Lots of air tools and electric tools are used along car assembly lines: nut setters, screw drivers, sanders, drills, … Each tool is connected to a fixed outlet or controller by means of a flexible hose or tool cable. In many cases these hoses and tool cables are lying on the floor during production thus creating hazardous working conditions. As a result, the current situation increases danger of

  • tripping accidents
  • damaged equipment
  • loss of production time

Known for our many years of experience in reel technology and our passion for innovative solutions, tool engineers from several major automotive companies called upon ALPHA REEL bvba to solve this age-old problem. Based on the information and recommendations from people who know first-hand the risks and frustrations of working in a stumble-jungle, we developed a brand new retraction system called “AssemblyReel”.

To understand the benefits of the AssemblyReel it is helpful to take a closer look at the main shortcomings of conventional spring-driven reels.

Conventional reels

The technology behind conventional reels is simple: a powerful spring inside the drum starts building up tension when the hose or cable is pulled out. Later, when the operator has finished his job, this tension is released to recoil the hose or cable back unto the drum. Although generally accepted in many industries, this solution counts several major disadvantages.

More recoil force equals more effort

Inherent to this particular technology is the fact that the more length is pulled out the more recoil force the powerful spring is building up and, consequently, the more effort the operator needs to exert. A simple test shows that the effort required to pull out 15 meters of hose starts at 20 N and increases progressively up to 200 N! Seen from an ergonomic perspective this is very high, especially when the tool is used many times a day. It comes as no surprise that operators decline to use conventional hose reels.

Unreliable locking mechanism

Another problem typical to conventional spring-driven reels relates to its locking mechanism. This latch device allows the operator to use his tool freely without constantly retaining the hose or cable from recoiling. Once the mechanism actuated the tensioned spring inside the reel is secured. However, to engaged the locking mechanism the operator has to pull out the desired length, has to find the nearest lock position (not easy at 15 or 20 meters distance from the reel) and has to verify the actual locking before letting go. In practice this cumbersome sequence of actions creates a lot of irritation.

Thirdly, when the operator has finished his job and wants the hose or cable to recoil, he needs to disengage that same locking mechanism. To do so he has to lift up the hose, stretch the hose with an effort that surpasses the force of the tensioned spring and finally take a few steps back until the lock is free. Here again, this sequence of time consuming actions is experienced to be very irritating.

Next, once the locking mechanism disengaged the operator needs to retain the hose or cable firmly while walking back to the reel. During that process he needs the exhort enough effort to withhold the recoil force of the tensioned spring.

High tension on the spring

But the most worrying problem with conventional spring-driven reels is the very dangerous situation the moment the powerful spring is tensioned. If by accident the operator should lose grip on the hose or cable, or if the locking mechanism should fail, the tensioned spring will retract the hose or cable in an uncontrollable manner. Due to acceleration the tool will gain speed and smash with high impact upon the reel! Have a look at the video and see in slow motion what is really happening. Apart from material damage, this whipping action can lead to life threatening injuries to the operator and people standing nearby!

It is clear that, on closer inspection, conventional spring-driven reels are less effective and less safe than one would expect from a product so widely accepted in modern industry. Quite the opposite is true!

Over the years several solutions have been proposed to overcome these shortcomings (e.g. ErgoReel, SmartReel, SCS Reel, …) but none have succeeded without creating new disadvantages. And this is exactly where the AssemblyReel makes the difference!

What makes the AssemblyReel so special?

Unlike manual-driven or spring-driven reels, the AssemblyReel offers a motor-driven solution. Since there is no powerful spring inside the drum, the force to pull out the hose or tool cable manually is very low and constant, regardless its length. This means the operator can use the hose or cable with minimal effort and without searching for the nearest locking position. But more important, this also means that there is no more danger of high-speed retraction accidents!

With AssemblyReel …

  • no increasing effort to pull out the hose or cable
  • no need to search the nearest lock position
  • no need to disengage the locking mechanism
  • no withhold effort while walking back to the reel
  • no risk of high-speed impact accidents