Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
ASSEMBLY AND METHOD FOR STORING AND/OR RETRIEVING A SLING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/206545
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to an assembly (1) and a method for storing and/or retrieving a sling (2) from an assembly. The assembly comprises a storage with a plurality of elongated tubular members (3) having a length of at least 6 m each arranged in a substantially horizontal position. Each tubular member defines an internal volume between a first and second opening (31, 32) at opposite distal ends suited for the storage of an individual sling. A frame (5) holds the tubular members in a stack (4) in a fixed position relative to each other and to the frame. Preferably, at least one traction device (6) is included for storing and/or retrieving a sling from a selected tubular member in the storage.

Inventors:
VERWEIJ WILLEM MARIUS (NL)
Application Number:
PCT/NL2021/050221
Publication Date:
October 14, 2021
Filing Date:
April 06, 2021
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
VERWEIJ WILLEM MARIUS (NL)
International Classes:
B65G1/02; B63B21/56; B65G1/04; B65H75/36
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NEDERLANDSCH OCTROOIBUREAU (NL)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1 . Method for storing a sling (2) in a tubular member (3) in a stack (4) comprising a plurality of substantially horizontally extending tubular members (3), wherein the sling (2) has a length of at least 6 meters and a diameter of at least 50 millimetres, wherein each tubular member (3) is elongated and has a first opening (31) at a distal end and a second opening (32) at an opposite distal end, wherein at least one of the first and second opening (31 ; 32) of at least one of the tubular members (3) is adapted for passage of the sling (2); wherein the method comprises: selecting a tubular member (3) from the stack (4) in which to store the sling (2); and using a traction device (6; 7) to pull the sling (2) into the selected tubular member (3) through the at least one of the first and second opening (31 ; 32) of the selected tubular member (3) which is adapted for passage of a sling (2), until the sling (2) is substantially completely arranged within the selected tubular member (3).

2. Method according to claim 1 , further comprising: drying and/or cleaning the sling (2) prior to and/or during said pulling the sling (2) into the selected tubular member (3); and sealing the first opening (31) and second opening (32) of the selected tubular member (3).

3. The method according to claim 1 or 2, wherein a transport device (10) is arranged with a first side (11) adjacent to the at least one of the first and second opening (31 ; 32) of the selected tubular member (3) suited for passage of the sling (2), and wherein the transport device (10) is configured to guide the sling (2) along a conveying surface (13) between the first side (11) and a second side (12) of the transport device (10), wherein the method further comprises pulling the sling (2) along the conveying surface (13) into the selected tubular member (3).

4. A method for retrieving a sling (2) from a tubular member (3) in a stack (4) comprising a plurality of substantially horizontally extending tubular members (3), wherein the sling (2) has a length of at least 6 meters and a diameter of at least 50 millimetres, and wherein each tubular member (3) is elongated and has a first opening (31) at a distal end and a second opening (32) at an opposite distal end, wherein at least one of the first and second opening (31 ; 32) of at least one of the tubular members is suited for passage of the sling (2); wherein the method comprises selecting, from the stack (4) of tubular members (3), the tubular member (3) in which the sling (2) to be retrieved is held, the sling (2) being supported by the selected tubular member (3) over at least half the length of the sling (2); and using a traction device (6; 7) to pull the sling (2) out of the selected tubular member (3) until at least a leading portion (21 ; 22) of the sling (2) and a trailing portion (21 ; 22) of the sling (2) pass through the at least one of the first and second opening (31 ; 32) of the selected tubular member (3) suited for passage of a sling (2).

5. The method according to claim 4, wherein a transport device (10) is arranged with a first side (11) adjacent to the at least one of the first and second opening (31 ; 32) of the selected tubular member (3) suited for passage of a sling (2), and wherein the transport device (10) is configured to guide a sling (2) along a conveying surface (13) between the first side (11) and a second side (12) of the transport device (10), wherein the method further comprises: pulling the leading portion (21 ;22) of the sling (2) beyond the second side (12); pulling the trailing portion (21 ;22) of the sling (2) beyond the first side (11); pulling the trailing portion (21 ;22) of the sling (2) beyond the second side (12); preferably further comprising depositing the sling (2) in a transport container (16).

6. The method according to claim 5, wherein the transport device (10) is a driven conveyor, wherein the method further comprises: pulling the leading portion (21 ;22) of the sling (2) out of the selected tubular member (3) onto the conveying surface (13) of the transport device (10) ; activating the transport device (10) to pull the leading portion (21 ; 22) of the sling (2) beyond the second side (12), and the trailing portion (21 ;22) of the sling (2) beyond the first side (11) and the second side (12).

7. The method according to any one of claims 3, 5 or 6, wherein the transport device (10) is a height-adjustable transport device (10), the method further comprising: adjusting the vertical position of the conveying surface (13) at the first side (11) to a height flush with or just below a lower inner surface of the selected tubular member (3).

8. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the method further comprises: providing an auxiliary rope (8), and connecting the sling (2) to the traction device (6; 7) via the auxiliary rope (8).

9. The method according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the method further comprises: providing an air flow through an internal volume (33) of the selected tubular member (3), the air flowing from the first opening (31) to the second opening (32), or vice versa, for conditioning and/or drying a sling (2) stored in said tubular member (3).

10. The method according to claim 9, wherein the air flow through the internal volume (33) of the tubular member (3) is individually regulated for each tubular member (3). 11. An assembly (1) for storing a plurality of slings (2), the assembly (1) comprising: a storage (35) comprising:

- a plurality of elongated tubular members (3) arranged in a stack (4), wherein each tubular member (3) extends substantially horizontally and defines an internal volume (33) for individually storing a sling (2), each tubular member (3) having a first opening (31) at a distal end and a second opening (32) at an opposite distal end, wherein at least one of the first and second opening (31 ; 32) is suited for passage of a sling (2), each tubular member (3) having a length of at least 6 m and an inner diameter of at least 200 mm; and - a frame (5) which holds the stack (4) of tubular members (3) in a fixed position relative to each other and to the frame (5); the assembly (1) further comprising: a transport device (10), configured to guide and/or transport a portion of a sling (2) from a first side (11) of a conveying surface (13) of the transport device (10) to and beyond a second side (12) of the conveying surface (13) of the transport device (10).

