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Unique Tools: Job Shop Equipment that Goes Beyond

January 2012

Sometimes job shop managers might find themselves wishing for a tool that offers a little more than what’s typical – a tool that goes beyond.

Or maybe they wish they had a tool to accomplish something that might seem impossible, like lifting a grinding unit as if it was weightless or training new welders without expending material.

The tools described below do just those things, and more. Their unique functions have the potential to save job shops time, decrease material consumption, reduce injuries and, of course, increase productivity.

Equipois

According to their website, Equipois’ zeroG tool balancer is a revolutionary technology that can be likened to an exoskeleton of sorts, except that it’s a standalone unit – it’s a mechanical arm designed to make the handling and maneuvering of heavy tools and other payloads a breeze for workers. To the user, whatever the zeroG arm is holding feels weightless but is still afforded complete freedom of motion.

The zeroG arm functions through a system of four interworking parts: the tool interface that actually holds whatever is being manipulated, the gimbal, the zeroG arm itself and the mounting. Equipois designed this system to reflect how a human body would actually hold a tool. The tool interface acts like fingers to provide a sturdy grip on the payload, the gimbal mirrors the same range of motion afforded by our wrists, the zeroG arm provides support like the muscles in our arms, shoulders and elbows and the mounting offers the same sturdy foundation provided by our legs.

In essence, the zeroG tool balancer system functions like a second person that’s doing all the heavy lifting for you. This setup results in a number of benefits, including increased productivity, reduced injuries and improved quality of whatever is being produced.

Increased productivity is provided as operators no longer have to deal with the fatigue or strain induced from using a heavy tool for long periods of time – no lifting is required on their part. This also directly leads to reduced injuries, since overexertion and repetitive stress are eliminated by the same reality that yields increased productivity, while improved quality comes from decreased fatigue related error rates in combination with greater tool precision afforded by the zeroG.

Other strengths of the zeroG tool balancer mechanical arm are found through its modular design that allows it to be easily configured for a range of fabrication related applications: grinding, drilling, fastening, riveting, and part holding. The zeroG also requires no energy whatsoever beyond human energy – its operation is 100 percent mechanical. Its design also means that it’s virtually maintenance-free, since it has few moving parts.

Hougen

For situations where job shop workers might need to punch holes away from the shop or simply in locations where cords won’t easily reach, Hougen has them covered. The Hougen-Ogura Punch-Pro 76000 is a an 18V, battery-operated, cordless electro-hydraulic hole punch ideal for just tough-to-get-at situations.

Though battery operated, Hougen’s Punch-Pro 76000 is able to punch round holes up to 0.59 in. and in metal up to 0.25-in. thick and oblong holes up to 0.44 in. by 0.63 in. thick and 0.25-in. thick in flat bar, channel and angle steel with an impressive 8.5 tons of force in about four seconds.

The compact unit weighs only 16.5 lbs. and measures 14.5 in. in length, 4.81 in. in width and 10.59 in. in height. Along with its 360-degree swiveling handle, it also features an 18V lithium-ion battery that boasts long life and a 22-minute charging time.

Lincoln Electric

The fact that the industry is in need of more welders is well-known, and Lincoln Electric realized that to meet this need, not only would more welders need to be attracted to the field, but the level of training being provided would also have to be improved. As a result, the company introduced its line of virtual reality welding training units – the VRTEX 360 and VRTEX Mobile.

Both units provide an incredibly unique training experience, accurately simulating how it feels to hold the welding gun, and thus teaching trainees the skills necessary to make smooth welds.

To use the VRTEX 360 or VRTEX Mobile, a trainee simply puts on a welding helmet connected to the VRTEX’s computer, which is cleverly housed to look like a welding unit. The welding helmet contains VR goggles that completely immerse the user in a virtual reality environment, and if they look around – since their view changes dynamically based on where they’re looking – they’ll see that it looks like a welding shop. At this point, if they look down, they’ll see the virtual welding coupon, which is represented in a reality by a hard-plastic counterpart.

From there, all they have to do is make the weld – activating and moving their physical prop welding gun across the real-world welding coupon will cause its virtual-reality equivalent to make the virtual weld. During this process, the VRTEX system produces a realistic welding puddle and welding sounds. As an option, visual cues can also be overlaid on the virtual welding gun to help the student gauge how well they’re doing in real time.

Watch this video of the VRTEX Mobile being demonstrated at FABTECH 2012.

When they’re finished, the VRTEX system will give them a percentage grade based on how well they did, and they and their instructor can review their technique. In this way, when they make real welds, less mistakes are made – virtual experience translates to real-world skill.

According to Lincoln Electric’s website, both VRTEX systems are able to offer practice with a number of welding processes and positions using the hard-plastic coupon, and the VRTEX 360 can simulate SMAW, GMAW and FCAW welding, while the VRTEX Mobile can handle both GMAW and FCAW, with SMAW as an optional accessory.

Nitto

In cases where a fabricating shop might be looking for an efficient way to remove rust, weld slag, paint or scale from a surface, Nitto has the answer. According to their catalog, the company’s EJC-32A Electric Jet Chisel needle scaler offers the ability to quickly and easily remove the mentioned materials from most surfaces, while also featuring heavy-duty construction ideal for industrial applications.

In addition, the design of Nitto’s jet-chisel line means that the EJC-32A comes with a fully automatic system – there are no internal spring components to break, which ensures a trouble-free performance with no irregular power. The design of the system also affords the user low air consumption, as well.

Specific features of the 9.9-lbs. EJC-32A include a 300W double-insulated motor able to run on a standard 120V current, a rated duty cycle of 30 minutes and a rate of 3,000 SPM. The tool uses 15 needles of 0.118 in. by 7 in. as standard or 32 needles of 0.078 in. by 7 in. as optional.

Peddinghaus

Peddinghaus introduced its Anglemaster-HD angle-line machine this past November as a continuation of its Anglemaster tradition, which began over 30 years ago. The Anglemaster-HD is designed to process angle, flat and channel bar as quickly as possible.

“Detail components make up the smallest tonnage of any fabricator’s workload, but consistently demand the highest amount of labor,” comments Carl Peddinghaus, the company’s CEO. “[We] pioneered the concept of the Anglemaster in response to discussions with fabricators looking to reduce labor costs within this realm.

Watch this video showing the capabilities of Peddinghaus’ Anglemaster-HD.

“The Anglemaster-HD continues to set the tone for structural technology, and is unquestionably the most advanced angle line on the market today.”
Indeed, the Anglemaster-HD includes significant improvements from its predecessors, being able to process both heavy and light angle or flat-bar sections 50 percent faster through its Smart Cylinder Technology and material dimensioning system.

“The machine can exert upwards of 515 tons of force, but if you’re only processing something very small, it’s completely unnecessary for the work that you’re doing,” explains Nick Hajewski, Peddinghaus’ marketing manager. “The Smart Cylinder technology allows the Anglemaster-HD to adjust its three-speed punch and shear cylinders automatically to accommodate whatever you’re processing, based on information it receives from the material dimensioning system.

“With the material dimensioning system, the machine looks at what you’re processing, and it can identify all the dimensions. It will actually verify and match the material loaded, based on what you programmed it for. If there’s a discrepancy, the machine will stop, and the control will alert you, asking you if you really want to process it. This way it prevents fatal error.”
Peddinghaus’ Anglemaster-HD is able to punch and shear flat bar up to 12 in. by 1 in. and angle up to 8 in. by 8 in. by 1 in. and also punch, but not shear, channel sections up to 12-in. wide. In addition, the machine features a new control that Peddinghaus is introducing to the market for the first time with the Anglemaster-HD.