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Case Study #1 - Executive Summary

A manufacturer of automotive solvents and lubricants requires a carton handler to transfer 45- pound boxes, of different dimensions, from the final packaging line to a skid.

Problem:  Health and Safety noted the product to be loaded onto the skids for shipment was too heavy for one person to lift. The system needed to cover two packaging lines. Floor space was at a premium and weight restrictions on the ceiling meant an overhead system was not feasible.

Solution:  Design a portable jib crane complete with an adjustable clamping style manipulator.

The company was going through the planning stages of introducing a new product. It was pointed out by the health and safety manager that the weight of the packaged product being loaded onto the skids was to heavy to be lifted manually. The company was concerned with the potential for injury this new product could cause. There were some key issues in the design of the system. Two of the main issues were load restrictions on the ceiling and an absolute minimum of floor space available. This meant that we could not suspend an overhead system from the ceiling and a permanently floor mounted vertical column and jib crane would obstruct traffic flow. The first thing proposed was a portable system. The system would be mounted on a steel skid that could be brought in by fork- lift whenever this particular product line was running and stored away when it wasn't. Another major factor in the design was that the system had to be intrinsically safe. Because our systems are pneumatically operated, this issue was easily resolved by ensuring that the system was properly grounded. Involved in the design through every step were the company's Production, Maintenance and Health and Safety Managers and two of the main operators of the system. They made several trips to our shop during the building of the system and several modifications were made along the way. The final product was a 10-foot vertical column with a 12-foot double articulating jib arm. The system was mounted on a 4 x 4-foot steel skid. The end effector was a clamping style carton handler. The manipulator was designed to pick-up three different sizes and weights of boxes so that the system could be utilized in several different areas of production. Some of the custom modifications included a pneumatic air brake mounted on the head assembly of the jib arm. The brake was disengaged by the operator and meant that the jib arm would not "float" when not in use. A vertical speed control was also installed so that the manipulator would travel at the same speed whether it was supporting a load or not. The system has been in place for several months now and the operators are pleased with its performance. The Managers have noted that the system has significantly reduced the risk of injury and has helped to increase production.

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