Design Challenge - October 2015

Air Curtain System

Javier Gutiérrez Casal Most people will be familiar with the air curtain systems that are installed at the entrances of supermarkets and department stores. In this Design Challenge, I looked at incorporating a similar system in the cabin of a mini excavator to improve the working conditions of the operator. This features an air-generating device that enables a dual-airflow system – providing an internal airflow system in addition to the external airflow system that creates the air curtains.

The external air system consists of a centrifugal fan that drives the air through ducts that are part of the cab roof structure. The air is distributed around the rear, sides and front of the cab, which also prevents the windshield from becoming dirty. Thanks to this airflow, the temperature of the cab is reduced during hot conditions, while also preventing entry of dust and rain into the cabin. The windshield further increases operator protection from flying particles and dust.

The internal air system comprises an axial fan that will blow the air into the area around the driver’s seat, to improve worker comfort on the hottest days. In winter, it could incorporate an air heater, making the working day more enjoyable.

The automotive sector is beginning to make the use of composite materials more commonplace and eventually this will also filter through to the development of industrial machinery. So another measure that has been applied on this less-cab machine has been the use of composite materials in the construction of the cabin, which reduces weight, inertia and the energy consumed. In this case, the cabin is constructed using tubes and carbon fiber panels. With this type of structure, the center of gravity is lowered, while increasing the rigidity of the cabin, stability and safety. Finally, to avoid the feeling of a ‘burning back’ after spending a long period in the operator’s seat, the seatback is divided into two halves, which improves ventilation and delays the onset of fatigue.

Click here to see the Air Curtain in action

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Javier Gutiérrez Casal

A freelance mechanical design engineer based in Pontevedra, Spain, Javier has worked for many companies specialized in the development of industrial equipment






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