Working in conjunction with firefighters, Trelleborg has developed the highest-pressure lifting bag on the market, which is also more usable and easier to handle.
Lifting bags are lightweight, portable devices that can be maneuvered into tight spaces and, through the use of air pressure, spread, fix, push or lift obstacles. In rescue situations, when every second counts, they can be the difference between life and death.
“The lifting bag has become a vital tool for firefighters worldwide,” says Dr. Marko Bratina, R&D manager at the Trelleborg facility in Kranj, Slovenia, the development and manufacturing home of Trelleborg’s lifting bags. “Reliability and power are key to first responders being faster and more efficient in any rescue scenario.”
The focus for the development of the recently launched Nova was to create a lifting bag equal in size to a standard 8-bar lifting bag, but with increased pressure capability.
“The higher the operating pressure of the lifting bag, the more the lifting capacity,” Bratina explains. “For the Nova, incredibly, that’s up to 100 tonnes. This contributes to significantly shortened rescue times and a greatly increased chance of survival for an injured person.”
But operational functionality was not the only criterion for the Nova. Having an inside track on the things that firefighters require from a lifting bag has been a crucial consideration in the bag’s ergonomic design. The R&D team includes Trelleborg employees Rok Justin, who is a volunteer firefighter with the fire service in Begunje, and Marko Kešnar, volunteer firefighter with the fire service Cerklje, in the Gorenjska region of Slovenia. They and colleagues from the professional fire brigade GARS Kranj were instrumental in revolutionizing the usability of the lifting bag.
“Real-life rescue situations are nothing like lab environments, the usual place for development of products,” says Justin. “There may be smoke, rubble, dirt, running water, spillages of oil or fuel, and fire. People at the scene may be distressed and panicking. For us as firefighters, the adrenaline is pumping, and we know we must work as rapidly and as effectively as possible to save lives. Every firefighter will tell you that people are not rocks. The emotional factor in rescue situations will bring a significant difference to the picture.”
“Equipment needs to be straightforward to use,” he continues. “Dials must be visible even when it’s dark and hard to see. It’s vital that controls are responsive and handles easy to grip, even in heavy fireproof gloves that may be wet or greasy. It’s all about safety, trust in equipment and speed. It’s all about accuracy. Truly, every second can count.”
Creating Nova with firefighters out of the R&D laboratory in the real world of firefighting means that Nova answers the needs of first responders, such as Justin and his fellow crew members.
“We focused on making sure that the controller was right for the job,” Bratina says. “Robustness was key, from its case to the unit itself. There are handles on both sides of the controller and a neck strap, making it secure to use even when surfaces are moving or difficult to stand upon. Couplings are far enough apart to allow connection by users in protective gloves. Gauges are super visible and easy to read in the dark, while levers are flat for more precise setting.
“We even considered making the lifting bag more accurate to use with reflective markings,” he says, “positioning the inflation connector to prevent damage and adding an integrated carrying handle. The profiled surface of the bag makes it nonslip for better grip and stability, as well as including a lifting-height marking to rapidly assess maximum lift before putting the bag to work.”
And what of future developments?
“There are always new challenges,” Bratina says, “and we are always on the lookout for opportunities to develop new products. Rubber inflatable products for saving and protecting lives and property will never stop intriguing our developers. At the end of the day our mission is ultimately to save lives and protect property.”