12. The assembly (1) according to claim 11 , wherein the transport device (10) is a height- adjustable driven conveyor. 13. The assembly (1) according to claim 11 or 12, the assembly further comprising: a traction device (6,7) for pulling the sling (2) into or out of a selected tubular member (3).

14. The assembly (1) according to any one of claims 11-13, wherein the assembly further comprises an auxiliary rope (8) provided within at least one of the tubular members (3), the auxiliary rope (8) having a first portion which extends out of the tubular member (3) from the first opening (31) or is positioned less than 1 meter from the first opening (31), and the auxiliary rope (8) having a second portion extending out of the tubular member (3) from the second opening (32), or being positioned less than 1 meter from the second opening (32). 15. The assembly according to any one of claims 11-14, wherein the first opening (431) and/or the second opening of each tubular member (403) is configured to receive a sealing element (434), and wherein the assembly further comprises a plurality of sealing elements (434) arranged to substantially seal off the first opening (431) and second opening of at least one of the plurality of tubular members (403).

16. The assembly according to claim 15, wherein the assembly further comprises an air treatment system (509) for controlling the temperature, humidity and/or air flow of air in the internal volume of one or more of the tubular members.

17. The assembly according to any one of claims 11-16, wherein the stack (304) comprises a plurality of layers of tubular members (303), each layer comprising multiple tubular members (303) and the layers being stacked vertically, wherein one or more tubular members of one of said layers has a different inner diameter that one or more tubular members (303) of another of said layers.

18. The assembly according to any one of claims 11-17, wherein the tubular members (3) each comprise at least two coaxially arranged tube segments which are seamlessly welded together.

19. The assembly according to any one of claims 11-18, wherein the tubular members (3) are cylindrical tubes.

20. The assembly according to any one of claims 11-19, wherein each tubular member (3) has an inner diameter between 200 mm and 900 mm. 21 . The assembly according to any one of claims 11-20, wherein the tubular elements have a smooth circumferential outer surface.

22. The assembly according to any one of claims 11-21 , wherein the frame (5) comprises one or more flat rack or double-open sided containers.

Description:
Assembly and method for storing and/or retrieving a sling

Field of the invention

The present invention relates to an assembly and a method for storing and/or retrieving a sling. The assembly and method are particularly suited for storing slings having a density of less than 2 gr / cm 3 , e.g. slings made from or comprising synthetic materials such as polyethylene, polyolefin, polyamide, polyester or a mixture thereof. The slings that may be used with the assembly and method of the invention typically have a diameter of at least 50 mm, and a length of at least 6 m.

Background art

Slings are used in various industries, in particular in the offshore industry, for lifting, pulling and/or mooring objects. Generally, different slings are used depending on the object that is to be lifted, pulled or moored, and therefore several slings having different lengths and/or diameters are provided at a site for a particular job, of which several will not be in active use. The slings that are not in active use may be stored in a storage facility.

From Chinese utility model CN 202412255 U a three-dimensional storage rack for storing slings is known. The storage rack comprises a box body that is open at the top and to which one or more partition plates are fixed which divide the box body into storage cabinets. Groups of hooks are fixed to the box body and the one or more partition plates, so that one or more slings can hang from each group of hooks. A space between the one or more partition plates matches the shape of the sling, and the length of the hook and the number of hook groups match the type of sling that is hung therefrom. A moveable cover plate can be arranged on top of the box body.

A drawback of this prior art storage rack is that storing and retrieving the slings is quite complex. In particular when multiple slings hang from a hook, it may be necessary to remove a number of slings from a hook before the desired sling can be taken from the hook. It is an object of the present invention to provide a sling storage assembly and method which provide easier access to the stored slings.

Summary of the invention

To this end, according to a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a method for storing a sling in a tubular member in a stack comprising a plurality of substantially horizontally extending tubular members. Here “substantially horizontally” means that the tubular members are arranged in such manner that their main dimension (principal axis) is at an angle of less than 10 degrees, preferably less than 5 degrees, to the horizontal. The term “stack” is used herein to refer to an arrangement of the tubular members wherein the tubular members extend parallel to each other along their principal axes. The tubular members may be placed adjacent to each other in one vertical layer, i.e., in a substantially horizontally extending plane, yet preferably the tubular members are arranged in at least two different vertical layers, preferably at least three different vertical layers.

The sling has a length of at least 6 meters and a diameter of at least 50 millimetres. The sling preferably is a single sling having a length of at least 6 m, though instead it may be formed from two or more slings that are connected at their respective ends to together form a combined sling having a total length of at least 6 m. The diameter of the sling is to be understood as the outer diameter of the sling when under tension and does not include the size of a sleeve or the like that may be provided around the sleeve to protect the sleeve. For instance, the diameter could be measured when one end is held fixed, while a force of 1000 N is applied on the opposite end along the length direction of the sling.

Each tubular member has an elongated shape and has a first opening at a distal end and a second opening at an opposite distal end. At least one of the first and second opening of at least one of the tubular members is adapted for passage of the sling. For instance, if the first opening has a diameter suitable for passage of the sling while the second opening has a diameter that is smaller than the diameter of the sling, then the sling can only be inserted into or retrieved from the first opening. If both the first and second opening have diameters suitable for passage of the sling, then the sling can be inserted through one of these openings, and retrieved from the tubular member through the other of these openings.

The method of the invention comprises storing a sling in a tubular member in the stack by: selecting a tubular member from the stack of tubular members in which to store the sling; and using a traction device to pull the sling into the selected tubular member through the at least one of the first and second opening of the selected tubular member suited for passage of a sling until the sling is substantially completely arranged within the tubular member. Here a sling substantially completely arranged within a tubular member means that at least 95% of the length of the sling is arranged within the tubular member.

