Material Handling Manipulators Information

Jib craneIndustrial manipulators are used to move and position materials, products, parts, and tools. Commonly used attachments include:

  • hooks
  • magnets
  • electromagnets
  • core grips
  • suction cups
  • pneumatic clamps
  • vacuum pads

Programmable, multi-functional devices that provide standardized, repeatable motions are available. Lift drives use air cylinders, hydraulic cylinders, hydraulic motors, or electric motors. Typically, electric motors feature a screw or screw/scissor combination. Some industrial manipulators include a lift table or platform that tilts or inclines. Others include a rotating element or turntable. Devices with rolling wheels facilitate load transport and positioning. 

Types of Material Handling Manipulators

There are several types of industrial manipulators.

Pneumatic air balancers are used for heavy fixture suspension and precise parts placement.

Vacuum-powered hoists allow operators to lift, move, and lower objects up to approximately 500 lbs.

Bridge cranes fit rectangular workspaces and can be mounted on the ceiling or installed as free-standing units with floor anchors. These devices provide a wide range of motion and can accommodate heavier weights than vacuum-powered hoists.

Jib cranes offer 180°-360° rotation in circular areas and are available with straight or articulating booms. Movement is free at the end of the boom, but becomes more restricted as the load is moved toward the pivot.

Pallet inverters were designed to remove broken bags from the bottom of loaded pallets, but are also suitable for a variety of warehouse applications.

Custom end effectors are often used for improved machine loading and packaging.

Truck-mounted industrial manipulators fit the backs or beds of utility trucks. These devices are available as part of a truck package or sold separately.


There are many applications for industrial manipulators. In the adhesives industry, manipulators are used to dump heavy bags into mixers and blenders. In the pharmaceuticals industry, manipulators are used to palletize bags of packaged products for shipment. Manipulators are also used in the chemical industry for dumping bags and palletizing drums. Printing plants use industrial manipulators to lift signature bundles and feed them into binding machines. Tire manufacturers use similar systems to lift heavy bales of rubber and synthetic materials onto conveyors that pass through shredding machines.

Related Information

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Image credit:

O'Brien Installations Limited / CC BY-ND 2.0


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