Adding intelligence to material handling systems

Feb. 7, 2001
Mechatronics brings added flexibility and control.

Closed-loop control of the balancer provides responsive motion control in applications such as vehicle assembly, warehouse, and electronics manufacturing.

A new type of air balancer combines proven mechanicalbalancing technology with the "intelligence" of precise, reliable electronic controls for the lifting and placement of components and equipment. Called the Intelift air balancer, this innovative combination provides operators with a safe, ergonomically beneficial, and highly flexible solution that increases productivity and cost savings.

Introduced by the Tool and Hoist Div. of Ingersoll-Rand Co., Washington, N.J., the Intelift unit covers a capacity range of 150 to 1,000 lb, with durability suited for 100% duty cycle and vertical speed capability of 300 fpm.

The control module is a compact, integral element of the balancer itself, offering excellent control options without cumbersome remote add-ons. The control module allows simple programming with a keypad and indicator lights, and confirms settings with an easy-to-read display window. The closed-loop feedback system delivers responsive motion control for a wide range of applications including vehicle assembly, general industry, beverage, and warehouse, as well as textile and electronics industries. Specific features include a dynamic lift-and-lower operation mode, allowing the unit to be used as a conventional balancer but with far greater accuracy and ease of operation. This mode serves as the most generic means of load handling and is task adaptable.

In the float mode, the microcontroller maintains constant pressure in the balancer through sensors that continuously monitor pressure. This effectively allows the operator to manually adjust the load along the Z axis to a new position, so the load continues to "float" at the new position. A dump function represents the second "smart" mode configured at the control panel. When activated, the microcontroller operates in a fixed-position configuration. A smart-drop mode allows the operator to slowly lower the load until the unit only supports the weight of the end effector. The clamp then opens.

A part-present feature prevents vacuum cups from running continuously, and can also replace manual-clamp triggers. An up-control disable feature is also used in conjunction with a clamp or vacuum cup. This feature monitors the clamp or vacuum cup, and if activated when the end-effector has not fully secured the load, the balancer will not be allowed to lift.

Information for this story provided by the Tool & Hoist Div. of Ingersoll-Rand, Washington, N.J.

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