Hydraulic Lift Applications
Serving a wide range of applications, hydraulic lifts are most often used in the manufacturing, construction (especially roofing and masonry), automotive and aviation industries. They can also be used general transportation, shipping and docking industries. Within these industries, hydraulic lift tables are used for applications such as: loading and unloading, moving warehouse work materials to a more accessible position, raising workers to heights they could not normally reach, relocating resources, facilitating maintenance and material handling.
Warehouses also make ample use of scissor lifts, for personal lifting, and pallet lifts, for material handling. In aviation, hydraulic lifts are used as elevators for passengers and luggage. Hydraulic lifts may also be used in a private residence or assisted living facility to aid in handicap accessibility.
History of Hydraulic Lifts
The concept of lift tables and platforms has been around since people began building tall structures. The Romans, for example, raised building materials using platforms that slaves pulled up with ropes.
The very first of hydraulic equipment we have on record was patented by Joseph Bramah in England. This equipment, the hydraulic press, changed the way agriculture and the industrial world functioned. Soon after, people began using hydraulic power to run cranes, elevators, trains and rotating bridge sections. (The hydraulic crane was invented in 1846 by Sir William Armstrong.) Modern hydraulic lifts were developed during the Industrial Revolution. Engineers opened up the first hydraulic elevator lifts in New York City in 1870. Before the hydraulic lift elevator, elevators were driven by steam that was powered by burning coal.
In 1925, an American auto mechanic named Peter Lunati patented the first fully hydraulic automotive lift. He came up with the idea after noticing how the chair at the barber shop went up and down. He thought he could apply the same concept to a lift, so that he wouldn’t have to crawl around on the ground every time he worked under a car. Of course, he was right! Within two decades, automotive lift manufacturing had become so widespread that a group of American manufacturers got together and formed a standards institute, known as Automotive Lift Institute (ALI).
The next big product in hydraulic lifting, the scissor lift, was invented in 1963 by Charles L. Larson. During the same decade Kaspar Klaus invented another lift, the sidelifter. In the 1980s, engineers innovated again and created the hydraulic scissor car lift. In this century, back in 2000, hydraulic lift manufacturers began selling four-post hydraulic vehicle platform lifts. The current hydraulic lift industry continues to find new ways to provide organization and accessibility, while it continues to use classic designs that have proved the test of time, such as the hydraulic elevator. In addition, one of the biggest focuses of modern hydraulic lift design is ergonomics.
How Hydraulic Lifts Work
Regardless of the function, design or size of a hydraulic lift, it is powered in the same way as all the others. A hydraulic lift is powered using an actuator called a hydraulic cylinder. A hydraulic cylinder derives its power from pressurized hydraulic fluid, usually oil. Inside the cylinder, a piston rod pushes on the hydraulic fluid, forcing it to transfer energy from one area to another. During this process, said force is multiplied, making the lift movement that much more powerful.
A hydraulic lift moves objects using the force created by pressure on a liquid in a cylinder that moves a piston upwards. Incompressible oil is pumped into the cylinder, which forces the piston to the top. When a valve opens to release the oil, the piston lowers by gravitational attraction.
The principle for hydraulic lifts relies on Pascals’ law for generating force or motion, which states that pressure change on an incompressible liquid in an exceedingly confined space is dispersed equally throughout the liquid, in every direction.
The mechanism works by applying force at one point to an incompressible liquid, which sends a force to a second point. The method involves two pistons that are connected by an oil-filled pipe. The handle moves the incompressible oil by squeezing it from the reservoir to the high-pressure chamber. The ram moves up because the pressurized oil is pumped in.
The force generated within a hydraulic system depends on the dimensions of the pistons. If the smaller of the two pistons is 2 inches and the larger piston is six inches, or three times as large, the quantity of force created will be ninefold greater than the quantity of force from the smaller piston. A little piston with 100 pounds of force will be able to lift 900 pounds.
Parts of a Hydraulic Mechanism
The purposes of hydraulic systems vary widely, but the principles of how hydraulic systems work and their components remain identical for all applications.
The most important part of the hydraulic mechanism is fluid or liquid. The laws of physics dictate that the pressure on the fluid will remain unchanged because it is transmitted across the hydraulic mechanism. Below is an overview of every part of a hydraulic mechanism:
- Hydraulic Fluids
- Hydraulic Circuits
- Hydraulic Motor
- Hydraulic Pump
- Hydraulic Cylinder
- Hydraulic Pistons
The hydraulic fluid transfer power in a hydraulic mechanism. Most hydraulic fluids are oil or water. The initial hydraulic fluid was water before oil was introduced within the twentieth century. Glycol ether, organophosphate ester, polyalphaolefin, antifreeze, and silicone oil are used for hot temperature applications and fire resistance.
The hydraulic circuits control the flow and pressure of the liquid within the system.
The hydraulic motor is an actuator to convert hydraulic pressure into torque and rotation. It takes the pressure and flow of the hydraulic energy and changes it into rotational energy, the same as a linear actuator. The pump sends hydraulic energy into the system, where it forces the hydraulic motor.
