While pneumatic manipulators may resemble robot arms, they are not actually automated devices. Rather they operate on simple principles of physics, employing pneumatics in the form of air pressure actuators to counterbalance loads.
Manipulators render a load weightless, enabling one operator to safely and efficiently handle loads or perform tasks that would typically require two or more workers. This allows material handling professionals to increase productivity and safety while reducing labour costs.
While they are not appropriate for every material handling situation, many applications can be performed faster, more accurately and with a greater degree of safety with such a device. Pneumatic manipulators are used often in applications:
- that require repetitive product movement and positioning of light loads under 80kg; or
- where bulky, awkward or heavy loads up to 300kg must be handled.
An example of a typical repetitive application would be the palletising or de-palletising of raw or finished products. These are commonly transported in bags or cartons weighing between 15 and 80kg, which are awkward to lift and position. Such products can be palletised easily and safely by using a pneumatic manipulator equipped with a suction or grip device.
A heavier load application is typified by pneumatic manipulators capable of handling paper spools weighing up to 150kg. Units of this type can pick up a spool at floor level, articulate 90 degrees and position it on a printing press spindle.
Pneumatic manipulators can effectively handle virtually any product weighing up to 300kg. Other product types commonly handled include:
- ingots; and
- sheet materials.
Most machines are custom designed with these enhancements in mind to meet the goals and objectives of a given operation, and will often pay for themselves through savings in labour costs within the first year of use.
In terms of safety, pneumatic manipulators can significantly reduce the risk of workers injuring themselves in intensive and injury prone material handling applications. Workers compensation payments and lawsuits associated with back injury continue to escalate, so by employing manipulators to handle these more demanding tasks, business operators can ensure a safe workplace while minimising liability.
International suppier Dalmec has installed over 50,000 pneumatic manipulators around the world. Australian and New Zealand customers include:
- Avery Dennison
- Aristocrat Leisure
- Ford; and