If you think a back can get damaged if a worker constantly bends to lift tools for repetitive tasks in a plant-- then imagine the strain of supporting heavy tools while working in a time-based production!
Without proper tool balancers to support a device's weight; productivity will drop and the risk of injury will increase.
But, no need to worry.
You can easily improve efficiency, reduce worker fatigue, and guarantee safety by introducing the right tool balancer to support the work tools. Instead of bending to pick up the equipment, a worker can simply reach out and guide the balanced equipment to the work area. On top of improving safety, accuracy is also improved as workers can move and control their tools more flexibly.
With that being said, it’s easy to see why tool balancers are essential in a production line where repetitive motions are the order of the day. They are the gateway to eliminating operator fatigue, reducing the risk of workplace accidents, and increasing productivity.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about tool balancers for those of you who have yet to implement them in your work area.
What is a Tool Balancer?
A tool balancer is an overhead support for a hand-operated tool. It is often rated based on the weight it can support and cable travel. For example, the TECNA 9366 and TECNA 9321 have the same cable travel (stroke), but the former supports up to 99lb ( 45 kg) while the latter supports up to 9lb (4) kg.
As mentioned, a tool balancer is ideal for handling repetitive processes in a production line. It works by connecting one end to the overhead support, often a beam or C-Rail, and the other to the equipment. Once connected, a cable allows the worker to pull the equipment to the precise location for work.
With most tool balancers, you’ll have an up-and-down movement with flexible swings for better accuracy at work positioning. That will boost productivity in your plant, provided you learn to use it correctly.
Components of a Typical Balancer
The three main sections of a tool balancer are the connection to the overhead support, the body, and the cable with tool attachment. Although all pieces are important, the body plays the most crucial role in keeping the equipment under constant load. The body ensures retraction when the workers release it.
Typical balancers will consistently have these main components :
Ways Tool Balancers Improve Efficiency in Your Plant
Maybe you’re still asking yourself how do tool balancers fit into production processes to improve productivity…
The best way to answer this question is to take a walk through an average operator's motion during production.
The typical movement is to and from the work spot, whether with staple guns, air hammers, welding guns, or other specialized equipment in hand. It’s not uncommon in production lines for workers to frequently pick up their equipment and drop it off without spring balancers before the next workpiece.
As this happens, productivity declines as the weight of the equipment begins to wear on the operators. More importantly, the potential for workplace accidents increases.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the ways tool balancers specifically improve safety and efficiency in a plant.
Easy Access to Tools
Let’s face it. Work is more accessible when we can just reach out to a piece of overhead equipment, pull it down effortlessly, and work. Especially when compared to bending and lifting.
This quick access results in easy handling and increased productivity. On top of that, you can always move the tools in a direction that suits you.
Repetitive motions create fatigue, and it gets even worse when the worker must also support the weight of the equipment. However, tool balancers take the weight off the worker’s shoulders; literally.
Reducing operator fatigue is vital to increasing productivity. When a worker can remain productive, they can deliver good quality consistently and for extended periods.
Reduced Trip Hazards
Cables on the ground are known to cause trip-and-fall accidents. Air hoses that power pneumatic tools are often culprits in this aspect.
A way to mitigate this is by using air hose balancers to remove the cables from the floor, thus eliminating trip hazards. On top of that, balancers with additional coil hoses provide the option to supply you with air from the top. With both these accommodations taken into mind, you can create a safe working environment for operators to move around their work areas.
Reduce Wear and Damage
A tool on a balancer will show an improvement in their service life. Operators can achieve better accuracy while using their tools. Also, the flexible range of adjustments allows for better quality.
Types of Tool Balancers
Utilizing the benefits of tool balancers starts with picking the right one. These work tools come in various sizes and shapes, and all come with different names such as:
- Tool Retractors
- Air Hose Balancers
- Zero gravity Balancers
- Explosion Resistant Balancers
Tool retractors may be the most basic of the bunch, but they have benefits in unique applications. Spring balancers are versatile and can be used in various applications. Conversely, you’ll need explosion-resistant variants in places with combustible dust and other flammable substances.
However, if given the option to choose; Zero gravity balancers are by far the most popular as they have almost weightless control with smooth movements.
Picking the Right Balancer for Improved Safety and Efficiency
The best tool balancers for mechanics might not suit your job if you're not a mechanic. Hence, choosing the right balancer based on their applications is essential. A few considerations to make include the following:
Consider the weight of the equipment to be used. As mentioned earlier, tool balancers have weight ratings. It’s important to always ensure your tool's weight is within the balancers weight range.
As well, when determining the weight, don’t forget to add the weight of hoses, cables, nails, or any accessories that add weight to the tool.
Type of Equipment
Pneumatic tools suit air hose balancers rather than a simple spring reactor. The reason why is that a simple spring retractor will create the need for ground air hoses. Air hose balancers solve this problem by delivering the air directly to the machine.
As a good rule of thumb; consider which equipment will be in use, then pick your balancer to match that.
Do note that selection becomes more crucial when working with special machines. These require optimal balancing for operations.
Get the Best Tool Balancer for the Task
Overall, tool balancers free up the operators to be more productive in plant production. On top of that, they can also adjust for better precision in positioning. As a result, operators will have less fatigue, fewer hazards, and reduced wear and damage.
Equipment maintenance must be done regularly. It’s important for these overhead supports to be adequately serviced to prevent failure during service. Remember, they carry heavy tools that can be accidentally dropped, causing dire injury.
The easiest way to start is by exploring TECNA tool balancers to get started on selecting the right one for your plant. From rail track systems to accessories to cover installation, there is something for everyone