Starglide’s vice president, Janelle Aslam, and head engineer, Ken Hamby, detail how the company’s latest belt-based moving walkway improves the passenger experience, maintenance and energy performance
What did you show at Passenger Terminal Expo 2023?
Ken Hamby: We took a small-scale model of our new design for a belt-based moving walkway system to Passenger Terminal Expo 2023. It’s a product that was designed to compete with traditional metal pallet-based systems. We had a lot of interest in the model at the expo and were able to talk about the technical details with many key executives, in particular how we can integrate it into their systems and what advantages it holds over traditional systems.
What separates this system from anything else on the market?
KH: We spent about a year and a half talking to our client base and finding out what challenges they’ve had on the maintainability side. We’ve taken all of those lessons and worked them into our design to address their concerns. The key advantages of this system are rider comfort, maintainability and energy efficiency.
The rider comfort results from the rubber. Many of the passengers tell us, “This is more like walking on a carpeted floor versus a concrete floor.” This is because the rubber has a bit of give to it, as opposed to the hard pallet systems that you’re used to seeing. The subtle parts of the passenger experience also set us apart. We have a system that’s significantly quieter than any other, meaning it’s a much more pleasant experience for everyone.
The maintainability is ensured by including fewer parts. Specifically, we include fewer parts that are liable to mechanical wear and losses. This is an important system to keep running reliably because it’s a passenger convenience, which in many ways feeds into the valuation of the airport as well as its ability to get funding and repeat customers. Belt systems like ours tend to be more reliable and easier to repair [than traditional systems].
With this system, you also have better energy performance. Our green approach has helped us address energy losses, so the product now requires a lot less energy to run it. We’ve also developed electronic dynamic braking in the motor as opposed to a pure mechanical brake to not only reduce cost for airports but also extend the life expectancy of the machine’s parts and increase the system’s energy efficiency.
How was the tech received at the expo?
KH: It was received very well. We had a range of people stopping by – everyone from the procurement representatives asking, “How much does it cost relative to the other systems?” to application engineers who have active projects with design challenges, who asked, “How does it work?” and “What would you do with
We also had a lot of people that talked to us from other sectors, like the IT sector. We got into nice discussions about our decision to have an open-source system on our controller. It’s a SCADA-based control and data acquisition-based system on which we freely share all of the system’s information. This includes everything from what’s happening within it, its entire energy demand, fault statuses and how long it took to get it back into service. This is so that end users can remotely monitor the system and develop a real-time understanding of it and start doing predictive maintenance instead of reactive maintenance.
What were the highlights of the expo?
Janelle Aslam: We had people from all over the world stopping by to talk – including those from airports in North America, Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia. We also talked to several existing and future maintenance partners. We’re not in the maintenance game, escalators or elevators – only the moving walkway business. That’s because we wanted to make the best moving walkway product. But that means we need to partner with the best. The expo was very exciting because it provided in-depth discussions with both airports and maintenance partners.
This was our very first Passenger Terminal Expo. We came for the audience. We wanted to make sure that airports knew about the many benefits of a belt walkway over a metal walkway. We were there to ensure that airports aren’t pulling out their walkways only to have passengers complain about the lack of passenger assistance in their airports. Instead, we propose that airports can put in a belt walkway from Starglide and have that reliability and a positive passenger experience.
This interview was originally published in the April 2023 issue of Passenger Terminal World magazine.