By storing each sling individually in a tubular member, each of the slings can easily be accessed from the at least one of the first and second opening that is suited for passage of a sling. The compartmentalized storage allows individual slings to be stored and/or retrieved, without having to move any other slings that are stored in the stack. As the slings are stored substantially horizontally in the tubular members, the total height of the stack can remain relatively small, e.g. less than 5 m or less than 10 m, while one or more of the slings stored may have lengths greater than the height of the stack, e.g. a length of at least 6 m, or even 30 m or more. This allows the stack to be arranged in most industrial buildings with relatively low roofs. When stored the slings are substantially completely enclosed or covered by the tubular members and therefore the storage assembly is also suitable to be used outdoors where it can protect the slings from rain.

In an embodiment, the tubular members are each configured for storing therein a sling having a length up to approximately twice the length of the tubular member. Preferably, the tubular members are between 6 m and 60 m long. A sling can thus be stored in a substantially horizontal position, with at most one fee winding (or bend) in the sling of about 180 degrees within the tubular member. Herein, eyes for connecting the sling to other devices should not be considered as free windings, as the portion of the sling forming the eyes are not intended to be stretched out when the sling is in use.

The slings can be any type of sling, yet the method is particularly suited for light-weight slings having a density of less than 2 gr / cm 3 , e.g. slings made from or comprising synthetic materials such as polyethylene, polyolefin, polyamide, polyester or a mixture thereof. The slings may be fiber ropes provided with a sleeve to protect the fibers, or may be another type of slings.

In an embodiment, the method further comprises drying and/or cleaning the sling prior to said pulling the sling into the selected tubular member, and sealing the first opening and second opening of the selected tubular member. This prevents or at least reduces the chance that the condition of slings deteriorates whilst being in storage. Slings often are brought back wet and/or dirty after use in the field. By drying and/or cleaning the slings before storing them in the stack, the chance of organic growth, e.g., growth of molds or algae, occurring in the slings while the slings are in storage is reduced. Sealing the openings prevents moisture and dirt to enter while the sling is in storage. The sealing is preferably substantially watertight, and may optionally also be substantially air-tight. In a preferred embodiment, a desiccant such as silica gel is added to the interior volume of the selected tubular member before sealing its first and second opening. The desiccant absorbs the moisture in the tubular member and thereby contributes to good storage conditions.

In an embodiment, the transport device is arranged with a first side adjacent to the at least one of the first and second opening suited for passage of the sling of the selected tubular member. The transport device is configured to guide a sling along a conveying surface between the first side and a second side of the transport device. In this embodiment the method may further comprise pulling the sling along the conveying surface and into the selected tubular member.

The transport device may be driven, e.g., by a motor, or undriven, in which latter case the transport device is not powered externally and merely guides the sling as the sling is being pulled by some other device such as the traction device. An undriven transport device may for instance comprise a plurality of rollers, and/or an endless conveyor belt.

The transport device is arranged near the opening suited for passage of a sling of the tubular member to enable a smooth path of transportation of the sling rope into and/or out of the tubular member. This allows for controlled insertion, reduces the risk of damage, and minimizes the amount of force required for pulling the sling into a tubular member. In addition, since the transport device guides the slings along a conveying surface, the transport device also allows the sling to be inspected just prior to the sling being pulled into the tubular member and/or as the sling is pulled out of the tubular member.

In an embodiment the transport device comprises a driven conveyor and the method further comprises placing a leading portion of the sling on the conveying surface of the conveyor; and activating the conveyor to move the sling towards a tubular member of the stack. The friction between the conveying surface of the transport device and the sling may thus be used to pull a remaining portion of the sling, which may be arranged in a transport container or the like, towards the stack. In this manner the amount of force the traction device is required to provide in order to pull the sling into the tubular member is reduced.

According to a second aspect, the invention provides a method for retrieving a sling from a tubular member in a stack comprising a plurality of substantially horizontally extending tubular members, wherein the sling has a length of at least 6 meters and a diameter of at least 50 millimetres, wherein each tubular member is elongated and has a first opening at a distal end and a second opening at an opposite distal end, wherein at least one of the first and second opening of at least one of the tubular members is adapted for passage of the sling. The method comprises retrieving a sling from a tubular member in the stack by: selecting, from the stack of tubular members, the tubular member in which a sling to be retrieved is held, the sling being supported by the selected tubular member over at least half the length of the sling; and using a traction device to pull the sling out of the tubular member until at least a leading portion of the sling and a trailing portion of the sling pass through the at least one of the first and second opening of the selected tubular member that is adapted for passage of the sling. This method allows slings that have been stored in the tubular members of the stack to be retrieved individually in a fast manner. Additionally, each sling can be retrieved from its tubular member in the stack without having to contact or disturb any of the other slings that are stored in the stack.

In an embodiment, a transport device is arranged with a first side adjacent to the at least one of the first and second opening of the selected tubular member suited for passage of a sling. The transport device is configured to guide a sling along a conveying surface between the first side and a second side of the transport device. The method of retrieving the sling further comprises: pulling the leading portion of the sling beyond the second side; pulling a trailing portion of the sling beyond the first side; pulling a trailing portion of the sling beyond the second side; and depositing the sling in a transport container.

The transport device may be either driven (e.g. provided with a motor) or undriven (e.g. comprising one or more passive conveyor belts and/or passive rollers). In case the transport device is undriven, it merely guides the sling but does not exert a pulling force on the sling. The transport device is arranged near the opening of the tubular member suited for passage of a sling to enable a smooth path of transportation of the sling rope in and/or out of the tubular member. This allows for controlled extraction, reduces the risk on damage to the sling, and minimizes the forces required for pulling the sling out of the tubular member. In addition, the transport device guides the sling along a conveying surface, which facilitates easy inspection of a sling before it is selected for a particular job.

