Scientists are Developing Ergonomic Forging Tongs
Ergonomic forging tongs should dampen shocks and vibrations, improve grip and reduce strains coming from the weight of the component. A research project will improve forged parts handling, providing health benefits to workers.
Working at a forging company is physically demanding. Scorching hot forged metal parts, weighing several kilos, are taken out of the furnace with tongs, carried to the press, and sometimes even held down while being hammered. Workers are subject to heavy loads, strong bumps, and vibrations. This puts stress on the workers' spine, shoulders and wrists and can also damage their arteries. In an attempt to improve workers' health, engineers at the Institut für Integrierte Produktion Hannover (IPH) are developing ergonomic forging tongs. These should dampen shocks and vibrations, improve grip and reduce strains occurring through the weight of the component. This should not only make work easier, but also provide significant economic advantages to forging companies: Workers who stay healthy help save money.
In the "ErgoZang" research project, engineers at IPH are working closely with small and medium sized companies, especially with forging companies and tongs manufacturers. First, they aim to find out which tasks are the most physically demanding by questioning workers on site and measuring the physical stress during work objectively. "We want to include the workers who will end up using the tongs from the very beginning," says Project Lead David Schellenberg. "Their expertise will influence development. They will also test the ergonomic tongs near the end of research." Engineers will produce a demonstration model in the course of the research project. The first practical tests in forging companies are scheduled for the end of 2020. Engineers will then measure the stress occurring during work again and compare the values.
The scientists do not intend to develop one pair of ergonomically perfect forging tongs, however. "There are different tools for different tasks. And this won't change," Schellenberg explains. The strains of transporting forging parts that weigh 20 kilos, for example, are completely different to those that occur when transporting relatively light parts. In contrast, the latter have to be held down in the same position with tongs during open die forging. "This is why we are developing something like a construction kit containing several different solutions, which can be looked up in a manual," explains Schellenberg. Using this manual, tool construction companies will be able to develop ergonomic tongs for different purposes.