08/05/2018 by Kvaser

Cutting edge wireless solution supports pipe handling innovation


LaValley Industries counts on CSM MiniModules, DiagRA X Data Acquisition software, plus a Kvaser Blackbird CAN interface for real-world testing and development of their pipe handling attachments for excavators.

When it comes to pipe handling, drill pipe handling, and weld positioning, LaValley Industries knows all there is to know. With a portfolio of pipe handling and positioning attachments that are capable of lifting and maneuvering the most unwieldy of loads, the company prides itself on its ability to safely and quickly make, break and move pipe. It’s latest product, the TONGHAND® Exit Side Wrench, is an excavator attachment that allows a single operator to perform exit side horizontal directional drilling operations with precision from the safety of the cab.

LaValley now uses a combination of CSM MiniModules, DiagRA X Data Acquisition software and the Kvaser Blackbird to test its pipe handling attachments. As LaValley’s excavator attachments are designed to fit on the arm of a variety of excavator makes and models, it is imperative to test them under real load conditions, across a range of environmental conditions and with different excavator types. It’s a task that CSM’s Joe Wildenberg knows well, having worked previously in the development department for Manitowoc Cranes, one of the world’s largest providers of lifting equipment for the construction industry.


Comments Wildenberg, who is now accounts manager at CSM Products, Inc.: “LaValley Industries has a reputation as an innovator, so I approached them with a data monitoring solution that I knew could help their development team for testing the application, since it was similar to an application that we had at Manitowoc Cranes. At Manitowoc, we used CSM ADMM and THMM MiniModules to collect torque, speed, pressure, and temperature data on the Lower Works and Crawlers. These were wirelessly connected to a laptop near the operator’s cab using Kvaser’s BlackBird high performance wireless link for CAN communication. Wireless CAN communication is essential in this situation, as without it, the cables would be constantly wrapping around the swiveling bearing. LaValley Industries’ application is also similar to Manitowoc Cranes’ because of the remote location of the measurement points and the swivel bearing within the TONGHAND attachment, so the wireless solution with CSM MiniModules and Kvaser Blackbird wireless CAN interface was a great solution for their applications.”

“CSM’s MiniModules and the Kvaser BlackBird, are portable enough to be carried to a variety of test sites, and small and rugged enough to be installed on any excavator for day-to-day testing.”


The initial setup of LaValley’s measurement system was very quick, according to Wildenberg: “The BlackBird takes power from the MiniModules, so that’s one less power cable to run, and both devices are small enough to fit on the TONGHAND attachment in a location where they will not be damaged. We used CSMconfig software to configure the measurement modules. The CSMconfig and DiagRA X Data Acquisition software supports all Kvaser devices, so we were able to find the BlackBird and connect.” Wildenberg was a beta customer for Kvaser’s CANlib 5.22 release, which includes Kvaser’s Wi-Fi Pairing Tool. Once downloaded to the host PC, this one-button pairing tool sets up a Wi-Fi Direct network between the PC and Kvaser BlackBird, allowing users to connect wirelessly, without a router.

LaValley’s measurement system gathers data from the engine ECU, hydraulic systems, GPS and video, which is synchronized and recorded at the laptop in the excavator cab. The DiagRA X Data Acquisition software from RA Automotive Software Solutions is used for measurement recording and post-analysis. On LaValley’s first excavator test using the new wireless data monitoring system from CSM and Kvaser, the development engineers were able to capture, identify, and resolve a hydraulic pressure spike issue when the handling module returned to the ‘home’ position.

“As LaValley continues to push the design window, this measurement system can grow with them,” concludes Wildenberg, adding that, “with so many moving parts, plus some very complex maneuvers when threading or unthreading pipe, there are many test parameters that can be added, such as strain gauges for testing structural stresses. CSM’s MiniModules and the Kvaser BlackBird, are portable enough to be carried to a variety of test sites, and small and rugged enough to be installed on any excavator for day-to-day testing.”


LaValley is transforming the task of pipe handling, a job that once required a team of human ‘deckhands’, accompanied by a multitude of straps and chains. Not only do its products make the job much safer – a single excavator operator can perform everything from the safety and comfort of the cab – end customers reap benefits from lower incidents of pipe damage and faster completion of the job in hand. The company has built a reputation for creating excavator modules that perform in ‘real world’ conditions i.e. where pipes are picked up off-center or tilted by several degrees. Increased data monitoring alongside ‘real-world’ testing has the power to transform the results of this already pioneering company.