Since the day we figured out the wheel, humans have separated ourselves by working smarter, not harder. After all, our bodies can only take so much. There’s no way we could transport, lift, and stack the granite and limestone of the pyramids without barges, ramps, and pulleys. Modern electric screwdrivers allow workers to manufacture the myriad products of today’s mechanical world faster and more nimbly than the Egyptians could have dreamed of. But even for modern factory workers using electric screwdrivers, there’s still room for ergonomic improvement.
While it’s no slab of granite, an electric screwdriver still has weight. A worker who lifts that weight, eight hours a day, for a decade, is eventually going to feel it. By the end of the day, fatigue can slow their motions and blur a mind trying to focus on a complex fastening sequence. By the end of ten years, fatigue can turn to tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. So, how can you protect your workers and keep your factory functioning smoothly? The same way as the Egyptians: by mitigating the effects of gravity. Here’s how to improve your workplace’s ergonomics with tool arms and balancers.
How Tool Arms and Balancers Improve Workplace Ergonomics
The Egyptians were able to move and place large pieces of stone by using devices that countered the effects of gravity. They transported the stones on barges, where the water’s buoyancy allowed for freedom of motion. They also hoisted stones and tools with pulleys, suspending the weight midair to allow it to be more easily maneuvered. The ergonomic conditions of the modern assembly line—the repetitive lifting of small weights over extended time periods—can similarly be relieved.
Two devices, serving similar functions, can take the weight off the shoulders of assembly line workers. Tool arms are rigid structures which hold the tool for the operator, allowing them to manipulate the tool within the arm’s range of motion. Tool balancers hold screwdrivers and wrenches suspended on a flexible line. While the line holds the tool, the operator can complete the fastening without worrying about weight.
Types of Tool Arms and Balancers
Tool arms come in various forms. The right one for your workers depends on the tools they use, the area they work in, and the range of motion they need.
- Linear Tool Arms: The simplest tool arms are fixed horizontal rods that move up and down on a vertical slider. These tool arms are best for simple manufacturing which can be done within a limited range of motion.
- Articulated Tool Arms: Similar to basic tool arms, articulated tool arms are composed of a horizontal tool holder which moves on a vertical slider. However, their jointed arm allows tool operators a significantly greater range of motion, rendering them suitable for more advanced assemblies.
- Telescopic Tool Arms: Telescopic tool arms attach to a fixed swivel point. These tool arms can be affixed to walls and ceilings as well as benches, giving operators broad latitude in motion.
Like tool arms, there are several types of tool balancers.
- Retractable Tool Balancers: Retractable tool balancers attach to a fixed point above the workstation. They hold tools on a retractable line, taking the weight off the operator. However, because the line retracts, the operator does have to exert downward pressure to free their tool. So, while these balancers reduce the exertion required to move a tool, they don’t eliminate it entirely.
- Hose Reel Tool Balancers: Hose reel tool balancers combine retractable lines with pneumatic tubing for air-driven tools. They can be used with continuous drive pneumatic tools, impact drivers, or pulse tools. In addition to reducing operator exertion, these balancers eliminate an extra hose from the work area, thereby removing a potential tripping hazard.
- Zero Gravity Tool Balancers: Zero gravity tool balancers suspend tools without retracting. This allows operators to use their tools without working against a retracting line. Particularly useful for heavier tools, these balancers enable effortless tool usage.
The primary benefit of ergonomic solutions like tool arms and balancers is simple: doing more work for less effort. Workers using tools held by tool arms or balancers will become less fatigued than those lifting their own heavy tools. Over the years, these solutions will reduce injuries, keeping workers healthy, happy, and productive.
At Mountz Inc., an employee-owned company, we believe in taking care of our workers. Ergonomic solutions like tool arms and balancers help workers stay safe and we’re proud to be part of that. To see our full range of ergonomic solutions and torque tools, browse our catalog. Contact us anytime to ask a question