Here at W.C. Branham, we define our products as problem-solvers. But, we admit, we are just a little biased. So when a customer shares a story of how a Branham product solved their thorny problem, that’s a story we want to share with everyone. After all, you never know when someone else’s design “win” might be exactly the solution to your problem, too. The subject of today's story: spring applied hydraulic brakes.
Spring applied hydraulic brakes are the go-to choice when you need to hold industrial equipment or heavy machinery in place, reliably. In an emergency, or to prevent an emergency from happening, you need equipment that can be stopped without question. It's the only way you can work safer with confidence.
Abrahamson Nurseries is a family-owned nursery and landscape company based in Scandia, MN. They have two additional locations in Stillwater, MN, and St. Croix Falls, WI. They grow trees, shrubs, perennials and flowers to sell at their garden centers and for installation by their landscape crews. Landscaping is a large part of their business.
Abrahamson’s crews use articulating front end loaders for almost all of their landscaping work. The company owns 13 Swinger brand loaders in 3 different sizes. Unfortunately, according to the company’s owner, Greg Sandager, these machines don’t have a reliable parking brake, so they have been known to roll away when parked on the slightest of slopes. That’s not only annoying, it's a critical safety concern.
The Swinger loaders have a hydrostatic drive and come with a hand-actuated caliper to hold them. However, the machines can easily override that brake, and there is no indicator to tell the operator if the brake is actually set. The result? Brake pads were getting burned off quickly, making the machines unsafe to park.
The company’s mechanic, Marty, is a gifted and creative fabricator. He started researching spring applied, hydraulic release brakes and found W.C. Branham online. After speaking with our Regional Sales Manager Peter Wold (who was “very helpful and knowledgeable”), Marty decided to install Branham spring-applied brakes on one machine as a trial.
Space is a concern, as the Swinger loaders are very compact. Marty installed the brake on a rotor on the loader’s gearbox, using a hydraulic pump and reservoir from an old snowplow to release the brake. For control, he installed a simple on/off switch on the dash. But the large pump and tank were bulky. The brake worked well, holding the machine even when parked on a slope, but it had to be set and released manually.
Marty changed his approach for the next loader, using a pump from Trausch Dynamics that uses oil from the loader’s hydraulic system to operate the brake. He designed the system so the brake automatically applies any time the loader is turned off. It can also be manually applied with a dash switch while the machine is running. He added a pressure switch that triggers the pump as needed, to keep the brake released if the oil bleeds down. A dash-mounted LED light clearly shows the operator when the brake is applied.
“We are excited with the results of the project,” says Greg Sandager. “The brake is a huge convenience for the workers as they are now able to park anywhere on a job site, and it provides great peace of mind for everyone’s safety.”
Abrahamson Nurseries is now installing W.C. Branham brakes on all of their loaders as they come in for service. For the smaller Swinger 1200 machines, Marty had to locate the caliper farther down the driveline, just before the differential on the driveshaft, due to space constraints on the gearbox. This will likely require two calipers per rotor since this loader doesn’t have the mechanical advantage of the bigger machine’s gearbox. Regardless of the final design, Sandager and his team can now work with confidence that the equipment they use is both secure and safe thanks to their new hydraulic braking system.
Solutions in Motion – or in this case, motion prevented. It’s what we do here at W.C. Branham.