Pallet inverters, and similar solutions such as an upender inverter, are specialized machines that allow fully loaded pallets, heavy items, and stacks of material to be easily and quickly rotated or repositioned. They help boost efficiency, reduce product damage, and prevent workplace injuries by eliminating the need to manually invert, move, or stack heavy items. Available in several sizes with varying load capacities, pallet inverters provide a safer and more efficient pallet-handling alternative to fork trucks, overhead cranes, and other hazardous and difficult-to-operate heavy lifting equipment.
Here, we provide an overview of pallet inverters, their advantages and applications, and some factors to consider when choosing an inverter for your operation.
What is a Pallet Inverter?
Pallet inverters feature a unique pallet-gripping system that allows them to securely invert or transfer pallets with or without product on them. Compared with other types of heavy lifting equipment, these machines are easier to operate and integrate better with various warehouse equipment and production lines. Most inverters can be manually controlled as stand-alone units or incorporated into a larger automation sequence. Their primary uses include:
- Changing out damaged pallets
- Accessing and removing damaged items located at the bottom of a full load
- Repositioning fully loaded pallets within a warehouse
- Moving or manipulating heavy, bulky items or stacks of product
The exact operating sequence of an inverter will depend on its specific configuration and design features. The Upender Pallet Inverter from Air Technical is available with a built-in conveyor and feed conveyor, offering a fully-automated solution for various material handling applications. Its operation involves the following basic steps:
- The load is placed or fed onto the feed conveyor leading to the pallet inverter.
- A push-button control turns on the feed conveyor and the load gets fed into the inverter. A sensor located under the rollers detects the load as it enters the unit, automatically initiating the built-in conveyors.
- After guiding the load into the inverter, the built-in conveyors shut off. The hydraulically operated clamping mechanism then closes, applying sufficient pressure to carefully secure the load within the unit.
- The unit rotates the secured load until reaching 180 degrees. The clamping mechanism then opens automatically, and the load exits the inverter via the built-in conveyor.
Advantages of Pallet Inverters
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By simplifying and speeding up the pallet-handling process, inverters provide companies with the following benefits:
- Improved efficiency: With their versatile designs and functionalities, pallet inverters are easy to integrate into existing material handling operations. These machines can quickly perform repetitive and laborious lifting, moving, and orientation processes for heavy loads. These capabilities save companies time and allow them to make more efficient use of employees. They also simplify the process of recovering damaged goods by enabling easy retrieval of items located at the bottom of pallets. Damaged items can be removed and replaced without requiring the entire load to be manually unstacked and restacked.
- Reduced expenses: Attempting to rotate or reposition large, heavy loads by hand often results in inadvertent product damage and poses an increased risk of train or injury to employees. By automating such tasks, inverters reduce production interruptions and save companies money on damaged items and manual labor.
- Enhanced safety: By eliminating the need to manually lift or rotate heavy loads, pallet inverters help reduce the occurrence of employee injuries and create a much safer and healthier working environment.
- Avoid improper use of equipment: Utilizing a forklift or overhead crane to sling and turn over a heavy or awkward item results in side-loading of hoists, unbalanced loading, and other hazards that are extremely unsafe and constitute misuse of the equipment.
How to Use Pallet Inverters
Pallet inverters help to optimize the use of warehouse space by performing a number of essential material handling tasks. Their capabilities include:
- Efficient recovery of damaged items: With pallet inverters, damaged items located at the bottom of a load can be quickly accessed and removed without having to manually restack items. These machines can also be used to remove and replace broken pallets without unstacking the product.
- Pallet swapping: Wood pallets can harbor chemicals or other contaminants from previous uses, which is a concern for industries with strict sanitary standards. For example, the food and pharmaceutical sectors often need to transfer incoming goods from wood shipping pallets to plastic hygienic pallets before they can be safely stored in clean rooms or other sanitary spaces. Inverters allow dock crews to exchange pallets quickly and efficiently without unpacking each shipment and restacking the goods on the new pallet. Conversely, inverters can transfer items from high-quality storage pallets to cheaper, expendable shipping pallets for distribution purposes.
- Rotating large products: The versatility of pallet inverters makes them useful for handling more than just pallets. These machines can also rotate large, cumbersome items that are difficult to invert by hand. This is extremely useful in operations that require the product’s orientation to change for further processing, such as metal casting and foundry, steel stamping, or rolls.
- Rotating large stacks of material: In addition to handling pallets and large items, pallet inverters can rotate heavy stacks of material such as sheets, paper boards, or laminated product manufacturing. This saves time and labor by allowing operators to invert the entire stack as a unit rather than rotating each individual item.
How Should I Decide What Pallet Inverter Is Best For My Application?
Selecting the best pallet inverter for a given operation requires careful consideration of the following factors:
- What load sizes will I be handling? Consider the weight and dimensions of the loads you handle in your operation. You can estimate the ideal inverter height range for your application by adding a minimum of five inches to your largest pallet load. A pallet inverter with a standard height range is adequate for handling loads that are all similar in size and weight.
- Do I need to handle a variety of different loads? If you will be handling loads with varying weights and dimensions, choose an inverter with a larger clamp range to accommodate larger loads, as well as small or partial loads.
- What type of product will I be inverting? The durability or fragility of the product being handled will influence the best type of inverter for your operation. For delicate products, it is important to choose an inverter that offers the appropriate clamp pressure settings.
- How much product will be inverted per day? Consider the amount of usage the inverter will need to accommodate on a daily basis. To maximize efficiency and meet productivity demands, major manufacturers or distributors will likely require a heavy-duty inverter that can quickly and reliably invert large volumes of product. For smaller-scale operations with lighter loads, a low-duty inverter might be more economical.
- How will my product be loaded into the inverter? Make sure you choose a pallet inverter that will accommodate your facility’s space requirements and easily integrate into your existing processes. Some inverters can be used as manually-operated, stand-alone machines, while others can be equipped with conveyors and other features for integration into automated production lines.
Pallet Inverters from Air Technical Industries
Pallet inverters are highly specialized pieces of equipment that improve the efficiency of material-handling operations and facilitate a safer working environment for employees. At Air Technical Industries, we use advanced technologies and state-of-the-art equipment to design and manufacture pallet inverters and other material-handling solutions for a range of industries. Our Upender Inverter enables smooth, precise positioning or rotating of heavy pallets and other large items. Equipment features and options include:
- Electromechanical rotation
- Hydraulically operated clamping action
- Available in 2,000, 4,000, 6,000, and 10,000 lb. capacities
- Several platform size options, including:
- 48″ x 48″ with a 50″ throat opening
- 48″ x 72″ with a 52″ throat opening
- 54″ x 96″ with a 66″ throat opening
- Heavy-duty powered conveyors for automatic loading
- Customizable PLC-controlled automatic cycle package available
To accommodate a range of load-handling requirements, we also offer a Mini Upender Inverter with a 250-pound capacity. We can also manufacture custom inverters with capacities of up to 50,000 pounds. Browse our selection of pallet inverters, upenders, and similar solutions to get started on your next material handling solution, or challenge us to let us help you choose the optimal equipment for your application.