Product improvement and differentiation should be a priority for anyone involved with an ongoing project.
One of the best ways to do that? Do something the other guys don’t have the knowhow or big-picture vision to do.
Motion control through complex hinge solutions is one way to do that for products in a variety of industries. Just about anyone who makes products with components they want to move smoothly can benefit from a better hinge.
Do your product’s doors or lids:
- Weigh too much?
- Slam down when released?
- Get in the way?
A better-engineered motion control solution may be your answer. Safety and damage prevention are oddly overlooked in too many door and lid hinge designs. Mechanical supports that aren’t controlled can injure customers and damage themselves and nearby furnishings.
So what are you waiting for -- a lawsuit? A competitor to outsmart your design? Here are signs you need to evaluate your product design for a better hinge solution:
Spring-Loaded Hinge Solutions Explanation
Spring-loaded motion control hinges are becoming increasingly popular in high-quality products. They can provide:
- Protection to users and nearby objects from swinging or slamming covers
- Ease of operation
- Better ergonomics, so operators are less likely to develop problems like repetitive motion injury
- Lid lift assistance: By responding to one force with another, counterbalance hinges make a heavy item seem much lighter and easier to move.
- Customization (damping, etc.): While a counterbalance hinge itself doesn’t provide damping, it can be combined with a secondary component to offer features like damping. So, as a door or lid moves faster, the mechanism increases its resistance, resulting in a smooth, soft close. Note that damping may not be possible in high-heat applications.
- Positioning: Spring-loaded hinges are able to position a component easily and safely in a variety of ways. These include detent, where an operator can feel when a component is in the desired position; free stop, where lids can be repositioned in small increments along their range of motion; and lock, when you need lots of force to ensure a component stays in place.
Now, on to the many ways to take advantage of advanced hinge design:
A Better Life Awaits These 7 Industries
The range of industries taking increasing interest in motion control hinges includes, but isn’t limited to, these seven. Even if your application doesn’t fit in these categories, you might find some useful inspiration:
1. Food Service Manufacturing
Workers in commercial kitchens and outdoor cookeries appreciate the advantages of smart spring-loaded design for items such as:
The problem with professional kitchens designed to feed a lot of people is that the fixtures and equipment are often large and heavy. Naturally, doors, lids, and other components are also large and heavy.
Not only do these components require considerable effort to open and close, they also sustain damage if they swing too far or slam shut. Spring-loaded motion control hinges can offer the best lid lift assistance around, whether you want a coast close or a smooth opening.
The success of heavy-duty commercial hinges has spread to high-end consumer products such as:
- French door ovens
Smart manufacturers see the long term value in quality and product differentiation as well as adding a new, complex hinge solution.
While hospitality might seem like a similar industry to food service, it's quite different, and the motion control applications are too!
But beds aren't the only piece of furniture that motion control can improve. Think about:
- TV and monitor mounts
- Collapsible desks
- Pull-out counters
- Hidden storage
3. Ergonomic Furniture Manufacturing
Consider furniture for work, schools, and training centers. Every day, a different person may be using that equipment.
Ergonomic furniture that’s easy to reconfigure has clear advantages over static designs. For example, an ergonomic keyboard that adjusts easily to different heights and weights is scientifically proven to improve:
- Muscular-skeletal health
Other ergonomic accessories can improve overall wellness, too. Think of furniture like:
- Height-adjustable desks
- Monitor arms
- CPU holders
4. Automobile & Boat Manufacturing
Boats have hatches that cover the engine. These hatches can be heavy and would be easier to handle with the capabilities of motion control hinges.
The same holds true for the hatches on armored vehicles for military, police, or EMS personnel. An easy-to-lift, easily controlled hatch could be a life-saver in an emergency.
On the consumer side, RVs and campers would benefit from motion control hinges on fold-out beds and seating with storage underneath.
Then there are the manufacturing plants themselves.
Better hinges for:
- Equipment lids
- Machine guards
Among many other applications, motion control hinges would make industrial processes safer and less taxing for workers.
In many industrial hinge applications, it’s being asked to support 100+ lbs. A lighter lid is a safer lid. Counterbalances can offer that lightness in a safer way than gas springs can, especially in extreme conditions.
As you might have noticed, no industry seems to get away from the possibilities of motion control. The medical industry greatly benefits from motion control applications, particularly when it comes to patient and employee comfort.
Motion control (and ergonomics) helped to create equipment like:
- Blood draw tablets
- Computers carts on wheels (COWs)
- Over-the-bed tables
- Bed lift mechanisms
It doesn't stop there. Motion control in the medical field isn't just for people; veterinary clinics can use motion control to improve animal experiences as well.
7. Ceramics Manufacturing
Mass producing ceramics requires large kilns, and the lids on these kilns can weigh 50 lbs. or more.
Sounds like a situation that would benefit from the lift-assistance and positioning capabilities of spring-loaded hinges. If you need dampening too, an experienced hinge manufacturer should be able to customize one into the design.
Where Will Motion Control Take Your Design?
Above we listed just a few of the industries that make a perfect match with motion control hinge solutions. There are many others.
For example, motion control hinges improve the operations of science lab equipment, such as centrifuges and slide preparation devices. In construction, counterbalance hinges make the movable components of high-end toolboxes easy and safe to handle.
Custom mechanical hinge design has come a long way in the past few years. Product design engineers, purchasing agents, and even marketing teams are taking note of how these devices can improve their own processes and lead to higher customer satisfaction.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has since been updated.