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Optimising vibro-impact systems
- Developing safer and more efficient hand-held tools for industrial operators
Industrial users of hand-held power tools are at risk of the detrimental effects that multiple impacts can cause. Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is the cause of significant ill health and can lead to permanent damage to the hands, arms, joints, nerves and blood vessels.
Loughborough’s expertise in vibro-impact systems (VIS) has been employed by JCB to help develop a new type of heavy-duty hand-held breaker with significantly reduced vibration in the handle. The research involved rigorous mathematical and experimental studies into the optimal dynamic cycle of hand-held power tools which would minimise harmful vibrations but also maximise power and efficiency.
JCB applied the research findings and introduced a safer yet more powerful patented commercial breaker in 2008. By 2013 more than 1800 units had been sold to a global market.
Benefits to the economy
The estimated annual cost of HAVS to the British economy is approximately £447M. The best way to prevent HAVS is to reduce the levels of vibration operators are exposed to, and this technology enables that. In 2008 JCB stated, “operators can now safely use the machine for a full eight-hour working day without risk of exceeding recommended Hand Arm Vibration levels.”
Protecting the workforce
Whilst strict operational rules for the use of hand-held machines are in place, The Health and Safety Executive estimates that two million people in the UK alone are at risk of HAVS. There is no effective treatment available for the vascular or neurological damage it can cause. As a result of the research, a highly efficient and significantly safer alternative was made available via JCB, a leading manufacturer of hand tools.
To raise awareness of these applications of vibro-impact processes and encourage collaboration between researchers and end-users, Loughborough University established the International Centre of Vibro-Impact Systems (ICoVIS), supported by the EPSRC. The Centre unites more than 25 research groups from over 20 countries and its international events disseminate the latest research to academic and industrial audiences.
This research was amongst the Loughborough University projects recognised by a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, for research and skills development in High Value Manufacturing to create economic growth.