National Indoor Arena

The National Indoor Arena (NIA) in the centre of Birmingham has long been rightfully proud of it rigging capabilities and achievements.  Using its unique combination of a flown rigging grid and runway beams that allow that grid to be moved from one end of the arena to the other the NIA has always offered unparalleled flexibility in meeting its client’s rigging requirements.

 

The time had come, however, for an overhaul of both the method of working with the grid and the equipment that controls it.  The direct control hoists were coming to the end of their working lives, the existing motor controller was too basic given the increased health and safety concerns that have emerged in the last few years and the system used for tracking the grid along its beams was also starting to show its age.  A new system was envisaged that would use chain hoists fitted with encoders for accurate positioning and fault detection and load cells at every hoist attachment point ensuring immediate detection of either overload or underload situations.

Kinesys won the contract, through the main contractor G. Bridgehouse, to completely refit the control system for the rigging grid.  The first stage involved removing all the previous cabling and installing a wire basket tray system throughout the grid.  New cabling for chain hoist power, control and encoder feedback were then installed into these trays, along with cabling for the beam trolleys and for the load-cell system.

A unique requirement of the contract was that all the control equipment, with the exception of the control computer, must be permanently mounted inside the flown grid.  Three custom flying racks were constructed each capable of holding up to 11U of 19” rack equipment and each able to fit within the 500 millimetre square internal dimensions of the truss.  Custom support brackets with multiple attachment points allowed the racks to be installed around the integral bracing pattern of the truss.  A 24 channel motor, control and encoder patch bay completed the equipment list for the grid.  New screened cabling was installed at roof level to link the beam trolley pairs together which was then linked, via cable reelers, to the custom drive rack.  Screened cable, multiple connections and over 50 special EMC glands ensured absolute compliance with electrical noise regulations for all six beam trolley motors, the furthest of which was over 70 metres and 7 connections away from its drive.

Ease of use and redundancy was at the top of the list of requirements for the user controls.  The marriage of advanced features and safety monitoring combined with its use within a potentially harsh environment resulted in a laptop based computer system custom mounted in a indestructible ‘Peli’ case.  Included in the case, along with the computer, was a control panel containing all the main controls available as large illuminated buttons and multiple indicators showing the status of different sections of the system.  Redundancy was provided via an ‘intelligent’ pendant offering basic up and down controls and a remote ‘GO’ button for manual running from the floor.

National Indoor Arena, Birmingham – Rigging Grid Control System Installation Credits
Installation Date: July/August 2004
Venue: National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
Main Client: National Indoor Arena / Birmingham City Council
Contracting Client: G. Bridgehouse & Co.
Venue Liaison: Paul Rowlands

Chain Hoists (x19)
Liftket Motor
Incremental Encoder, 100 pulse/revolution
Max Lifting Capacity: 2000kg
Max Speed: 5 metres/minute

Beam Trolleys (x6)
0.37kW 3-phase induction motor
Inverter controlled
Variable speed
Maximum Weight: 4000kg

Control
Laptop PC runing Windows XP Professional and Vector Software with graphical additions
Custom Pendant for beam trolley control
24 way ‘intelligent’ pendant for emergency running
Fully integrated emergency stop system
Custom power distribution
Ethernet communications link

 

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