Handwheels are known in the industrial sector to help perform operational tasks. For many machines and systems, they control turning things on and off and making other precise adjustments. For example, they can be used on machinery to carefully open and close a Globe valve, among numerous other functions. For this reason, handwheels can come in a wide variety of types, sizes and materials.
Some handwheels are small enough to be gently moved by fingers in order to make fine-tuned adjustments, like to a sewing machine. There are also other delicate uses for a hand wheel, everything from specific medical devices to measuring devices for factories. The main use for a handwheel is usually in large-scale industrial operations that need them in order to turn valves precisely to control the flow of oil and gas. These handwheels can be quite large and require not only vigorous training for safety, but also enough force to turn the wheel.
Many of these larger wheels are typically made of stainless steel or cast iron for heavy-duty uses. They can also be made of metal or other industrial materials, but the ones made of plastic material have some benefits the others don’t.
Depending on the requirement of the task, plastic hand wheels can be more durable than other types. They provide added strength when making adjustments or calibrations. Some newer handwheels are even being made with duroplastic, a type of reinforced plastic that’s bound with nylon or glass fibers that works to strengthen the material.
Not only is the plastic material used on handwheels known to be far more durable, but it’s also resistant to chemicals. The coating of plastic handwheels makes it resistant to corrosion, including rust, solvents, oils, grease, and other harsh chemicals. Plastic is obviously weaker and less durable than other materials when making adjustments to larger machinery, but it’s perfect for uses like controlling a valve.
The material of a plastic handwheel can help provide a leveraging hold on the wheel even when a machine operator is wearing gloves. It may seem like a small detail, but operating valves is important work that requires safety and accuracy. Some jobs require tools to measure torque in order to help an operator know much torque is required to open or close a valve using a hand wheel. Sometimes when even more force is needed, a crank handle can be added to the hand wheel to enable enough force in order to get the job done. Soon enough these vital jobs might be assisted by technology like NASA’s Robotic Glove, designed to give workers a better grip.
Making careful decisions about what parts to use to build factories is a huge part of designing industrial machinery for safety and security. When it comes to systems that require small wheels that can be adjusted with no more than a finger force, you’ll probably be okay with what you have.