Not surprisingly, the Occupational and Health Safety Administration considers falling tools as being extremely hazardous. When taking the impact of being struck into consideration, it’s easy to recognize how crucial tool balancers are to workshop safety. Not only do tool balancers keep workers safe and reduce operator strain, but they can help with workstation organization.
By choosing the right tool balancer, you can mitigate major causes of accidents in the workplace. For simple hand-operated tools, you can get away with using a general-purpose balancer. However, heavy-duty tools need something more robust to handle their weight, and that’s where heavy-duty tool balancers come in.
It’s important to remember that your goal is ultimately to ensure workshop safety, reduce operator fatigue, and improve the overall ergonomics. When taking that into account, it’s important to find the right tool that fits the job, but where do you start?
Don’t worry. We got you covered.
In this article, we’ll discuss how heavy-duty tool balancers differ from the general-purpose variants and when to use which one.
Heavy-duty Tool Balancers
You have probably heard of simple balancers or the more sophisticated zero gravity tool balancers. The most clear distinction between these two balancers is that they have different designs, including retractor tool balancers. Hence, they serve different purposes.
When we mention a heavy-duty tool balancer, we refer primarily to balancers that can carry larger loads. For instance, you cannot compare the weight of an industrial spot welding machine in an assembly line to simple nail guns. The former is heavier and requires a device with greater load capacity, and therefore needs a bigger balancer.
Typical Components of Heavy-Duty Tool Balancers
We must think about components from the design aspect. For example, zero-gravity tool balancers have a conical cable drum for smoother movement. This differs from a simple spring retractor found in other balancers.
Nonetheless, for most heavy-duty balancers the design stays consistent for the most part:
- Cable: These are often made out of stainless steel and are designed to help bare the load better without snapping.
- Tapered drum: These components are necessary for zero-gravity balancers for smooth cable travel.
- Supporting features: Adjustable capacity, centrifugal safety, and locking devices all help support the overall functionality.
A major example of a heavy-duty tool balancer is the TECNA 9444, which can handle up to 220lb ( 100 kg) of weight.
General-purpose Tool Balancers (retractors)
Screwdrivers, spanners, wrenches, and knives are all considered general-purpose tools. They are lightweight and easy to carry around. While there might be no need for tool balancers, the repetitive motion of bending to pick them up can cause musculoskeletal disorders.
Organizing the tools strategically for when you need them is easier than bending over, and general-purpose tool balancers help you don’t just that. That is, as long as you don’t let the retraction force be too much for the weight.
Great examples would be the TECNA 9321 and TECNA 9322, as they provide enough upward tension as long as you don’t go below 4.4lb ( 2 kg)
When talking about general-purpose tool balancers, we can also touch on simple air tool balancers. Simple air tool balancers can come with a pneumatic hose, which eliminates the need for a secondary one.
This reduces slips, trips, and falls; which account for two-thirds of workplace fall injuries.
Typical Components of General-Purpose Tool Balancers (retractors)
While there is a slight difference in design with general-purpose tool balancers compared to heavy duty tool balancers, there is no compromise on safety. With a general-purpose tool balancer, you get enough flexibility to reduce fatigue and improve productivity in an assembly line or different scenarios.
Here are the typical components of a general-purpose tool balancer:
- Cylindrical drum: The retractable cord or cable is wound around this drum, which is equipped with a spring mechanism. The spring inside the drum applies tension to the cord, allowing it to retract back onto the drum when released.
- Cable: The cable of general-purpose tool balancers is often made of stainless steel, dyneema, or polypropylene. However, you can get a polyurethane air hose like in the TECNA 9203. These work great, provided you don’t exceed the load capacity.
- Safety features: Manufacturers can throw in safety features in case the spring breaks. However, they often have limits to what they can carry before failing.
Differences Between the Heavy-Duty and General-Purpose Tool Balancer (retractor)
Although you can identify the same components in a heavy-duty tool balancer and a general purpose tool retractor, they each have different designs. The primary differentiating factor between these designs is the load capacity, type of drum, and safety features.
Heavy-duty tool balancers carry heavier tools, so they factor in a reduced risk of snapping. Generally, because of their zero-gravity nature, they also provide better handling. In addition, there is also the option to get specialty balancers, like the electric versions, for improved productivity.
General-purpose tool balancers, on the other hand, provide an easy fix when using lightweight tools. They are also essential for increasing productivity and reducing tool damage. However, their spring assembly and cable are not designed for heavier weights.
For example, you’ll be at risk using a polyurethane air hose for heavier pneumatic equipment. It isn’t as strong as stainless steel.
When to Use a Heavy-Duty Tool Balancer and When to Use a General-Purpose Balancer (Retractor)
Spring retractors are okay for lighter and more general-purpose tools, while zero-gravity tool balancers can handle heavier tools and improve productivity even more. Ergonomics is also better with them, as you don’t need to struggle with the upward pressure of spring retractors.
It’s important to always consider the weight of the tool. To do this, try weighing the tool beforehand to help you pick the right tool balancer. This is a super simple step that can spare you from future losses.
Picking the right tool balancer for your assembly line, EV station, or workshop is easy if you take the time to research beforehand. For making an accurate choice, the most important things to know are the weight and cable travel distance.
By knowing this, you categorize tools in the light or heavy-duty segment. Then, from there, pick a balancer that can match that load capacity with enough clearance.
While heavy-duty balancers may have higher ratings, avoid using them as lifts to move things around the workshop. This is a bad call, even with a conveyor system in your overhead beam.
Overall, the key to safety is using the right equipment for the job. To do this, keep your balancers restricted to balancing and holding your tools. In addition, ensure you have all necessary safety mechanisms on when using them to prevent accidents from cable snapping.