Platform lifts are highly versatile lift machines, available in a variety of configurations, shapes and sizes. In general, the purpose of lifts is to lower and raise goods and people. Platform lifts are designed to, as their name suggests, lower and raise platforms. They have applications in industrial settings, commercial settings and consumer settings alike.
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Applications of Platform Lifts
Available in custom designs that serve specific tasks, some of the most common uses of platform lifts involve construction, automotive repair procedures, accessibility, transportation and building maintenance. For example, quite a few large commercial institutions and facilities buy a small set of platform lifts so that they can independently perform tasks, rather than having to rely on outside contractors for work. Also, many businesses purchase and install permanent platform lifts that serve to fulfill the requirements of wheelchair accessibility regulations like those outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Similarly, private residents with wheelchairs sometimes have platform lifts installed in their homes to make it easier for them to get from one floor to another. Platform lifts may also function as industrial or small, privately-owned elevators. The latter are generally low-power and low-capacity in comparison to their industrial counterparts. Likely, they are powered by electricity and able to bear the weight of only one or two average weight people at a time.
Types of Platform Lifts
In accordance with the number of applications platform lifts serve, there are many types and styles that may be used to create them. In industrial settings, platform lifts are commonly based on, among others, scissor lifts and aerial lifts.
- Scissor Lifts
- Named after the scissor-like shape they take when they are opened and closed with the assistance of linked, folding supports. This shape is also often likened to a diamond or an "X" pattern. Scissor lifts are quite strong and they tend to be wider than other lifts, and they achieve vertical movement via the application of pressure on the outside of the lowest lying set of supports. This pressure extends the "X" pattern area and propels the platform lift upward. The pressure applied may be born out of pneumatic, mechanical or hydraulic power. If a platform scissor lift is mechanically powered, it is most likely done so via a leadscrew system or a rack and pinion system. However, most scissor lifts are powered by hydraulics. Since scissor lifts, and platform lifts in general, are limited to up and down movements only, their platform portion may be equipped with an extending bridge that allows them to get closer to a work area.
- Aerial Lifts
- Which scissor lifts are a type, may also be called elevated or elevating work platforms or aerial devices. They are simply stable, movable vertical lifts that are always powered by hydraulics. They are often used in order to bring a person up to a height he or she could not reach otherwise, in order to work on something, such as the maintenance of light fixtures, windows, HVAC equipment, utility wires and other ceiling or raised components of tall buildings. Building types they commonly serve include churches, concert halls, television studios and theaters. Usually, aerial lifts are designed to lift less than a ton.
- Hydraulic Lift Systems
- Powerful lift systems used widely to power industrial and commercial platform lifts. To raise and lower lifts and the objects they carry, these systems channel the power of hydraulic pressure. They consist of a hydraulic cylinder, a connecting rod and a platform. Within the cylinder resides hydraulic fluid, a piston, flanges and a set of seals. This hydraulic fluid is usually some sort of mineral oil or base stocks or synthetic materials selected for speciality applications like high temperature settings or fire risks. Examples of specialty fluids include esters, organophosphate ester, glycol, propylene glycol, silicone oils and polyalphaolefin. The hydraulic fluid enters the cylinder on one side of a piston, when it is forced via compression. The pressure that accompanies this action builds, causing the piston to move. Attached to the piston is a connecting rod which, when the piston moves, is forced away from the cylinder, making whatever material is connected to the rod, which would be the platform, to also move away from the cylinder. Thus, the platform lift moves up. To reverse this action, or to lower the platform, the hydraulic pressure is released and the piston slowly returns to its resting position. This force is strong enough to support the weight of multiple people, equipment and vehicles.
Finding a Lift Manufacturer
Platform lifts are incredibly useful tools for innumerable tasks. To determine the best lift configuration for any given task, interested parties should contact a lift specialist.