Vacuum lifting devices and workstation cranes are leading ergonomic solutions that promote worker safety and productivity.
Vacuum lifters rely on a vacuum of air to grip and/or lift boxes, pails, drums or sheets of material that would require two, three or four operators to lift manually.
There are two types of vacuum lift systems;
A hard vacuum uses a vacuum pump to create suction at the cup, with the sole purpose of gripping a product that's hard to handle, like metal sheets. "In a hard vacuum solution, the vacuum grips the sheet and a workstation crane or other overhead hoist device does the lifting," says Tim Carney, president of Palamatic Handling USA (610-701-6350, http://www.palamaticusa.com). Hard vacuum solutions are usually found at the front end of a manufacturing process. "Properly designed vacuum tools can be used to lift or hold many tons."
The second type is a vacuum lift tube technology, a type of vacuum technology that combines gripping and lifting in one solution. Powered by a regenerative blower, this equipment uses a tube to create a lower than ambient air pressure vacuum. The device can grip a variety of loads, including bags, pails and drums, and can lift them without a separate hoist or crane. "The larger the tube, or the more tubes you have, the more weight you can lift, "says Carney. Vacuum tube lifters are good for payloads up to around the 770lb (350kg) mark.
In the goods shipping area, vacuum lifters are used for palletizing. In fact, vacuum lifters can also allow one worker to very quickly palletize or de-palletize by moving a whole layer of cartons at a time.
Both types of vacuum handling system can be suspended from fixed or mobile workstation cranes.
Floor supported, or free-standing bridge cranes - used when ceiling or existing steelwork is insufficient to support the loads lifted.
Ceiling mounted bridge cranes which can cover a rectangular area, moving the load backward and forward as well as from side to side
Jib cranes rotate off an axis and can move a load in a circular area between 180 to 360 degrees. These can be wall mounted or floor mounted.
Manipulators and extenders replicate the human arm to extend an operator' reach. Moving loads of up to 1,000 pounds, manipulators are widely used in the automotive industry to install car seats or doors etc. They might also be used to remove parts from a heating oven and insert them into a machine. "The technology only requires a pound or two of force to move a 150 pound object," says Carney.