Tractor with Anchor Winch

Safety On The Ski Slopes . . .

When we think of safety on the ski slopes, it is not usually tractors or bright, warm summer days that come to mind.  Yet, that is the topic of this cool engineering case study.

One of our big projects this year is just that.  This tractor clears mountain ski slopes to prepare them for all the fun in the snow all winter.  With the tracks, it can climb slopes steeper than it can stay up-right on.  That is, of course, a big problem when the tractor goes up, then tumbles down the mountain.

The owner told me another tractor did a tumble the year before, or maybe a couple years before.  Anyway, the investment is significant, and the risk seriously affects safety on the slopes.

Starting With Questions

So, how do you make a tractor stick to a mountain side?  How do you allow workers full access to the front of the vehicle, yet constrain it from ever tumbling?

Those are just some of the higher level questions we had to find answers for.  Interesting, this tractor is completely remote control.  There is not a "drivers seat" or even a place get onto the machine.  That makes it nice from a safety perspective so that workers do not have to be "on" the machine.

How fast does this thing drive?  Can we get a tether that will keep up?

Design In Safety

These photos don't give justice in showing the steep slopes.  However, for safety, this tractor was rigged with a special custom machine addition that includes a winch system to secure it to the mountain while operating on steep slopes.  If you look, you will notice there is not room in the front (uphill side) to mount winches.  That area is needed for worker access, which means it is time to get creative.

Yes, the winches are at the rear, effectively on the back bumper, then cable guides are at the front so the cables can feed from the front.  This makes it stable.  The extra guided cable length also makes it feed cable onto the winches in a very uniform fashion.  With this, it can now operate on very steep ski runs without the risk of tumbling back to the bottom.  A big improvement for safety on the summer slopes.

In the photos below, you can see the gray attachments at the back, and the cable system incorporated.  2 big, wireless control winches are in the box along with 3 big batteries.  That makes all the operations remote control.  While the engine alternator does feed and charge the batteries, they are there to handle the high operating currents of both winches at once.

Extras for Safety

The wedge shaped pieces sticking up, also attached to the rear, are ramps to roll the tractor back on to, so it can chip, even when on a very steep slope.  Normally, the chipper operation limit is 30 degrees incline, but with these ramps, the tractor can now function on a 45 degree slope.

The blue straps hold the ramps to the chassis so they are easy to access, remove, and put back.

These pictures show creativity to solve problems.  They also show design work from engineering experience, and one-off parts (effectively prototype parts) designed for success.  Of course, we purchase what we can for cost and reliability, yet some components are created by CNC machining, others are laser cut, and still others fabricated.

Tractor Climbing Safety

This added portion of the machine was both designed and built at Synthesis.  We discussed many possible options, found creativity as our friend, then did all the CAD design.  Next, we ordered parts, fabricated things, and built the safety addon.  Finally, we went to the site and installed it, and tested it.

The essence of a custom machine - or in this case, adding custom safety equipment onto an existing machine.  Really a cool project.

Custom Machine Projects

Just one more interesting and diverse engineering project.  That is what we do at Synthesis.  We are always happy to be part of custom machines that make the world better in some small way.

Custom machines like this are not uncommon at Synthesis - well, of course, each is unique.  But, building custom machines of all sorts and sizes, configurations and functionality is not uncommon.  We build very small machines as well as monsters.  We build them as prototypes for production, as well as one-off machines, like this one, to fill a specific function.

This tractor is a medium size custom machine for us.  We did not build the tractor, only modified it.  For an example of something much more complex, check out the SIM Demonstration Video.  Is there a machine we can design and build for you?

For more information about potentially working on your own project, please read our article on getting an Engineering Quote.  Let us know if we can help.

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