Hand held tools are meant to be used by a human operator, typically for long hours per day. The accumulated wear and tear on both the tool and the operator can be substantial, especially in terms of the vibration that is built up from the repeated and often very rapid action of the tool. In some cases, some of the vibration and its ill effects can be damped or mitigated through specific design features of the tool itself, but that is often not enough to protect the human user from discomfort from the use of the tool.
There are ways to minimize the stress of continual vibration, including protective gear for the user to wear and vibration damping systems for the tool itself.
The Problem with Excessive Vibration
The excessive vibration causes problems to both the user and the tool. For the person who is operating the tool, the excessive vibration can lead to loss of control of the tool, increased fatigue while using the tool and a serious, often permanent, condition called occupational vibration. With millions of workers affected by the condition, which can lead to permanent, life altering disabilities for many, damping vibration is important to minimize the effects of dangerous vibration, including both immediate and long term, cumulative effects.
Tools are continually redesigned to have more power, for instance, or to cut through different materials. The harder a tool is meant to work, the more likely that it will have a higher potential for excessive vibrations. That increases the risk to both tool and operator.
Vibration and Damages to the Operator
There are two major types of vibration damages that can happen to the human body: segmental, which affects only a certain part of the body, and whole body. Those two types of damage might be short term, especially for people who do not routinely use the tools in question, or long term for people who use them on a daily basis. Some of the damages that are caused by faulty vibration damping systems are obvious: pain, fatigue and loss of concentration, but they can also cause other, less obvious problems as well.
One of the most serious conditions that can be caused by excessive vibration is nerve damage, which can decrease the manual dexterity in the hands and can lead to a loss of control of the tool. Even a moment without full control can mean property damage and increased danger to the worker and the workers around that person.
Vibration and Damages to the Tool Being Used
From the moment that you turn on a tool, vibration can cause damage. The harder or faster that a motor moves, the more damage can occur. Vibration can cause parts to move out of place, for instance, eventually leading to wear and tear or outright breakage. Certain parts are meant to wear out and must be replaced on a recurring, routine basis. Shock absorbers are part of the vibration damping system and are meant to be replaced on a regular schedule. Other parts, including small bearings, bushings and seals may need to be replaced on a routine schedule as well and are typically a major cause of increased vibration in the tool as well. It should be assumed that anything that affects the performance of the tool will also affect the operator of the tool.
Most industries use specific tools often enough that they know when maintenance will need to be done. Most tool manufacturers require or suggest a specific time table for certain parts to be inspected and replaced as needed. Those parts include the parts related to damping vibration such as shock absorbers and others. Other maintenance might include checking fluid levels (in tools that require it) or replacing comfort enhancing wraps and grips.
Some of the Solutions for Vibration Damping to Benefit Both Tool and User
While there are shock absorbers and other parts, there are also other options that can be used to reduce some of the vibration and its harmful effects when tools are in use. To protect workers, many industries require the use of anti-vibration gloves, which are meant to reduce the harmful effects of a condition called white finger syndrome. This condition is also called secondary Raynaud’s syndrome and can lead to a permanent loss of sensation in the affected fingers and hand. It can also progress to problems that include gangrene in the most serious cases of the condition. Not all gloves are equal, however. Simple “work” gloves made of cotton or leather, for instance, offer absolutely no protection against vibration. A glove that includes Sorbothane® can offer much more protection against these problems. These gloves typically have a patch of viscoelastic Sorbothane in the palm, which is the point of vibratory impact. There are other options that can be used, both from the Sorbothane standard parts catalog and specially designed, custom parts.
Using Sorbothane Custom Designs to Find Your Perfect Vibration Damping Solution
For some tools, there are a number of vibration control options. For others, there could be some dramatic improvements. Even if you have standard vibration damping in place, you might want to increase your protection. To accomplish that goal, you should talk to the Sorbothane designers who can help you find all of your best options to protect your workers while they are using the tools. For instance, you can use a Sorbothane based wrap on the handle of the tools in conjunction with the anti-vibration tool to give the optimum in protection.
Our standard products guide features our small to large sized parts, including a number of standard parts that you can order from Sorbothane directly. Any part that is not found in our guide, can be designed, cut and then shipped. Interested in learning more? Reach out to us today to learn more about our custom engineering solutions.