There is a reason why the exoskeleton industry is growing at a compound average growth rate of 38.6%. The improved efficiency and reduced muscle strain they bring to workers are undeniable. While exoskeletons continue to develop, tool balancers provide a cost-efficient approach to minimize operator effort in repetitive motions.
Even light tools tend to weigh more if you carry them for a long time or repeatedly. Installing the right tool balancer saves the operator the stress of carrying the extra weight of the tools. In addition, you never have to worry about lifting the tools when you want to work.
So, what are tool balancers, and how do they increase productivity and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders? Briefly, let’s walk you through the following:
- Components of a tool balancer
- The working principle
- How to use a tool balancer
Here is the ultimate guide to tool balancers and using them correctly.
Components of a Tool Balancer
You can think of a tool balancer as a crane with greater flexibility. It provides the upward tension needed to carry the tool’s weight. Hence, you free yourself from any lifting movements that could hurt your back or muscles.
The situation may require a tool retractor or a tool balancer. Both perform a similar function of carrying the load, but they operate differently.
The following are the typical components of a tool balancer:
You will find this component in spring balancers. A spring works by exerting a force that opposes the weight of the tool attached to the balancer. When the tool is lifted, the spring is compressed, and when the tool is released, the spring extends thereby maintaining a constant tension on the tool.
The spring in a tool balancer is typically a coil spring that is housed inside the balancer. The tension of the spring can be adjusted by turning a knob or adjusting a screw on the balancer. This allows the user to set the balancer to the appropriate tension for the tool to be used
The cable provides the travel distance for optimal ergonomics. It connects the tool balancer to the tool. It functions as a flexible, yet strong link between the two, allowing for smooth and easy movement of the tool
Cables often have a weight range that they can handle. Hence, it is prudent to confirm the load capacity before loading. A cable could be made of stainless steel or synthetic rope.
Tool balancers often have two hooks. The first and upper one attaches the balancer at the desired height, while the second connects the instrument. Manufacturers often opt for swivel hooks because of the flexible movement they allow.
The springs can fail, causing accidents. In the US, over 42,000 reported cases yearly are from falling objects. Tool balancers have safety mechanisms and centrifugal break locks.
This component is prevalent in spring balancers including zero-gravity balancers. They determine how smoothly the cable inside runs. You can have cylindrical or conical drums.
The second type is used in zero-gravity tool balancers, which let the tools float, while the first type is used in tool retractors. .
This component replaces the spring and is used in electric tool balancers like the Schmalz Binar Neo 30. It gives the lifting force and lets the operator put the instrument where needed.
Now, it is time to piece the above components together. The working principle can be summarized into the following steps:
- The internal spring or electric motor provides upward tension for the tool to float. In tool retractors, the spring pulls the cable inside as it returns to its unstretched position.
- The cable carries the load and enables extension beyond the tool balancer.
These two features are responsible for the bulk of the motion. In ground-operated tool balancers, the arms replace the cables.
The operator applies minimal effort to carry the equipment. That is because of the upward support the balancer provides. Nevertheless, do not use balancers for lifting and moving variable loads. They are designed to handle tools and equipment exerting constant force.
How to Use a Tool Balancer
The following steps will take you from installation to job usage:
- Install the tool balancer on the overhead support. A beam is often preferable..
- Attach the hand-operated tool to the balancer.
- Determine your preset position. Tool retractors will pull the equipment back once released.
- Apply minimal effort to pull the equipment to yourself.
- For pneumatic tools, ensure the air hose is connected.
Benefits of Using a Tool Balancer
There are different types of tool balancers, with the tool retractor being the most common type. While they have different builds, their benefits are evident.
Imagine carrying industrial weld guns around.
The pneumatic tool balancers eliminate air hoses on the ground, reducing that would quickly cause operator fatigue, even if you have the ability to carry the load. Also, you will have limited productivity because you will spend more energy bearing the weight.
Regardless of the load, you will have better productivity with a tool balancer. The elimination of that small strain gives you the energy to do more.
Better Tool Life
Data shows that imbalance is a root cause of short tool lives. Tool balancers help reduce the amount of wear and tear on the tool by keeping it in a vertical position when not in use. They limit the likelihood of drops and impacts that can cause damage to the tool.
Tool balancers help operators maintain the same position when working. You can use the locking mechanism to lock them in place.
Less Risk of Injury
Lighter tools have less risk of causing severe injury if dropped. On the other hand, any heavy equipment is a significant risk to the operators. Using a tool balancer eliminates this risk because you don’t have to carry the load or risk a trip-and-fall. Even the simplest one improves the safety of operators.
Workplace ergonomics are crucial for productivity and improved safety. Musculoskeletal disorders will be reduced once proper posture and load carrying are achieved. That makes using a tool balancer a big deal, whether a simple retractor or an electrically operated balancer.
Springs and cables are critical components of retractors and zero gravity balancers. Couple them with a drum, hooks, and safety locks, and they can carry the load. Nonetheless, each balancer has a specific load capacity.