The hydraulic pump converts mechanical power into hydraulic energy. Hydraulic pumps create a vacuum at the pump inlet, which pushes liquid from the reservoir into the inlet line and the outlet to the hydraulic mechanism.
The hydraulic cylinder converts the energy within the hydraulic fluid into force and initiates the pressure within the fluid that is controlled by the hydraulic motor.
The hydraulic pistons are moved linearly by fluid pressure. Axial designs have a variety of pistons arranged in a unique circular style in a rotating housing.
Types of Hydraulic Lifts
There are many types of hydraulic lifts available, the most common being scissor lifts, aerial lifts, mobile scissor lifts, platform lifts, pallet lifts, vehicle lifts and post car lifts.
Hydraulic Scissor Lift
Scissor lifts may be the most common type of hydraulic lift. They perform their lifting action, controlled by hydraulic cylinders and an electrically powered pump, by extending at their crossed, accordion-esque base. As their base extends, the platform on top rises to the height you desire. Scissor lifts are ideal for large, heavy loads and wide work areas. Most often, you will find them in building construction, building maintenance and studio/theater light rigging and equipment setup.
Aerial lifts, also known as aerial work platforms, are technically a kind of scissor lift. Typically, able to rise ten to 50 feet in the air, they are the perfect lifts for high shelving access in warehouses.
Mobile Scissor Lift Table
Mobile scissor lift tables are scissor lift tables that feature casters for mobility. Often, they also feature tiltable tables and foot pumps, which make it easier to safely transport bulky or awkward items. Typically, mobile scissor lift tables are found on construction sites or entertainment sets.
Platform lifts, also called elevated work platforms, are quite similar to hydraulic lift tables, except they are much larger than regular hydraulic lift tables. Per their size, platform lifts are used for large-scale lifting tasks.
Pallet lifts, which are also known as transporters, raise pallets from a ground to a raised position. Often, to make the operation more secure, pallets are designed with special spaces where the lift goes. Pallet lifts are best for use with shipping and material handling applications.
Vehicle lifts, also known as automotive lifts or truck lifts, are used just as their name implies; they lift vehicles in inspection bays and for automotive repair. They are among the strongest of the hydraulic lift types. They are so strong, in fact, that can not only lift cars and trucks, but school buses, dump trucks and other exceptionally large vehicles.
Post Car Lift
A post car lift is a variation on the regular vehicle lift. They usually feature: four arms attached to a carriage assembly, two hydraulic cylinders, a hydraulic power unit, two upright support columns and a mishmash of accessories like cables, hoses and pulleys. Most often, post car lifts are stationary and mounted on a concrete floor.
Hydraulic Lift Equipment Components
All hydraulic lift tables feature these basic components: hydraulic fluid/hydraulic oil, hydraulic valves, a hydraulic roller (for opening and closing valves) a hydraulic pump, hydraulic cylinders, a rotary joint, a drive machine and a land surface (for the products or people being transported).
How to Use Hydraulic Lifts
We can’t tell you how to use every single hydraulic lift out there, because every individual machine is different, but we can offer you the following general advice:
1. Before turning it on, make sure that everything is in order. For example, if your lift has casters, make sure they are in the locked position, so that the lift won’t start moving on its own accord. Then, check your surroundings. Make sure you know the location of everything in the vicinity, and alert others that you will be using the lift. That way, neither you nor your coworkers will be caught off guard when you begin operating the machine.
2. Next, turn on the lift. Depending on the lift type, that may be by flipping a switch or moving a control lever. If your lift is mobile, release the casters and wheel the lift into place. Once in place, lock the casters again. Also, if you have any safety bars, lift them at this time. After you’ve done all this, you can begin engaging the controls to raise your load.
Another component of safe hydraulic operation is treating the equipment well. What we mean by that is, don’t push it to lift more than it should. If you choose to exceed the weight capacity or lifting capacity of your lift, you risk damaging its inner components, including most notably the hydraulic fluid and the hydraulic cylinders. You also risk immediate machine breakage, something that puts anyone and anything near it in danger of injury.
Benefits of Hydraulic Lifts
Hydraulic lifts are extremely useful. When you work with hydraulic lifts, you will see many benefits, including: longevity, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. In addition, they are very versatile and can be used in many different operations, from passenger lifting to supply lifting. Hydraulic lifts also offer a significant increase in safety and decrease in accidents. By lowering the likelihood of incidents and the costly and time-consuming procedures that go along with them, hydraulic lifts also contribute, once again, to efficiency. In turn, you will see larger returns on your production investments.
Hydraulic Lift Design and Customization
When designing a hydraulic lift, manufacturers think about several design aspects, including: material, mobility, automation, durability, load capacity and height restriction.
Because of the way they work, hydraulic lifts must be made from materials that perform well under pressure. Such materials include: stainless steel, woven wire and rubber. For the greatest durability or most heavy-duty applications, manufacturers will use stainless steel. Manufacturers make some lifts mobile with attached wheels, while others make them mounted as part of a process line. They can be fully manually operated, partially automated or completely automated.