In an embodiment, the transport device is a driven conveyor and the method further comprises: pulling the leading portion of the sling out of the tubular member onto the conveying surface of the transport device; and activating the transport device to pull the leading portion of the sling beyond the second side and the trailing portion of the sling beyond the first side and the second side. The friction between the conveying surface of the transport device and the sling is used to pull out the remainder of the sling from the tubular member. The traction device may thus be used to grip an intermediate section of the sling and pull on the intermediate section. That is, the leading portion of the sling can be already deposited in the transport container while the trailing portion of the sling is still pulled. The leading portion of the sling may be pulled onto the conveying surface of the transport device using another traction device such as a winch, but may also be done manually.

In a further embodiment, the sling may be guided towards a test bench for certification of the sling rope. In this manner, a sling can conveniently be certified as it is being retrieved, or once it has been retrieved, from the stack.

The embodiments described below are applicable to both the first aspect and the second aspect of the invention.

In an embodiment wherein a transport device as described with reference to the first and/or second aspect is provided, the transport device is a height-adjustable transport device, and the method further comprises adjusting the vertical position of the conveying surface at the first side to a height flush with or just below a lower inner surface of the selected tubular member. In doing so, the vertical position of the transport device is adjusted to enable smooth transportation of the sling rope into or from the tubular member. Providing a smooth path reduces the risk on damages and minimizes the forces required to pull a sling rope out of a tubular member.

In a preferred embodiment, the second side of the transport device is also height- adjustable, and the method further includes adjusting the vertical position of the conveying surface at the second side. Preferably, the heights of the first side and second side can be adjusted independently.

In an embodiment, the method further comprises providing an auxiliary rope, and connecting the sling to the traction device via the auxiliary rope. The use of an auxiliary rope eases the storage and/or retrieval of a sling. The auxiliary rope and sling can be connected in several ways. In a preferred embodiment, the slings comprise eyes at their extremities, and the auxiliary rope is connected to one of the eyes of the slings.

The auxiliary rope may be any conventional type of rope having sufficient tensile strength to pull the weight of a sling. In a preferred embodiment, the traction device is a winch, and the auxiliary rope has a diameter sufficiently small to be wound onto the winch. Preferably, the auxiliary rope has a diameter smaller than 30 mm. The auxiliary rope typically has a diameter that is smaller than the diameter of the sling, e.g. by a factor of 2 or more.

In a further preferred embodiment of the method for storing a sling, an auxiliary rope is already provided within the selected tubular member. The sling to be stored is then provided on one side of a tubular member, and the traction device on the other side of a tubular member. The auxiliary rope is connected to the sling, and while the auxiliary rope is pulled out of the tubular member, the sling is pulled into the tubular member.

In an embodiment of the method for retrieving a sling, an auxiliary rope is connected to the trailing portion of the sling before retrieving the sling from the tubular member. In this manner, as the sling is pulled out of the tubular member, the auxiliary rope is pulled into the tubular member. The auxiliary rope may then be later on for storing a sling in the same tubular member.

In an embodiment the method further comprises providing an air flow through an internal volume of the tubular member, flowing from the first opening to the second opening, or vice versa, for conditioning and/or drying a sling stored in said tubular member. The temperature and other parameters regarding the climate of the internal volume can thus be controlled, and the risk of organisms growing in or on the slings may be reduced.

In an embodiment of a method for storing slings, the sling may be dried and/or cleaned using an air treatment system, before the sling is pulled into one of the tubular members. The air treatment system then further reduces the possibility of organic growth in the sling while the sling is stored. The air treatment system, which is arranged external to the tubular members, may be used to clean and/or dry the sling prior to the sling being inserted into the tubular member through which the air flow may be provided. The same air treatment system may be connected to one or more of the tubular members to provide the air flow therethrough while slings are stored therein.

In an embodiment the temperature and humidity is individually regulated for each tubular member by controlling the air flow through each member individually. Preferably, an amount of hot and dry air is circulated through each tubular member through a first conduit connected to the first opening and a second conduit connected to the second opening to dry the slings. Alternatively, one or more heating elements may be put inside one or more of the tubular members.

The possibility to control the climate conditions in each tubular member individually allows for a more targeted control. Slings that are still wet may for instance be subjected to higher temperatures and/or air flow rates than dry slings. Slings having a larger diameter may need to be subjected to the air treatment system for a longer period of time or at higher temperature and/or air flow rate. It will be understood that there are many conventional air conditioning and heating systems that could be used to achieve the goal of drying a sling in storage.

According to a third aspect of the invention, there is provided an assembly for storing a plurality of slings. The assembly comprises a storage with a plurality of elongated tubular members arranged in a stack, wherein each tubular member extends substantially horizontally and defines an internal volume for individually storing a sling. Each tubular member has a first opening at a distal end and a second opening at an opposite distal end, wherein at least one of the first and second opening is adapted for passage of a sling. Each tubular member has a length of at least 6 m and an inner diameter of at least 200 mm. The storage is provided with a frame which holds the stack of tubular members in a fixed position relative to each other and to the frame.

The assembly further comprises a transport device configured to guide and/or transport a portion of a sling from a first side of a conveying surface of the transport device to and beyond a second side of the conveying surface of the transport device.

By storing each sling individually in a tubular member, each of the slings can easily be accessed from the at least one of the first and second opening that is suited for passage of a sling. The compartmentalized storage allows individual slings to be stored and/or retrieved, without having to move other slings. Moreover, as the slings are stored in the tubular members in the stack in an essentially horizontal manner, the total height of the stack may remain relatively small, e.g. less than 5 m or less than 10 m while the slings stored have lengths of at least 10 m and wherein some of the slings stored may have lengths of 30 m or more. This allows placement of the assembly in most industrial buildings. In addition, the slings are to a large extent enclosed or covered by the tubular members and therefore the storage assembly is suited for placement both indoors and outdoors in the open air.

