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Operators at Electronics Assemblers Inc. in Hood River, Oregon were using standard heat-guns for processing of electrical heat-shrink tubing, a common cable protector used in the electrical and electronics industry. While these devices are very suitable for contractor or light manufacturing applications, they can become unwieldy, cumbersome and dangerous for high-production use. This is due to the high temperatures employed and that the operator must generally maneuver the tool around the product. A solution was desired that would preserve or enhance operator productivity and make the operation safer to perform with better ergonomics.
After trying another technology that employed resistance heat elements, a solution was based on this technology that incorporated additional ergonomic benefits. The end result was a device that had both a manual and semi-automatic ("toaster") method of operation. The machine was designed and built by Engineering and Prototype Services in Portland, Oregon.
A pre (existing process) and post (new process) ergonomic assessment confirmed that ergonomic and safety/health risks had been eliminated or reduced. The required motions for the operator have been reduced to holding the parts in a neutral position while the part is being processed. Some parts may require only loading and unloading as the unit has the ability to apply heat automatically for a programmed time and heat interval. This may free the operator to perform other tasks during the heating cycle.