Cool Art

To ensure the longevity of paintings, sculptures and other artifacts, they are stored and displayed in an environment where humidity and temperature are controlled; the requirements are the same in transport. When masterpieces by artists like Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd or Russell Drysdale move around Victoria and interstate, they need a controlled, protected environment to move in.

Enter Heuch, specialist refrigeration and process cooling engineers.

The National Gallery of Victoria commissioned Heuch to develop a vehicle for transporting paintings and artifacts between galleries and storage sites. The quest was for accurate and stable control of climate, irrespective of the prevailing weather. “They are displayed or stored in controlled conditions, so to maintain their longevity, they need the same within the vehicle. We needed to reproduce the same climate they are stored in and be able to maintain that on an overnight stop or whilst they are travelling. We are expecting the transport to be within Victoria, New South Wales, or to South Australia, but it could actually be anywhere in Australia” said Steve Oakley, Heuch Managing Director.

The result?

A refrigerated body on a Mitsubishi FK 617 LS1V, a 250HP turbo charge intercooled 7.5l diesel with a six speed transmission. To ensure stable control of climatic conditions internally, even overnight, the body was fitted with a Tieman power tailgate and insulated barn doors. The body itself is fiberglass with a 75mm insulation all round. To smooth out the ride, the suspension was converted from springs at rear to airbag and airbag assist on the front.

“It has some basic components form our range of transport equipment” Oakley said, with some additions and modifications, the unit has an on board controller and digital display. It also retransmits to the driver’s cabin, which tells him the temperature and humidity in the vehicle.

It also has a logging function, so it logs current temperature and humidity and also performs fault logging. This ensures that if Heuch need to check later on, they can simply plug a computer into the controls and work out what was going on at the time of fault and ensure rapid fault response ensues. “We can also do remote site diagnosis by modem. That means, no matter where it is in Australia, we can dial in and see what is going on” Oakley said.

The refrigeration system is fully sealed, or hermetic, running on 415 volt AC. It includes an electronically controlled condenser air-flow regulator to prevent over cooling while operating on the road. In this system, the condenser fans run continuously, while the amount of air available is metered as required. This allows for the refrigeration system to operate within a stable environment.

“It also has a special humidification system we developed. That’s because it is an enclosed space, so if you go on traditional methods, it’s very difficult to control, you’re either putting in too little or too much, we needed something we could control precisely, so we developed a system that allows us to do that.” Oakley said.

“That exceeded expectations actually, we’re very happy with that – we were controlling temperature to within half a degree and humidity within 3% and 4%.”

The unit has two operating modes – ‘electric standby’ when it is plugged in to a power source and ‘on road’ which is provided by an underslung diesel generator which is a variant of the type Heuch use for defence work. The diesel generator has its own independent controller which monitors all functions including water temperature, oil pressure, over and under speed and glow plugs. The unit is on the road and operating at optimal levels.

“Our ordinary course of business is often the extraordinary, but we also have regular business like refrigeration equipment and water chillers” Oakley said.