The inner diameter of a cylindrical tubular member is the diameter of the cylinder’s circular cross-sectional opening. In an embodiment wherein the tubular members have a rectangular cross- sectional opening, each side of the rectangular cross-sectional opening has a length between 200 mm and 900 mm. The inner diameter is then defined as the side having minimum length as the minimum length of the rectangle defines the maximum diameter of a circle inscribed in the cross- sectional shape of the tubular member. For a tubular member having an arbitrary cross-sectional shape, the inner diameter is defined as the maximum diameter of a circle inscribed in the shape of the cross-section. Some openings may be suited for larger slings than other openings, i.e. the diameters of openings for passage of a sling may differ within the stack.

In an embodiment, both the first and second opening of the tubular members are adapted for passage of a sling. This allows a sling to be inserted and/or extracted through either opening of the tubular member. In an embodiment, the transport device is a height-adjustable driven conveyor, wherein at least a first side of the conveyor is height-adjustable. In this manner, the height of said first side may be adjusted in such a manner that the first side is arranged at or just below the height of a lower surface of a selected tubular member. In a preferred embodiment, both sides of the conveyor are height-adjustable, and the heights of the first side and second side can be adjusted independently. The second side can thus be adjusted, e.g. to end just above an edge of a container or pallet from which a sling is to be pulled into a tubular member, or into which a sling that is stored in a tubular member is to be placed

In an embodiment, the assembly further comprises a traction device for pulling the sling into or out of a selected tubular member. The same traction device can be used to store and retrieve a sling. Alternatively, a first traction device may be used for storing a sling and a second traction device for retrieving the sling. In a preferred embodiment, the traction device is a winch.

In an embodiment, the assembly further comprises an auxiliary rope provided within at least one of the tubular members, the auxiliary rope having a first portion extending out of the tubular member from the first opening, or being positioned less than 1 meter from the first opening, and the auxiliary rope having a second portion extending out of the tubular member from the second opening, or being positioned less than 1 meter from the second opening.

In an embodiment, the first opening and second opening of each tubular member are configured to receive a sealing element. The assembly further comprises a plurality of sealing elements arranged to substantially seal off the first opening and second opening of at least one of the plurality of tubular members. The sealing elements prevent external influences to affect the conditions within the internal volume of a tubular member.

In an embodiment, the assembly further comprises an air treatment system for controlling the temperature, humidity and/or air flow of air in the internal volume of one or more of the tubular members. The air treatment system is adapted for control the temperature, air flow and/or humidity within the internal volume, allowing a sling to be dried while it is stored. The air treatment system can be a centrally arranged system adapted for controlling the temperature, airflow and/or humidity to be substantially the same in all tubular members. Additionally or alternatively, the air treatment may be adapted for allowing temperature, air flow and/or humidity within each tubular member to be controlled individually. For instance, an air treatment system that is adapted for controlling temperature, air flow and/or humidity in a single tubular member may be selectively attached to any single one of the tubular members in the stack.

In an embodiment, the stack comprises a plurality of layers of tubular members, each layer comprising multiple tubular members and the layers being stacked vertically, wherein one or more tubular members of one of said layers has a different inner diameter that one or more tubular members of another of said layers. Preferably, the tubular members in each layer have substantially a same inner diameter. In an exemplary embodiment, the lowest layer of a stack may comprise tubular members with inner diameters which are larger than the inner diameters of layers at the second or higher layer of the stack.

In an embodiment, the tubular members comprise at least two coaxially arranged tube segments which are seamlessly welded together. Consequent to the seamless welding, both the inner surface as well as the outer surface of the tubular members are smooth. The lack of protrusions extending from the outer surface leads to a stacking wherein the tubular members are supported from below over substantially their entire length, contributing to a larger stability of the stack. The lack of protrusions extending from the inner surface eases storage and retrieval of the slings as the slings cannot get stuck behind a protrusion.

Preferably, several standard industrial tubular components, such as High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) tubes, are seamlessly welded on-site, i.e., at the location where the stack is placed, to form a tubular member of any preferred length. Standard industrial components have relatively low cost. HDPE generally has a density of 940 kg/m 3 or higher.

Preferably, the tubular members are between 6 m and 60 m long. In an embodiment, each tubular member has a length of at least 12 m, at least 18 m, or at least 30 m.

In an embodiment, the tubular members are cylindrical tubes.

In an embodiment, each tubular member has an inner diameter between 200 mm and 900 mm.

In an embodiment, the tubular members have a smooth circumferential outer surface.

According to an embodiment, the frame comprises one or more flat rack containers or double-open sided containers. Such containers are manufactured from steel and typically come in 20 ft and 40 ft sizes. A 20ft container is approximately 5.85 m long, 2.23 m wide, and 2.15 m high. A 40 ft container is approximately 12.05 m long, 2.12 m wide, and 1 .96 m high. Flat rack containers and double-open sided containers are widely available, flexible to use, easy to reuse, and easy to transport. Particularly suitable containers conform to ISO standard ISO 1496-1 :2013.

In a preferred embodiment, the frame comprises a plurality of 20 ft or 40 ft flat rack containers or double-open sided containers placed in an array, wherein at least one of the open sides of the flat rack container or double-open sided container is placed adjacent to the open side of another container.

In embodiments, the frame may comprise at least 5 flatrack or double-open sided containers, at least 10 flatrack or double-open sided containers, or at least 15 flatrack or doubleopen sided containers. Preferably, the selected number of flatrack or double-open sided containers leads to dimensions for the frame that are in correspondence with the dimensions of the stack.

Short description of drawings

The present invention will be discussed in more detail below, with reference to the attached drawings, in which

Fig. 1A schematically shows a perspective view of an embodiment of an assembly according to the invention;

Fig. 1 B schematically shows a side view of the assembly of Fig. 1A;

Figs. 1 C and 1 D show a front view and cross-sectional side view of part of the assembly. Fig. 2A schematically shows a side view of a second embodiment of the assembly.

Fig. 2B shows a detail of the assembly according to Fig. 2A.

Fig. 3 shows a front view of a third, preferred embodiment, of the invention, in which tubular members are stacked in layers of tubular members which have different diameters;

Fig. 4A shows a perspective view of a tubular member sealed with a sealing element.

Fig. 4B shows a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a sealing element.

