The tender touch of AirPickers plucks out problems in processing, packaging and conveying delicate objects
One of the issues faced when handling bottles, fragile objects and delicate containers on production, packaging and conveyor
lines can be a lack of "touch" or sensitivity in some mechanical or automated systems.
The result can be excessive breakages, workplace hazards or interruptions to production caused by preventable mishaps,
says pneumatic actuation and isolation specialist Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd.
Air Springs Supply's solution to the problem is its range of Firestone AirPicker® and AirGripper® end-effectors,
which designed to give firm but safe and gentle handling of products during manufacturing, processing and packaging.
AirPickers and AirGrippers are precision-engineered rubber product handling devices, the bladders of which inflate
gently and evenly to manipulate delicate products or containers, including bottles, packages, electronic components,
automotive components and delicate industrial parts. The system - able to handle loads from as light as 50g to as heavy as 20kg or more -
is detailed in an engineering manual and design guide for industries including general manufacturing, food manufacturing and
processing, plastics, packaging and primary production (www.airsprings.com.au).
AirPickers work by being inserted into products while deflated, then inflated outwardly and evenly to hold onto the product's
interior walls. AirGrippers surround a product with a collar from which a rubber sleeve is inflated inwardly to grip the product's exterior.
"This cushioned transporting can help eliminate damage, breakage, and other processing problems," says Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd Sales
and Marketing Manager Mr James Maslin, whose company has more than 20 years experience in industrial actuation and isolation, with a sales
and technical support network throughout Australia.
Applications of the internationally proven AirPickers and AirGrippers to date include assembly, loading, shifting, conveying and
other manufacturing, processing and packaging operations.
"Nothing we have seen in Australasia holds, moves and/or grips in the same way as AirPickers and AirGrippers, which are
designed to inflate evenly, producing a wide, shock-absorbing and slip-free contact surface for sure movement," says Mr Maslin.
The large expansion of the inflating end-effectors allows for multiple part sizes to be handled with just one size model.
The diameter of an AirPicker end effector can grow by as much as 1.86 times the deflated diameter, while an AirGripper end-effector
can grip around an object that is only 40 per cent of the deflated diameter.
By controlling the amount of pressure within the bladder, Firestone end-effectors can handle delicate objects with the soft touch
of rubber and air. The holding force is distributed over a greater surface area than a mechanical gripper, resulting in a soft and
secure touch, even with heavy loads.
"Simply by varying the air pressure in the picker or gripper, the user can conform the end effector to the diameter that is being
handled and the force being applied to the workpiece. This is especially critical in applications with sensitive, thin-walled,
or fragile objects.
"The object being picked up does not have to have a circular configuration. Since the pickers and grippers have an elastomer
bladder construction, they will conform to any shape," says Mr Maslin.
Firestone end-effectors typically cost less than comparable mechanical grippers, while the absence of bearings or moving parts
means that no lubrication is required for a long durable life. AirPicker and AirGripper end-effectors do not use seals or bearings,
which results in a more durable gripper in dusty environments.
AirPicker and AirGripper engineering manuals give product specifications and selection criteria, including details of a range of
more than a dozen pickers and grippers in materials including stainless steel, plated steel and aluminium.
Information about the full range of AirPicker and AirGripper end effectors can be obtained through the new website of Air Springs
Supply Pty Ltd, www.airsprings.com.au which is one of Australia's most comprehensive guides to pneumatic actuation, isolation and suspension.