Hoffend , manufacturer of the Vortek® automated rigging system, today announced that all Vortek units now have the ability to report the under-load and overload condition on the batten to within 5lbs. and display the condition on either a pendant system or on the Vortek Automation Center (VAC™) system.

Knowledge of the actual weight on each batten will provide the system operator with the ability to calculate the total weight of scenery, drapes, lights, and other equipment hanging above the stage at any given time. This feature can alert the operator to the potential overload condition of the entire roof structure.

Each Vortek hoist module (Pendent or VAC version) incorporates load profiling to accomplish both overload and under-load detection. Mechanical load cell devices are located onboard each Vortek hoist module. Load profiling devices permit Pendant units or VAC units to detect weight imbalances between pre-setup or "profiled" loads and "actual" system applied loads. Actual batten, scenery, and lighting loads are displayed on VAC’s front-end screens.

This feature is designed to be safer than simple total capacity overload or line contact overload. Line-shaft and other antiquated custom winches may claim total "maximum overload" or "minimum under-load" winch features. However, these systems are designed to protect the motor and drive train, not life or property. For example, breakaway mechanical contactors found in many custom winch systems only recognize a total hoist capacity violation condition. Breakaway contactors do not introduce acceptable levels of accident prevention. Neither approach weighs, nor speed-profiles, the load and neither actually prevents dangerous situations from occurring.

Vortek features load profiling for this level of protection of life and property. If an imbalance (under-load or overload) condition occurs outside of 5lbs. of either excessive or insufficient weight, the Vortek hoist will immediately e-stop.

Load profiling through the Vortek hoist module’s internal mechanical load cells has been developed to prevent a Vortek hoist module from accidentally picking up additional scenery and lighting or from tearing a stage drape in the up-move direction. This technology also prevents a Vortek hoist module from accidentally driving a heavy scenic or lighting element into the floor, potentially damaging equipment–or worse, crushing a person below in a down move direction.

The VAC also provides transparent or seamless recovery–the ability to continue to run the show in the event of a major hardware failure, and with very little effort. Even in an emergency situation, in which there is sudden damage to the user interface or front end, the VAC software can be run from a standard, off-the-shelf Pentium-class laptop, which delivers full back-up support to the VAC’s functionality.

This is an important benefit of the VAC when compared to competitive systems currently in use. Other systems do not deliver transparent or immediate recovery. Most of these systems operate from a "Central Brain," which speaks to non-intelligent "slave drives." If the Central Brain or main console fails, the entire system is unusable. The entire software program in VAC is fully embedded into the computer–so only the VAC program runs on the VAC.