Fig. 5 schematically shows a top view of part of a storage assembly according to the invention, comprising an air treatment system.

Description of embodiments

Fig. 1A schematically shows a perspective view of an embodiment of an assembly 1 according to the invention. The assembly 1 shows a step of a method for retrieving a sling 2, yet the assembly 1 may also be used to store a sling 2.

The assembly 1 comprises a sling storage 35, comprising a frame 5 holding a stack 4 of elongated tubular members 3 each having a first opening 31 and second opening 32 at distal ends and defining an internal volume 33 to store a sling 2 in. The tubular members 3 extend horizontally within the stack 4, which in the shown embodiment comprises twenty-seven tubular members 3, divided over three different vertical layers. Dependent on several different factors, such as the number of slings 2 to be stored in the assembly 1 , the diameter of the slings 2 to be stored, and the size of the frame 5, the number of layers may vary between one layer up to approximately ten layers. The sling storage 35 is suited for storage of light-weight slings, i.e., slings that have a density of less than 2 gr / cm 3 , preferably less than 1 .2 gr / cm 3 . For example, the slings 2 can be made from or comprising synthetic materials such as polyethylene, polyolefin, polyamide, polyester or a mixture thereof. The diameter of the slings 2 is typically at least 20 mm. A sleeve may be provided around the slings 2 to protect them. The maximum diameter of the slings including a sleeve is determined by the size of the openings 31 , 32 at distal ends of the tubular member 3. The slings 2 typically have a length of at least 10 m and maximum 120 m. However, it will be understood by the skilled person that the dimensions of the tubular members 3 in an assembly 1 may be selected based on the type and size of sling 2 that one wants to store.

The tubular members 3 are cylindrically shaped with smooth cylindrical inner and outer surfaces. The tubular members 3 are approximately 60 metres long, and suited for the compartmentalized storage of the light-weight slings. The tubular members 3 shown are made of a plurality of 25 inch High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) tubes, each having a length of approximately 12 m, an outer diameter of 630 mm, and an inner diameter of approximately 590 mm. The HDPE tubes have been arranged coaxially, and have been seamlessly welded to each other on-site to obtain a length of 60 m. As such, a sling 2 up to a length of 60 m may easily be stored within a tubular member 3. Alternatively, a sling 2 having a maximum diameter of approximately 250 mm, and a length up to 120 m may be stored, wherein the sling 2 is laid double having one 180 degree winding within a tubular member 3.

An advantage of using HDPE tubes for construction of the sling storage 35 is that they are readily available standard industrial components, which are relatively low cost. In addition, standard industrial components may easily be reused for other purposes. It will be understood that the tubular members may be made from different materials, and in addition it will be understood that for the functionality of the assembly 1 it does not matter whether these are standard industrial components or not.

The frame 5, which holds the stack 4 of tubular members 3, comprises a number of 20ft flat rack containers positioned in an array. Each flatrack container is arranged adjacent along its length with at least one other flatrack container. Each of the flat rack containers has a carrying surface 17 to support the tubular members 3 in the lowest layer of the stack 4. Two raised sides 18 hold the sides of the stack 4 and keep the tubular members 3 in a fixed position relative to each other and relative to the frame 5. It will be understood that the number of flat rack containers can be adjusted for an array of flat rack containers to match the length of the tubular members 3. The skilled person will further understand that different types of frames may be used also. Nevertheless, specifically beneficial to using flat rack containers is that they are widely available, are relatively cheap to use, and can be easily reused.

The assembly 1 further comprises a first traction device 6, a second traction device 7, and a conveyor 10 to store and/or retrieve slings 2 from the tubular members 3 in the stack 4. The first traction device 6 and second traction device 7 are both winches, which are here positioned on the ground.

In the shown configuration for retrieving a sling 2, the first traction device 6 is not in use. However, when the assembly 1 is used to store a sling 2, the first traction device 6 can be used as follows. First a tubular member 3 is selected from the stack 4 of tubular members 3 in which to store the sling 2. After that, the traction device 6 is used to pull the sling 2 into the selected tubular member 3 through the second opening 32 until the sling 2 is substantially completely arranged within the tubular member 3. Preferably, an auxiliary rope (not shown) is provided in the selected tubular member 3, which can be connected with a first end to the sling 2 and with a second end to the first traction device 6.

Before being pulled into the selected tubular member 3, the sling 2 may be guided along a guiding or conveying surface 13 of a transport device 10. The guiding or conveying surface 13 is arranged at a position that allows an operator to easily assess the quality and/or state of the sling 2 while the sling 2 is being guided into a tubular member 3.

The transport device 10 in the assembly 1 is a driven conveyor that has a forward drive position as indicated in Fig. 1A. Preferably, the transport device 10 also has a backward drive position that can be used to move the conveying surface 13 in the opposite direction when a sling 2 is inserted into a selected tubular member 3. Though just the conveyor belt 10 on its own generally is not sufficient to insert the sling 2 into a tubular member 3, it may be used to reduce the traction force required by the first traction device 6. The friction between the conveying surface 13 and sling 2 drags the sling 2 along and delivers a traction force sufficient to, in combination with the traction device 6, carry the sling 2 from the transport platform 16 onto the transport device 10. The assembly 1 is shown in Fig. 1A during a step of a method for retrieving a sling.

According to an embodiment of the method for retrieving a sling first a tubular member 3 is selected from the stack 4 of tubular members 3 in which a sling 2 is held. After that, the second traction device 7 is used to pull the sling 2 out of the tubular member 3 until at least a leading portion of the sling 2 has passed through the second opening 32 and is pulled beyond a first side 11 of the transport device 10. The transport device 10 is placed with the first side 11 directly adjacent to the second opening 32 of a selected tubular member 3, and is used to guide and pull the slings 2 further. When a sling 2 is retrieved from the assembly 1, the transport device 10 guides the sling 2 from the first side 11 of the transport device 10 to a second side 12. Near the second side 12 of the transport device 10 a transport platform 16 is provided, where the sling 2 may be deposited after being retrieved from the stack 4 of tubular members 3.

