From the outset of the wind industry, hydraulic torque applications have been paramount in delivering the high levels of torque required to ensure the structural integrity of the tower, nacelle and blades. More recently, construction firms have been reducing the number of hydraulic wrenches being used, in favour of electric and battery-operated torque tooling, primarily due to cost, speed and ease of use.
However, with the latest offshore wind turbines being much larger, capable of generating up to 14MW of power each, much bigger bolts and higher torque values are necessary, so the need for hydraulic torque equipment has returned to the fore. With safety, performance, ease of maintenance, quality and cost-efficiency being key drivers for turbine operators, Atlas Copco, a world leader in continuous rotation tooling, has invested significantly in the development of its hydraulic wrench offering.
According to research by the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers in 2021, 35% of injuries sustained were caused by tool handling incidents or dropped objects. Over 80% of these were in environments where hydraulic torque was used.
Innovation within the hydraulic torque market has been limited. Even the market leaders are using tooling that has been around for over a decade. Challenging the status quo through customer driven innovation, Atlas Copco has launched a brand new hydraulic torque wrench line, called TorcFlex™. Designed specifically to provide greater value in terms of ergonomic safety, accuracy, performance and cost-efficiency for multiple industry applications, TorcFlex™ models include the TF Square Drive Tool and TFX Direct Fit Tool. These are complemented by a market-first Co-Axial single hose and coupling, that’s over four times faster in set-up than previous generations, with better maneuverability and zero risk of hose tangling with free moving couplings.
Capable of delivering torque levels over 43,000Nm on the Direct Fit Tool and 35,000Nm on the Square Drive Tool, TorcFlex™ addresses both assembly and maintenance demands of major turbines, maintaining a tool accuracy of 3%, whilst focusing on the user’s experience and prioritising safety.
One of the most innovative features is the retained reaction arm. All other wrenches available today have a reaction arm that needs to be fully disengaged, so that they can be repositioned on the application. This is not only time consuming but also a dangerous drop hazard. Working at height is an obvious risk, so having a retained reaction arm that can be easily transferred increases safety for everyone working on the turbine.
TorcFlex™ also features an integral square drive retainer. Whilst other tools on the market have a separate drive retainer, which has to be removed and re-engaged when changing direction, Atlas Copco’s square drive assembly is now a single piece with a spring-loaded button mechanism, which allows the user to change direction easily.
All hydraulic wrenches are also supplied with a new innovative support handle. The handle can first be positioned in multiple positions on the wrench, but then the head can be indexed by the operator, without it being removed, like all other designs. As it’s supplied as standard and not an accessory, safety is again being prioritised.
To find out more about Atlas Copco’s safer, quicker and smarter high torque applications for the wind energy sector, please click HERE