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In robotics a manipulator is a device used to manipulate materials without direct contact. The applications were originally for dealing with radioactive or biohazardous materials, using robotic arms, or they were used in inaccessible places. In more recent developments they have been used in applications such as robotically-assisted surgery and in space. It is an arm-like mechanism that consists of a series of segments, usually sliding or jointed, which grasp and move objects with a number of degrees of freedom.
In industrial ergonomics a manipulator is a lift assist device used to help workers lift, maneuver and place articles in process that are too heavy, too hot, too large or otherwise too difficult for a single worker to manually handle. As opposed to simply vertical lift assists (cranes, hoists, etc.) manipulators have the ability to reach in to tight spaces and remove workpieces. A good example would be removing large stamped parts from a press and placing them in a rack or similar dunnage.
Additionally, manipulator tooling gives the lift assist the ability to pitch, roll, or spin the part for appropriate placement. An example would be removing a part from a press in the horizontal and then pitching it up for vertical placement in a rack or rolling a part over for exposing the back of the part. Several examples can be seen at this manipulator manufacturers' website
One of the types of manipulators is balanced manipulator type MSP-250, controlled by the operator's hand. Such manipulators are used in various industries. Where there are special requirements to protect against fire and explosion, they may be driven by compressed air.
Examples of robotic manipulators are:
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