Preferably, an auxiliary rope (not shown) is connected to the trailing portion in such manner that the auxiliary rope is pulled into the tubular member 3 when the sling 2 is pulled out.

In this embodiment, the transport device 10 does not only guide the sling 2, but the transport device 10 is a conveyor belt that also provides a traction force in the direction of the depicted arrow. Once a portion of a sling 2 is arranged on the conveying surface 13 of the conveyor belt 10 and the conveyor belt 10 is turned on, the friction between the conveying surface 13 and sling 2 drags the sling 2 along. The conveyor belt 10 can thereby replace the function of the second traction device 7, or reduce the force required by the second traction device 7 to pull a sling 2. The leading portion of the sling 2 may be positioned on the conveying surface 13 using the second traction device 7 or manually. In other embodiments, the transport device 10 may only have a guiding function.

The conveyor belt 10 guides and/or pulls the slings 2 along the conveying surface 13. The passage of the sling 2 along the conveying surface 13 allows an operator to conveniently inspect the status or quality of the sling 2 before retrieving a sling 2 to use it again.

The conveyor belt 10 has two pairs of legs 14,15 which are height adjustable. This allows adjustment of the conveying surface 13 to a level convenient to the operator for inspection of the slings 2. In addition, the height may be adapted such that the second side 12 of the conveying surface 13 is positioned at a vertical level that is convenient for further processing of the sling 2. In this embodiment this means that the second side 12 of the conveyor belt 10 is positioned on a level just above the transport platform 16, yet in other embodiments, the height may also be adjusted to a level suitable for rolling the sling 2 onto a coil, to a level just above the side wall of a transport container to deposit the sling in, or to the level of a test bed that can be used to certify the sling 2.

Preferably, the traction devices 6,7 and conveyor belt 10 are movable with respect to the frame 5 and are arranged near the frame 5 and tubular members 3 when slings 2 are being stored or retrieved. This allows the frame 5 and tubular members 3 to be placed in the open air, avoiding use of expensive indoor facilities. Due to storing the slings 2 in an essentially horizontal position, the vertical dimensions of the assembly 1 are limited. This is advantageous when the assembly 1 including the sling storage 35 would be placed inside a building. The storage assembly 1 can be placed in most industrial buildings with a conventional ceiling-height.

According to the described embodiments of the methods for storing and retrieving a sling, the slings 2 are both pulled in and out of a selected tubular member 3 through the second opening 32 because the first traction device 6 and second traction device 7 are arranged at opposite ends of the tubular members 3. Alternatively, the transport platform 16 may be moved from one side of the storage 35 to the other such that slings are pulled in through either one of the first opening 31 or second opening 32, and pulled out through the other opening 31 ,32. Consequently, also only one traction device 6 is required for both storing and retrieving a sling.

Fig. 1 B shows a side view of the sling storage assembly of Fig. 1A. The height of the conveyor belt 10 is adjusted to a level that is easily accessible for an operator.

Fig. 1C shows a front view of the frame 5 and stack 4 of the sling storage 35 of Fig. 1A-1 B in more detail. The stack 4 comprises twenty-seven tubular members 3, which are supported from below by the carrying surface 17 of the flat rack container 5 and guided from the side by the sidewalls 18 of the flat rack container. The sidewalls 18 of the flat rack container are collapsible to be supported by and in a position parallel to the carrying surface 17.

In the internal volume 33 of some of the tubular members 3, a sling 2, 2a, 2b, 2c is provided. In one of the tubular members 3, a sling 2c with a single winding is provided. This sling 2c is longer than 60 m, i.e. , longer than the length of a tubular member 3, and therefore wound once over 180 degrees so that it may still be stored in the assembly 1 . In some of the tubular members 3, auxiliary ropes 8 are provided. These auxiliary ropes 8 are present in those tubular members 3 in which temporarily no sling 2 is stored. The auxiliary ropes 8 can be used to pull slings 2 in and/or out of storage. They typically have a smaller diameter than the slings 2, e.g., a diameter of 50 mm, and a much lower tensile strength. The auxiliary ropes 8 can be used to pull a sling 2 into a tubular member 3 and therefore an auxiliary rope 8 only needs to have sufficient tensile strength to pull the weight of a sling 2. Here the auxiliary ropes 8 have a diameter of 20 mm and are made of polypropylene.

Each of the auxiliary ropes 8 has a length of at least the length of its corresponding tubular member 3. In order to store a sling 2 in the assembly 1 , a tubular member 3 wherein an auxiliary rope 8 is provided is selected. A first end of the auxiliary rope 8 is connected to one of the traction devices 6,7, and the other end of the auxiliary rope 8 is connected to the sling 2. The traction device 6,7 is activated to pull the sling 2 into the selected tubular member 3 until the sling 2 is substantially completely arranged within the tubular member 3. Optionally, the auxiliary rope 8 is then rolled onto a coil of the traction device 6,7.

Fig. 1 D shows a cross-sectional side view of the frame 5 and stack 4 along plane ID-ID as indicated in Fig. 1C. The slings 2a,b,c inside the tubular members 3 are indicated schematically, and are not cut along the cross-section for reasons of clarity.

The shown slings 2a,b,c are positioned in the respective tubular members 3 and supported by the inner wall of these tubular members 3. This inner wall is substantially smooth, which eases the storage and retrieval of the slings 2a,b,c. When the inner wall would have ridges or other protrusions of the inner wall, part of a sling 2 could get stuck behind when pulling a sling 2 through a tubular member 3. Also the circumferential outer surface of the tubular members 3 is smooth. Consequently, the tubular members 3 are supported along substantially their entire length by the carrying surface 17, or by the tubular members 3 of a level below. The smooth circumferential outer surface of each tubular member 3 improves the stability of the stack 4.

