• April 22, 2022
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The Virtually Unlimited Applications for Armtec Industrial Manipulators

The Virtually Unlimited Applications for Armtec Industrial Manipulators

Presented by Posilift Australia

Those in the processing and material handling industries are always finding new ways to improve efficiency and productivity. Industrial manipulators are not a new technology, but are one of the most underutilised in the industry. 

Why is this so? Because international product classifications are very broad and industrial manipulators are classified under the category of a “Lift Assist Device”, which includes many lifting devices including cranes and hoists. But, industrial manipulators are much more than that.

So what exactly is an industrial manipulator and how does this machinery solve so many handling problems for businesses? Let’s take a look using the Australian Armtec manipulator as a guide.

The Virtually Unlimited Applications of an Industrial Manipulator

The Armtec manipulator is a pneumatic industrial manipulator. The Armtec materials handling solutions are “Like A Robotic Arm But Guided By a Human”. Like a robotic arm, they can grip, lift, move, incline, rotate, and generally articulate in all directions and precisely position loads of all shapes, sizes, and weights. Unlike a robot, they are guided by a human.

Their key design and operating features are to grip the load, balance it, and enable the load to be moved and articulated in any direction, in a weightless zero-gravity condition and be precisely positioned by the operator—and do this with a minimal physical effort by the operator, with no risk of injury to the operator and no damage to the product. Posilift solutions always improve the operator’s safety and working conditions, increase productivity and often turn a two-man job into a one-man job. Armtec manipulators comply with Australian Standards AS/NZS 4024.1201:2014, and are not classified as a crane.

There are virtually unlimited repetitive material handling problems that can be solved with an Armtec pneumatic industrial manipulator. Its many uses include the weightless and effortless lifting, moving and positioning of both common product shapes and sizes, as well as design-specific loads.

Manipulator attached to a scissor lift
Manipulator attached to a scissor lift. Source: Supplied.

With over 30 years’ experience in Australia and overseas, Posilift has designed and supplied a range of manipulator handling solutions for common parts including: rolls, reels, bags, panels and sheets, boxes, and drums. They also design specific handling solutions for general manufacturing industries and for specialist industries such as Automotive, Mining, and Defence sectors.  

While some might think that it would be better to have fully autonomous robot arms, this isn’t always the case. Even though full autonomy is highly efficient, not all repetitive handling is suited to fully autonomous robotic arms.  

Here are a few examples where industrial manipulators shine compared to robots:

  • More Cost-effective for Lower Capacity Operations —Industrial manipulators are cheaper than a robot and can be cost-justified for production lines and tasks where volume cannot cost-justify an autonomous robot;
  • Transportable —Industrial manipulators are designed to be guided by humans. They are lighter than a robot and can be transportable for positioning where needed.  Usually transportable by overhead rail or forkable base plate but sometimes by more innovative means such as scissor lifts or walkie stackers
  • More Flexible and Adaptable to Operating Variations – Armtec safety features and operating features combine sensors, positioning guides, and balance pressure monitoring to monitor gripping, releasing and moving operations.  They alert the operator to any changes in the system allowing the operator to make adjustments for known variations or to pause and park the manipulator in the event of unknown variations.  
  • Safe for Use in Spaces Shared with Humans—industrial manipulators are light and balanced and made for safe and easy movement and guidance by a human.  Safety Valve, Non Return Valve and Air Reservoir are standard safety features on the manipulator that prevent rapid and dangerous movement of the arms should the air supply fail or if the operator gives a wrong command.  One of the many Armtec safety features is that the tooling will not release the load until it is on a stable surface – even if the operator gives the release command or even if there is a loss of air pressure.

Solutions with Armtec Manipulators

Posilift is at the forefront of industrial manipulator innovation with many new and different projects successfully completed. While many handling problems are similar, they usually require a customised solution that cannot be delivered with an “off the shelf” product. It is for this reason that industrial manipulators by a material handling and lifting specialist like Posilift are built to the customer’s specific requirements.  

“Armtec Industrial manipulators can be designed and adapted to solve most repetitive handling problems,” says Posilift Australia General Manager, John Czinner. “We use our knowledge and experience—alongside those of our ongoing relationship with Armtec and our other suppliers—to create and build unique solutions for our customers. For most common solutions, it is likely that Posilift or one of our suppliers has already solved the problem somewhere in the world. For new industries with new problems, we welcome the challenge.”

Solving an Old Problem –  Changing 100-year-old Train Knuckles

Removing & Installing train joining knuckles
Removing & Installing train joining knuckles. Source: Supplied.

For over 100 years train knuckles weighing up to 50kg were handled manually. Posilift with Armtec designed a manipulator and end-effector tooling that can now grip, balance, move, incline and rotate the various knuckles and position them into the coupler housing; and can reverse the process when removing worn knuckles from the coupler housing.

Solving a New Problem – Removing 350kg Polysilicon Rods from Ovens 

Removing 350kg polysilicon rods from ovens to trolley
Removing 350kg polysilicon rods from ovens to trolley. Source: Supplied.

Posilift and Armtec developed a solution for handling Polysilicon Rods used as raw material for solar panels and computer chips. This handling task required removing the 4 metre long polysilicon rods, weighing 350kg to 450kg, from the growing ovens, rotating them from vertical to horizontal, and positioning them into a trailer.

For this project, Posilift specified a 5500mm tall manipulator with an Armtec tooling 3500mm long to spread the gripping force. This innovative solution has now become the standard for handling Polysilicon Rods in China.

Adapting the Manipulator Gripping Tool with Safety Features onto Walkie Stackers 

Manipulator attached to a walkie stacker for maneuverability
Manipulator attached to a walkie stacker for maneuverability. Source: Supplied.

Posilift adapted manipulator technology and safety features to a walkie stacker. This adaptation provides the freedom of movement of a walkie stacker with all the gripping functionality and tooling safety features of the manipulator. This was achieved by mounting a manipulator terminal arm, air reservoir, end-effector tooling with safety features and operating controls to a walkie stacker.  

It’s clear that industrial manipulators are a great way to improve operator safety and boost productivity without the added cost of moving to fully automated robotic arms. Working with international suppliers like Armtec and Famatec, Posilift can provide custom solutions to suit your needs and budget, and it is likely that Posilift, or one of its suppliers, will have already solved that problem somewhere in the world.

For more information about the many uses of industrial manipulators and how this technology can be applied to assist your operation check out the latest from Posilift Australia or head to their website.

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