Tool retractors return tools to a preset position after use, usually out of way of the work area. The tool is often affixed to a cable, which is wound onto a spring-loaded reel to perform the retraction. There are several different types of tool retractors. Reel type retractors/balancers store unused support line on a reel, paying out and retracting line as needed. This is the most common type of tool retractor and balancer. Arm support tool retractors employ pivoting sections of rigid members. These allow the tool more flexibility to move both horizontally and vertically. Helical extension coil tool retractors are simple devices that extend and retract on the axis of the coiled spring / support.
Power sources for tool retractors include springs, electric motors, and pneumatic devices. A spring-powered tool retractor stores rotational energy in a power or “clock” spring. An electric-powered tool retractor is powered by any type of electric motor. A pneumatic tool retractor uses compressed air power, usually from a pneumatic motor. Another important consideration when specifying tool retractors is maximum load capacity. This amount often varies with the angle of pull, friction, and line take-up. Travel or reach is the furthest extent of movement away from the unit's zero position.
Special features can be specified when choosing tool retractors. Clean room capability includes special construction attributes that allow the unit to be used in a clean room environment Anti-static devices incorporate special grounding connections to minimize or eliminate electro-static discharge (ESD) during use of tool. In designs with an integral pneumatic hose, an air hose is provided to the tool - either in tandem with the support cable, or as the tool support itself. A balancer/retractor functions as both a retractor and a balancer.
There are several mounting choices for tool retractors. Some products use a suspension hook or top hook for mounting on a boom, trolley, or other overhead support. Others have a lug mount with holes for bolt-on mounting to threaded lugs. Tool retractors with lugs designed for mating with bolt holes are also available.
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Tool balancers hold a hand-operated tool in a pre-set position to minimize operator effort during use of the tool.