In the embodiment shown, the slings 2a,b,c have a first eye 22a, b,c at a first extremity, and a second eye 23a, b,c at a second extremity of the sling 2a,b,c. These eyes 22a, b,c, 23a, b,c make the slings 2a,b,c easily connectable to the auxiliary ropes 8 and/or traction devices 6, 7. Typically, a sling 2a,b,c will be pulled by one of its eyes 22a, b,c, 23a, b,c, but in alternative embodiments the traction device 6,7 may also engage with an intermediate section of the rope. Also when a sling 2c is stored in a double laid or winded position, as is the case for sling 2c, it can be pulled from an intermediate section of the sling2c. The sling 2c may then for instance be pulled by connecting the traction device 6,7 to its winding point 24.

Fig. 2A shows a side view of another embodiment of an assembly 201 according to the invention. Fig. 2B shows a detail of Fig. 2A. Features in the assembly that have already been described above with reference to the first assembly embodiment (and in particular figs. 1A-1 D) may also be present in the assembly 201 shown in Fig. 2, and will not all be discussed here again. For the discussion with reference to Fig. 2, like features are designated with similar reference numerals preceded by 200, to distinguish the embodiments.

The assembly 201 includes a storage 235, which includes a frame 205 holding tubular members (not shown), said tubular members, and an array of storage containers 225. The frame 205, also in this embodiment consisting of 20ft flat rack containers, is positioned on top of the array of storage containers 225. The storage container 225 are standard 20ft shipping containers, which have approximately the same size as the 20ft flatrack containers.

The storage containers 225 provide a dry and safe space for the storage of one or more of the traction devices 206, 207, auxiliary ropes, or other equipment. Each storage container 225 has a double set of doors 226 that provides access into the storage containers 225 and may be used to easily close and/or lock the storage containers 225. The assembly 201 has a transport device 210, which is shown in Fig. 2B. The transport device 210 is a driven conveyor belt having two adjustable rods 244, 245 whose length can be adjusted to vary the height of the transport device 210 to provide a smooth pathway for slings 202 to be transported in and out of the tubular members 203. The first adjustable rod 244 may be adapted to height flush the conveying surface 213 at the first side 211 with the lower level of the selected tubular member. The second adjustable rod 245 may be adjusted so that the conveying surface at the second side 212 is positioned higher than the top of a transport container 216.

Fig. 3 shows an alternative arrangement of tubular members 303 in a frame 305 as may be used in the invention. According to this alternative arrangement, the storage 335 comprises two shelves 320, which separate the different vertical layers of the stack 304 horizontally. The tubular members 303 in the different vertical layers have different sizes. The tubular members 303 on the lowest layer are manufactured of a number of welded HDPE tube segments having an outer diameter of 900 mm, and an inner diameter of 830 mm. The tubular members 303 positioned in the second and third layer of the stack 4 are made of HDPE tube segments having an outer diameter of 630 mm, and in inner diameter of 570 mm. It will be understood that many different configurations of tubular members 303 are possible, and that the arrangement by no means should considered to be limited to the arrangements shown. An arrangement may include tubular members having two different sizes, three different sizes, or more. The arrangement is also not limited to use of tubular members with one cross-sectional shape only. As an example, the lower layer may comprise tubular members with a rectangular cross-section, while the higher layers may accommodate tubular members with a circular cross-section. In addition, in an alternative embodiment the shelves 320 may also be absent and the tubular members find a packing in the stack themselves.

Fig. 4A shows a tubular member 403 and a sealing element 434 that can be used to close an opening 431 of the tubular member 403. This tubular member 403 may be part of the stack of tubular members according to any of the previous embodiments.

Advantageous to sealing a tubular member 403 is that the conditions during storage may be better controlled. This prevents that the quality of a sling deteriorates in storage. According to an embodiment of the method for storing slings, the slings may be cleaned and dried before being stored in the tubular members 403. Such cleaning and drying is easily facilitated by positioning a cleaning and/or drying apparatus along the pulling trajectory of a sling. By closing or sealing the tubular members 403 after the slings have been cleaned and/or dried, the slings remain clean and are not affected by external influences. In preferred embodiments of the method, a desiccant is added to each compartment before closing or sealing it.

Fig. 4B shows an alternative embodiment of a sealing element 437, wherein the sealing element comprises a connector 436, adapted for connecting an air treatment system to it.

Fig. 5 shows a schematic lay-out of an embodiment of the storage 535 that is connected to a central air treatment system 509. The air treatment system 509 is used to control the temperature and humidity of each compartment. Warm and dry air is blown through a first conduit 526 and through the first opening 531 of a tubular member 503. A suction pressure is created by the air treatment system 509 on the other side of the tubular member 503, forcing the warm and dry air to pass through the tubular member 503 and through a second conduit 527 back to the air treatment system 509. The first conduit 526 and second conduit 527 can be connected to the internal volume of a tubular member 503, for instance through the sealing element 437 with connector 436 as shown in Fig. 4B. In this embodiment, a central air treatment system 509 is applied, but it should be understood that an air treatment system 509 may also be arranged for each tubular member 503 individually. In addition, one or more tubular members 503 may be subjected to an air treatment both simultaneously as well as subsequently. The skilled person will understand that the type of air treatment system 509 may be adjusted to the specific needs, such as indoor or outdoor use of the device, or the purpose for using the device. The required power of the air treatment system 509 may for instance depend on whether the system is used to dry wet slings, or only to keep dry slings dry, or how wet each sling is when it is first inserted.

In summary, the present invention provides an assembly and a method for storing and/or retrieving a sling from an assembly. The assembly comprises a storage with a plurality of elongated tubular members having a length of at least 6 m each arranged in a substantially horizontal position. Each tubular member defines an internal volume between a first and second opening at opposite distal ends suited for the storage of an individual sling. A frame holds the tubular members in a stack in a fixed position relative to each other and to the frame. Preferably, at least one traction device is included for storing and/or retrieving a sling from a selected tubular member in the storage. The present invention has been described above with reference to a number of exemplary embodiments as shown in the drawings. Modifications and alternative implementations of some parts or elements are possible, and are included in the scope of protection as defined in the appended claims.