Sightseeing at the Great Wall of China – item supplies framework for cutting-edge cable railway

Carriages made of aluminium profiles

item is everywhere – besides being widely used in industrial environments, the Solingen-based company’s aluminium profiles are making their way into the world of leisure, too. Josef Wiegand GmbH & Co. KG., for instance, uses item components in its state-of-the-art transport and adventure railway, Wie-Li®, which features a framework comprising curved and straight profiles. Wiegand has since introduced Wie-Li® at the Great Wall of China, where it transports up to 500 passengers each hour, covering a height difference of 113 metres. The aesthetically pleasing and high-quality construction meets every demand placed on it – it is stable, lightweight and corrosion resistant. In short, users can enjoy a safe and fun ride with item.

Headquartered in Rasdorf in the German state of Hesse, Josef Wiegand GmbH & Co. KG is a global market leader in the summer toboggan run sector. Founded by Josef Wiegand in 1963, the company initially specialised in ski lifts. It launched its first summer toboggan run in 1975, on the Wasserkuppe in the Rhön Mountains, after hitting on the idea of using the lifts in the summer months, too. The family-run company now employs 450 workers and operates across the globe, supplying summer toboggan runs, dry slides, water slides and transport systems. The toboggan run specialist has also used item components to build a framework for a cable railway comprising several carriages – the transport and adventure railway Wie-Li®. “We have been working with item for many years, and the company’s products are used in many of the assistance systems in our solutions. It was therefore clear we were going to work with item for our latest cable railway project as well,” explains the departmental manager responsible at Wiegand. 

Using profiles for a major project in China

Work is currently under way to build a 1155-metre-long Wie-Li® system in China’s Shui Chang Cheng resort. Two cables pull the new passenger cable car system located at the Great Wall of China up the mountain in two lift sections, covering a height difference of 113 metres and travelling  290 metres. A total of 21 carriages, each holding six people, can transport 500 passengers every hour. The framework of the carriages consists of lightweight variants of Line 8 aluminium profiles combined with Mitre-Fastening Sets that can connect together the profiles at any angle from 30° to 90°. Low-flammability aluminium sandwich panels and transparent polycarbonate panel elements, which are extremely weather-proof and resistant to impacts, are located into the grooves on the aluminium profiles. Matching Lip Seals secure the panel elements in the grooves, producing smooth, unbroken exterior surfaces. The front and back of each carriage are made of transparent polycarbonate panels, while the sides are open from a height of one metre. On one side, there is a sliding door that runs on guides based on C-Rail Systems from item. The roofs of the individual carriages can be opened and closed, depending on the weather. “The folding roof, like components from other manufacturers, can be easily integrated into the item system via grooves and T-slot nuts,” says Wiegand’s project manager. “A lot of components can be screwed onto the frame with a great deal of flexibility. You can attach the frame perfectly to the stainless steel chassis, for example.” 

Even curved profiles offer sufficient stability

For aesthetic reasons, Wiegand opted for a frame made of curved aluminium profiles instead of a rectangular shape, which – it has to be said – posed a particular challenge for item. “Initially, we were unsure whether using curved profiles with Mitre Fasteners would provide enough stability,” says the project manager. Whilst right-angled connections ensure clamping force is optimally applied and profiles are perfectly aligned to each other, connections at other angles have a much lower load-bearing capacity. The mitre cuts have to be absolutely precise, too. Chinese state authorities conducted a comprehensive and very detailed review before approving the system. “The basis of our calculations and our structural designs were subject to intense scrutiny,” the project manager points out. The review revealed that the item construction was sufficiently stable and that the carriages met all security and personal safety requirements.

Advantages over welded stainless steel systems

Aluminium profiles offer significant advantages compared to welded steel systems. They are resistant to corrosion, lightweight and nevertheless stable. The smooth, anodized surfaces don’t require any secondary treatment and create an attractive high-quality product. In contrast, the use of steel components often results in visible welds that make it impossible to achieve smooth surfaces. The steel also has to be painted or treated to protect it against corrosion. And while undesirable internal stresses and therefore distortion can pose problems on welded structures, the screw fixings on aluminium profiles give rise to precise structures and help to effectively compensate for tolerances. Moreover, the item structures can be easily combined with other components and quickly modified thanks to the Line 8 groove.

Consistent quality – even with large quantities

Although Wiegand had manufactured carriages in house for a previous project, it opted to outsource certain production stages this time round and only take care of final assembly. “Curving, drilling and mitring the individual profiles is a relatively complex process. When manufacturing such a large number of carriages, we were no longer able to guarantee that every one of them could be reproduced with perfect precision,” the project manager reports. Consequently, item now delivers some of the aluminium profiles to a profile bending technology specialist that curves and mitres them. “We are coordinating all the processes perfectly and thus ensuring the carriages satisfy a consistently high quality standard,” says the project manager. The straight profiles are prepared by item so that staff at Wiegand only need to screw them together. 

Successful collaboration leads to follow-up orders

Components are being delivered to Wiegand in stages, with the summer toboggan specialist first receiving the components for ten carriages so they can be completed one by one. Four carriages will then be loaded onto a container and transported to China by sea. “This project sequence is a big challenge for us and our partners, and not just in terms of logistics. After all, the profiles also need to keep to all tolerances as standard and fit together perfectly,” explains the project manager, concluding: “Everyone involved has worked together really well and we are extremely pleased with the outcome.” The next project is already in the starting blocks, with a further 40 carriages of the same design to be produced, once again for China. This next Wie-Li® system is to be 900 metres in length and cover a height difference of 180 metres as it carries visitors to the sacred Huà Shān mountain. item is also supplying the entire framework for these carriages, too. The cost of materials for both projects comes in at a total of 190,000 euros. There are also plans for yet another project, also involving 40 carriages. “The Wie-Li® system is on track for success,” highlights the project manager. “We are certain that, together with our partner item, we will complete this project successfully, too.”

Length: 7,898 characters including spaces

Date: 7 November 2018

Photos: item AB Wiegand image 1

item AB Wiegand image 2

item AB Wiegand image 3

item AB Wiegand image 4

Caption 1 +2: Wiegand used item components to build the Wie-Li® transport and adventure railway.

Caption 3:  Wie-Li® covers a height difference of 113 metres at the Great Wall of China.

Caption 4:  The cable railway comprises 21 carriages that can carry up to 500 passengers per hour.

About item 

item Industrietechnik GmbH is a global market leader in building kit systems for industrial applications and employs around 500 members of staff. It has been designing and marketing construction solutions for machinery, fixtures and plants since 1976. The product portfolio comprises more than 3,500 high-quality components designed for use in machine bases, work benches, automation solutions and lean production applications. Thanks to the inclusion of transport solutions and dynamic elements, the company’s products can cover virtually all working processes, from manual production to automated manufacturing. The highly skilled employees work day-in, day-out to develop innovative solutions for state-of-the-art mechanical engineering and also offer exceptional consulting services. item is headquartered in Solingen, Germany. Eleven branches and support centres ensure the company is always close to customers in Germany. The group has wholly owned subsidiaries in the USA, China, Mexico, Italy, Poland and Switzerland.

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