Automation and rapid robotics drive demand for gentle, secure and safe product handling

Wearply from Cut To Size Plastics
Firestone's family of AirPicker and AirGripper product handling and
packaging technology from Air Springs Supply

The relentless advance of automation and robotics in countries with high manufacturing production costs is driving demand in Australia and New Zealand for product handling technologies that permit high operational speeds without high product wastage.

"Sometimes mechanical, robotic or automated materials handling systems used in food, beverage, electronics and plastics industries, for example, may lack a degree of "touch" or sensitivity needed to manipulate delicate products or packaging containers. Wastage or damage can result, with the associated costs and cleanup safety hazards" says Air Springs Supply Technical Product Manager, Mr James Maslin.

An internationally proven response to such issues is provided by Firestone's easily installed pneumatic AirPicker and AirGripper end effectors, for which Air Springs Supply is national distributor and for which a Product Application and Selection Guide is available (airsprings.com.au/product-catalogue-picker-gripper). This materials handling system - developed among the sophisticated and diverse industries of the Japan and the USA - gives firm but safe and gentle handling of products during manufacturing and processing.

The AirPicker and AirGripper ranges comprise precision-engineered rubber product handling devices which inflate gently and evenly to manipulate delicate products or containers, giving that degree of touch or sensitivity required, says Mr Maslin.

AirPicker and AirGripper end-effectors combine pneumatic pressure control with the physical attributes of rubber. The result is an innovation that can give robotics or mechanical handling systems an important degree of touch and allow products to be handled securely and gently.

AirPicker end-effectors are inserted into a product while deflated, then inflate outwardly to "hold onto" the product's interior walls. AirGripper end-effector collars around the product, then the sleeve inflates inwardly to form a grip around the product's exterior.

Models are available with various inflation pressures to handle light to heavy loads, typically from 50g to more than 20kg. This cushioned transporting can help eliminate damage, breakage, and other processing problems. AirPicker and AirGripper end-effectors have already been proven in assembly, loading, shifting, conveying and many other manufacturing operations around the world.

The Skol Brewery plant during construction
Cutaway of Airpicker technology, deflated, left, and inflated, right, as used with glass and
plastic bottled products and cylindrical containers involved in product assembly.

"Nothing holds, moves and/or grips like the AirPickers and AirGrippers, which are designed to inflate evenly, with inside diameter and outside diameter gripers producing a wide, shock-absorbing and slip-free contact surface for sure movement," says Mr Maslin.

Air Springs Supply's comprehensive website offers 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. Certified to ISO 9001: 2008 Quality Management Systems - Requirements, Air Springs Supply has more than 30 years' experience in pneumatic engineering, with a long-established national sales, service and technical support network to help provide solutions for industry