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The Differences Between Air Balancers and Chain Hoists

Bart Wells
Sales Manager for Workstation Lifting Systems

Workstation lifting systems come in a variety of configurations and sizes, each designed to meet the requirements of the task at hand, such as cycle time, load capacity, lifting range, accuracy and smoothness of operation.

In this article, I’ll review the differences in two types of workstation lifting systems – air balancers and chain hoists – and the work they’re designed to perform.

Air balancers work ideally in high-repetition processes that involve lighter weight objects, usually in the 100 to 200 lb. range. Air balancers act as an extension of a workstation operator’s arms and hands, helping the operator move and place objects quickly, smoothly and precisely. They enhance the operator’s natural lifting motion as they bear the weight, making the objects seem nearly weightless.  This feature increases productivity, because it saves the operator from physical stress, reducing the risk of injury. Air Balancers are commonly integrated with end effectors (manipulators) to lift common parts without the need for complex rigging.

At an auto plant, for instance, a workstation operator can use an air balancer to quickly pick up a 35-pound transmission housing and move it smoothly into place for assembly, all with little to no effort. Completing this operation entirely by hand, without the aid of an air balancer, would quickly tire workers and cause strain and could potentially damage the product.

It is important to get the right equipment for the right job. Chain hoists offer advantages as well, especially in workstation applications where heavier and higher lifts may be required. Chain hoists offer, single, dual and variable speed control and are capable of handling heavier objects in processes that involve slower cycle times. In addition to the ability to lift heavier loads, chain hoists also offer a much greater lifting range of movement. In contrast, air balancers are limited to a lifting range of about 6.5 feet and under, approximately the natural reach of a workstation operator.

Chain hoists are available in manual, pneumatic and electric models that are capable of increasing work cycle speeds. And air balancers can be customized with grab devices designed for the parts and products to be moved. Grab device options include magnetic, vacuum, pneumatic and mechanical grips.

For more information about workstation lifting systems, including air balancers and chain hoists, contact a Konecranes sales representative near you.

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