Marlin Steel has patented a new product line that aims to do away with the clunky traditional method of moving aircraft engines around MRO facilities on cheap wooden pallets. The company’s Circular Floats have been engineered to protect engines and their associated components from damage that can occur during maintenance facility transport while also improving employee safety.
According to Drew Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel Wire Products, the idea for the Circular Floats came about through observation of how MRO facilities were moving engines while working with clients on basket products for engine vanes and fan blades. Greenblatt says he observed facilities where engines were not only being transported on cheap wooden pallets that could cause scratches or abrasions, but were also being stacked on top of each other, risking damage from metal-on-metal contact in a precarious “Leaning Tower of Pisa” situation.
Although wooden pallets themselves are cheap, Greenblatt says they can end up costing an MRO significantly in both time and expenses. If an engine suffers scratches or damage during its transport in a maintenance facility, it needs to be inspected again and could end up needing to be quarantined for a prolonged period of time to see if a crack appears, which slows down maintenance timelines.
To prevent these risks, Marlin Steel’s Circular Floats were designed with protection on the rim and base. They feature a circular perimeter wall of sheet metal, a neoprene rim and an expanded metal base so debris, dirt, metal shavings and fasteners cannot rest on it and potentially cause scratches or abrasions. The entire product is coated in truck bed liner to prevent metal-on-metal contact and it features adjustable ratchet straps to hold engines in place securely and prevent them from toppling over.
“The vision is that [MROs] can safely float around their high value components so that they do not get marred in transit and they’re protected,” says Greenblatt. “We’re trying to provide kid gloves to very expensive, delicate, high-precision components so they don’t mar or get out of spec, so the FAA is pleased and the clients are safe.”
The Circular Floats are forklift and pallet jack friendly, but the company is also offering a Marlin Pusher to move the Floats around more easily. The Floats themselves were designed with an ergonomic 30 lb. pull ratio, which reduces the chances of an employee suffering strain injuries while moving heavy engines around.
The product can hold up to 600 lb. and Marlin Steel is offering 36-in., 48-in. and 60-in. versions. Greenblatt says the company’s patent covers not only circularly shaped Floats, but other shapes to accommodate different component types such as engine cowls. The Circular Float is patented in the U.S. and Europe, and Marlin Steel is actively pursuing patents in other countries.
According to Greenblatt, the product has been received extremely well since its launch last year and multiple customers are now using it in large MRO facilities—including one company to which Marlin Steel is shipping 100 units a day.
Greenblatt says the company is working on new products that will function as “brothers” to the Circular Float, which it plans to unveil soon. Marlin Steel is not revealing specific pricing information for the Circular Float, but says it enables enhanced utilization and more profits for customers.