Moving heavy loads can be an inefficient process. It’s not the lifting and shifting that takes the time either – it’s the process of securing the load on one end and releasing it on the other. If we could remove these steps, it would make factories, warehouses and production lines far more efficient.
Vacuum lifters do exactly that, by trading hooks, chains and straps for the power of air pressure. In this guide we’ll take a closer look at how vacuum lifters work and what loads they can be used for.
What are vacuum lifters?
If you’ve ever placed your hand over the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner, you’ll be familiar with the powerful suction force that low pressure air can generate. Vacuum lifting systems feature a suction cup lifting device that works in much the same way.
The cup attaches to the surface of the load through nothing more than suction, but the force is still strong enough to lift heavy loads off the ground and shift them to a new location.
There are two main types of vacuum lifters:
- Permanent installations that complete specific lifts in a dedicated area.
- Self-contained, portable machines, often battery-powered, that can be moved around a site to complete a wide variety of lifts as and when needed.
Vacuum lifters can also be incredibly powerful: at Stratalign our machines are capable of lifting up to 50 tonnes, using nothing but the suction force that comes from low pressure air.
While these machines are popular as glass and tile suction lifters, and for sheet metal handling, the surfaces of the load don’t necessarily need to be flat and smooth. In fact, vacuum lifters can pick up a surprising array of loads and materials…
Materials that vacuum lifters can pick up
What can you lift and shift with a vacuum lifter? A lot more than you might think. While it might be obvious that these machines are effective glass and steel sheet lifters, there are a number of other situations where a vacuum lifter can prove the ideal tool. They can pick up:
- Glass: Vacuum lifters and manual suction cups are the most common tools used to move and handle glass sheets and windows on both the manufacturing and construction sides.
- Steel and aluminium: Metal production, metal fabrication and metal supply businesses will often use vacuum lifters for sheet metal, as they are strong, efficient and don’t mark the material.
- Timber: Vacuum lifters are an effective tool for lifting and shifting wooden boards and panels, for timber mills and processors, furniture manufacturing and more.
- Stone, granite and marble: Capable of lifting extremely heavy loads safely and efficiently, vacuum lifters for stone and vacuum lifters for granite are common sights in factories and warehouses that deal in bench and counter tops.
- Concrete: Similar to stone, the heavy and brittle nature of concrete makes the strong and gentle function of vacuum lifters ideal for picking up this material.
- Drums and kegs: Provided they are fitted with the right suction cups, vacuum lifters are perfectly capable of picking up cylindrical items. Drums and kegs can also be picked up from their flat tops.
- Paper and cardboard: The printing and packaging industries use vacuum lifters to handle large cardboard sheets and rolls of paper.
- Bags: Many factories, production facilities and distribution centres use vacuum lifters to handle plastic or paper bags filled with everything from construction materials to animal feed. The specification of the cup and pump is critical in achieving a successful lift when bags have loose contents, and our deeply experienced team is ready to help.
- Pipes: Vacuum lifters with curved pads can be used for lifting concrete and steel pipes. The pads must be changed whenever the pipe diameter changes.
Materials vacuum lifters have issues picking up
While the material handling capabilities of vacuum lifters are extensive, there are a few materials that these machines can struggle to gain a hold of. The following lifts will need input from technicians regarding the suction cups and motor size and may require a sample of the product to be lifted to be provided for testing.
- Particularly porous or coarse materials: Materials that are porous or not very smooth make it difficult to create a seal – imagine trying to pick up a sieve with a vacuum cleaner. Vacuum lifters demand a solid and largely uniform surface.
- Irregular shapes: Irregularly shaped objects may not provide a consistent seal, or may lack an appropriate surface near the centre of gravity. Once again, cup specification is crucial for irregular objects.
- Thin and flexible items: Particularly thin sheets of metal, cardboard and plastic may not be suitable for vacuum lifters, as it can be difficult to achieve a seal, and there is the potential for material deformation if the suction is too strong. How thin is too thin? Ask our specialists, who bring deep knowledge on everything from suction strength to cup placement, to ensure your vacuum lifter can move everything you need it to.
Benefits of vacuum lifter systems
Now that we know what a vacuum lifter system can pick up, why choose one in the first place? Here are four of the most compelling reasons:
- Greater efficiency and productivity: Vacuum suction lifters allow you to secure and release loads instantaneously. Most can also be controlled by a single operator.
- Less load stress: No straps, chains or hooks means less ways to dent, mark and damage your loads.
- A safer lift: Vacuum lifters are ultra-reliable and can replace many instances of manual handling around most workshops, warehouses and factories.
- Strength: Capable of lifting up to 50 tonnes, almost no job is too big for a Stratalign vacuum lifter.
Enabling New Zealand businesses to work smarter, quicker and safer
Whether you’re looking for a way to make your production line more efficient, or need a heavy duty vacuum lifting device for sheet metal, at Stratalign we have the knowledge and experience you need to get the perfect machine for your situation.
At Stratalign we offer specialist knowledge that will ensure your warehouse or factory works better no matter the challenges presented by your loads, from thin sheets of material to loose and wrinkled plastic bags.
We’ve spent years helping Kiwi businesses secure lifting equipment to work smarter, faster and safer. If you feel that a vacuum lifter could enhance your operations, our lifting equipment experts are ready to help.
Speak to our team today to discover the ideal vacuum lifting solution for you.