates, but man its a chore doing anything but a straight line move - and turns into a mess trying to rotate if you have to. Thats what made me think about the air skates. But maybe just fighting it is the better answer. I dont have a huge ton of experience moving machines around... maybe I just need to practice

    Wade

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    I've seen them used in factories to move large assemblies as part of the production process. It works good in that application, where all variables are controlled (perfect smooth floor, perfect weight distribution, controlled path and motive force).

    If you are hoping to just drop them on the shop floor and push your 11,000 lb hulk around like it's on a magic carpet, I think you'll be disappointed.

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    The ones I have seen (and actually laid hands on) look allot
    like a Firestone air bag, with some holes in the bottom plate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    I've seen them used in factories to move large assemblies as part of the production process. It works good in that application, where all variables are controlled (perfect smooth floor, perfect weight distribution, controlled path and motive force).

    If you are hoping to just drop them on the shop floor and push your 11,000 lb hulk around like it's on a magic carpet, I think you'll be disappointed.
    Gotcha, the videos I have watched made it look easier than regular skates... with some obvious need for planning ahead and for surprises.

    Shop is a smooth finish monolithic pour with 10x10 cuts for the cracks to hide in :P And then sealed and knifed fairly smooth. But Im sure its not 100% level everywhere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    The ones I have seen (and actually laid hands on) look allot
    like a Firestone air bag, with some holes in the bottom plate.
    Yeah, I thought same from pictures... usually holes in the plate and some around the bottom of the bag where it contacts the floor.

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    I have no experience with air skates.

    If you struggle with conventional skates you are either using them wrong or they are too small.

    Most of my machines weigh between 7.5 and 20 tons. My floor is OK and I have no issue moving them around with fair sized Hilmans.

    I will say I have used the small Hilmans and they pretty much suck for anything.

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    Years ago we made a set to move F-15’s around the factory floor. We did everything wrong, used way too much air pressure. The only thing I remember well was that once you got it moving, it was next to impossible to stop. We went from grinning to sheer panic in about 20’. We came close to the next plane on the line. Guys were jumping on that first plane like chickens on a June bug. With about 10’ to spare, we got it stopped. 100 lbs of air pressure was about 70 lbs too much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garwood View Post
    I have no experience with air skates.

    If you struggle with conventional skates you are either using them wrong or they are too small.

    Most of my machines weigh between 7.5 and 20 tons. My floor is OK and I have no issue moving them around with fair sized Hilmans.

    I will say I have used the small Hilmans and they pretty much suck for anything.
    Thats probably my problem then....

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    Quote Originally Posted by ClimbCut View Post
    Years ago we made a set to move F-15’s around the factory floor. We did everything wrong, used way too much air pressure. The only thing I remember well was that once you got it moving, it was next to impossible to stop. We went from grinning to sheer panic in about 20’. We came close to the next plane on the line. Guys were jumping on that first plane like chickens on a June bug. With about 10’ to spare, we got it stopped. 100 lbs of air pressure was about 70 lbs too much.
    Ive read you need to have a stopping plan... cut air etc in case thing go wrong.

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    I have some air skates and agree with most of the thoughts above, including the sheer panic part lol. In using them I also found it takes multiple regulators to control pressure to the individual skates on some machines. Using 1 regulator a machine that has unusual weight distribution the bag lifting the least weight can "burp", and its sets up a wild oscillation in the machine

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wade C View Post
    Gotcha, the videos I have watched made it look easier than regular skates... with some obvious need for planning ahead and for surprises.

    Shop is a smooth finish monolithic pour with 10x10 cuts for the cracks to hide in :P And then sealed and knifed fairly smooth. But Im sure its not 100% level everywhere.
    In the right environment, air casters can be much easier than regular skates.

    Pros:
    You can move a lot of weight very easily
    very smooth, doesn't bump a sensitive cargo

    Cons:
    if the floor isn't level it will drift
    needs at least two people, three is better. While on air, it can move in all three degrees of freedom, so one person can't control it well. Skates only move in 1 DOF at a time.

    Things to watch out for:
    Inertia!
    cracks in the floor
    often rides better at a lower air pressure
    needs lots of air, you're not going to run them off a 3/8" air line. The worse the floor the more air you'll need.

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    In a previous career, we used air skates to move process tools in and out of a semiconductor fab. The reason they are used there has more to do with limiting the introduction of particles into the clean room. The raised metal floor in the fab was covered in Al plate, and the tools were skated in. We always had a guy on an emergency air release so we could stop a million dollars worth of process tool before it slid into another million dollars worth of process tool. It was a lot of work setting up for what I would want to do in a home or small shop.