To accommodate unique applications, manufacturers can customize all of those features mentioned above. In addition, they can add custom colors and coatings, and components like: warning lights, extra arms, skirting and foot controls.
Uses of Stainless Steel Lifts
Food and pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, medical devices, and some chemical manufacturing plants require special sanitation practices during production. They ensure that the environment is well-cleaned to avoid any form of contamination that may negatively affect the quality of products. Different equipment made of stainless steel is commonly used in such industries because stainless steel meets the stringent design requirements set by regulatory bodies in the industry. Stainless steel’s impermeable surface serves as a great barrier against various contaminants, adequately protecting the products it contains or handles. In addition, it is corrosion-resistant and can withstand frequent washdowns.
Several uses of stainless steel lifts are as follows:
- Ergonomic Positioning of Ingredients in a Batch or Continuous Process
One part of the manufacturing process involves the loading of ingredients into different equipment at a specified interval; this can be a labor-intensive job, especially for large-scale production. The use of stainless steel lifts to load ingredients into process equipment increases production efficiency and safety. Production jobs are repetitive and physically demanding. Stainless steel lifts’ ergonomic design allows them to seamlessly fit into existing systems. Therefore, they promote efficiency and reduce the risk of workers developing musculoskeletal injuries.
- Portable Tippers or Dumpers
Stainless steel portable tippers or dumpers are used to safely transfer bulk materials from one container to another. Stainless steel or plastic drums are often used as storage containers of bulk materials in food processing and pharmaceutical manufacturing. They handle large quantities of raw materials, intermediate bulk products, finished goods, and wastes for disposal. Manually tilting them to transfer contents to a receiving container is physically demanding and may cause injuries when carried out recklessly.
- Transport of Materials
Stainless steel lifts can also be used to move materials from one place to another. Some stainless steel lifts have wheels for mobility. They allow easy transfer of materials during loading and unloading as they can be raised to a specific height.
- Man Lift
Stainless steel man lifts are suitable for carrying out works at hard-to-reach locations. They are stationary platforms that can rise up to 216 inches. Their surfaces are abrasive enough to provide a safe walking surface for workers. In addition, they usually have a small footprint; this makes maneuvering in tight areas easy.
- Pallet Inverter
Stainless steel lifts functioning as pallet inverters are also available. They enable the quick and simple exchange of pallets. They can also be tilted to a certain degree or inverted for ease of transfer of the pallet it holds. With pallet inverters, the bottom of the load can easily be accessed without having to manually unload the contents. They are also useful in preventing the settling of solids in a container holding liquid with suspended solids. By simply inverting the pallet, the contents of the container will be agitated.
Stainless steel lifts can also be used as stackers. They are perfect for use in lifting and transporting heavy loads to high shelves. They have a small footprint and can fit into narrow aisles. They allow smooth stacking of goods without damaging them during loading and unloading.
Hydraulic Lift Safety and Compliance Standards
It’s important that the hydraulic lift you purchase is up to code. Every industry and region potentially require different safety and compliance standard adherences. However, some of standards are fairly universal. First are OSHA standards. These are American standard requirements that focus on worker safety. Second are EN standards, which are equipment safety standards used in the European Union. Similar to those are BS EN standards, which are EN standards that have modified for use in the United Kingdom. Finally, around the world, governments and industries abide by ISO standards. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so it’s very important that you talk to your supplier and industry leaders to make sure that you know all the standards to which your lifts must adhere.
- Understand and follow the manufacturer’s directions for safe use.
- The lift should be marked with the name of the manufacturer and the date of installation.
- A repair log must be maintained and properly kept.
- Workers should stand to at least one side because the lift operates.
- The load should be well-positioned on the lift and not overload the lift’s capacity.
- Lifts must be kept aloof from overhead and grade level obstacles.
- The floor under the lift should be freed from oil or grease to minimize slipping hazards.
- Avoid holes, ditches, slopes, or rough terrain.
- The lift must be at least 10 feet distanced from electrical lines and power sources.
- Oil levels on hydraulic lifts should be checked from time to time.
- Lifts should be decommissioned from service if there are any indications of malfunctioning.
Finding the Right Hydraulic Lift Manufacturer
Before you begin your supplier search, you need to be prepared. Start by consulting with your internal staff and resources in order to make sure you know all your exact requirements. Write all of your specifications and requirements, such as: what your machine will lift, how much weight your machine must be able to hold and lift (weight capacity), how high your machine must climb, how often you will use your lift, the dimensions of your space, whether or not your lift must be mobile, your timeline and your budget.
Armed with this comprehensive list, you will be able to have much more productive conversations with those companies to whom you speak. To find those companies and have those conversations, consult the list of hydraulic lift suppliers and manufacturers we’ve supplied on this page. Check out their respective profiles and websites, and pick out three or four about whom you’d like to learn more. Then, reach out to each of them and discuss everything on your list. Look for a manufacturer that offers the services you require, with excellent customer alongside them.
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Hydraulic Lift Informational Video