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    Thanks for the info everyone... Maybe Ill look at some larger/better skates. I have to do most of my stuff alone - and the skates I have now are a chore with a 10k LB Okuma LNC8 - and Im thinking about rearranging machines now that there are 5 in here instead of the two I made plans for originally. Never really thought more machines would ever be possible... obviously... a forward thinking failure on my part.

    Wade

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    For what it's worth...

    I have no experience with air skates but I do have a pretty big set of Hilman rollers. They can be a bear but there are a few little things I have done that makes using them a whole lot less stressful

    1. Put a thick rubber mat between the top of the skate and the load you are lifting. I cut up an old thick mat that was probably an inch thick rubber that compresses to probably half that under heavy load. This way if you are using four skates and one becomes unloaded from an uneven floor it will still keep running with the rest. Without it will just stop and when the load shifts the whole machine may just decide to fall over depending on what you are moving. I've heard some really nasty stories that went this way. With one person it is hard to watch all the skates at once and it can happen fast.

    2. Put a few really solid anchors on your concrete floor. In my shop I have a heavy anchor in each corner. When I need to move a machine by myself on skates which may be a 22,000lb mill, I just hook it up to a 2 ton lever chain hoist and attach that to one of the anchors. It isn't fast but it is very smooth and predictable. Sometimes rotating the machine can be tough as you have to place the rollers according to where you want the machine to rotate about but when you are pulling with the hoist you can easily feel when it is binding vs rolling and once setup properly it goes fast because although the movement can be slow you are always proceeding the direction you want instead of messing around just to get it to move.

    I do think building an adjustable frame for them that prevents them from flipping over and allows two to turn together like a pair of wheels on a wagon would be great, it is on the list of things to do, pretty far down though.

    I hope this helps!

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    If your stuff is all pretty small, I find a really big pallet jack to be handier than skates or a forklift 99% of the time.

    But then again, most of my machines are between 5000 and 8500lb.

    Skates are fine when you have to, but a pallet jack is so easy when you bought something and have to play musical machines again.

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    I think you just need bigger skates. I tried the little roller chain type ones once, too high up and felt like going to fall off all the time. Used to borrow some from a big construction company my cousin worked for that I liked, so after cousin retired I made my own from some bar remnants I saved up.
    This is right before attaching rough cut white oak tops, center axle is slightly lower than the outer ones, making it able to pivot on the one axle. All the bearing loads #'s for the center axle alone come out to 8 tons, so I figure them as 5tons per skate.
    dscn1099_zps7y8iylrj.jpg
    Moved my 12k lb press brake by myself easily with a prybar. Use porta-power cylinders to lift it up onto skates, should really find a toe jack.
    dscn1101_zpsuirc8sao.jpg

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    I own a set of air skates the same as in this video AeroGo Air Casters and find that they are an order of magnitude more useful then Hillman rollers for many of the jobs I do. For exact placement of a machine the ability to move in any direction is invaluable and when moving a machine along a path with turns the ease of turning and the small area needed for a turn can be invaluable. Yes they need a lot of air . A 25 hp rotary screew compressor is not big enough to keep up and drains the tank rapidly. I always have someone with a hand on the valve and when the valve is closed the pads deflate almost instantly and there is absolutely no reason for moments of shear panic. Yes you do need a smooth floor but there are a number of ways to over come floor issues . Cracks can easily be covered with a strip of duct tape and larger imperfections can be covered with a sheet of thin gage sheet metal. For even larger areas of roughness I have filled all the imperfections in the floor with sand and spread it smooth with a squeegee and then covered with a sheet of 6mm poly that is used for vapor barriers . Using the poly method I have moved a 42000 lb machine over a floor with a great deal of imperfections . In short with a degree of common sense and a little imagination for the prep work I would highly recommend the you try to make a set of these if you couldn't justify the cost of buying a set

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    I once purchased (4) Aerogo brand air casters for a dedicated transport device in an aerospace production facility. I purchased them from McMaster as “replacement” casters and they were only about $1000 per caster. I then made a manifold using standard 3/4” air regulators for each caster. Doing it this way was about 50% less expensive than buying the pre made set.

    You need a lot of SCFM but pressure is only around 30 psi.

    Some were afraid the unit would be dificult to control, but it worked fine and everyone seemed to like using it.

    If you have a crack or joint in the floor to go over, just cover with thin sheet metal and tape in place with duct tape.


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