What is a Vertical Platform Lift?

White Platform Lift

A vertical platform lift is a mobility solution for wheelchair users. Typically, they are designed to be more compact and travel at slower speeds than passenger lifts. Platform lifts can placed in a variety of environments but are best suited low rise buildings. In recent years, they have become increasingly popular not only in private homes, but also in commercial buildings as part of an all-inclusive society.

Having got the summary of what a vertical platform lift is, we will now back up and explain the product in greater detail.

What is a Lift?

From the viewpoint of a casual passenger, a lift can appear as a magical transportation box that brings him or her to the desired floor. However, for those who are more curious like yourself, a lift operates similar to that of a pulley system. It contains:

  • One or more metal boxes that travel up and down
  • Counterweights to lift the loads
  • Electric motors to provide power for hoisting the cars up or down
  • A brake system
  • A system of pulleys and metal cables that run between the cars and motors
  • An electronic control system for determining the logic of the lift’s operation

By using pulleys, metal cables, counterweights and electric motors, lifts are able to efficiently lift or lower passengers to their desired locations.

Types of Lifts

There are generally two types of lifts in the world – passenger lifts and platform lifts.

Passenger Lifts

The first of which is the more popular of the two, namely the passenger lift. A passenger lift fits groups of people, ranging in size between 3 to 30, depending on the size of the lift. They are allowed to travel at speeds faster than 0.15m/s, thus enabling them to transport people at a relatively fast pace. In fact, the average journey on a lift takes around 18 seconds when uninterrupted.

A passenger lift requires a lift shaft to be built in order to house the passenger car and mechanism. As such, they are typically built in newer buildings where adequate space can be allocated for the lift shaft and lift pit. Due to the high volume of usage, they do require regular maintenance.

Platform Lifts

Platform lifts, or otherwise known as vertical lifting platforms, cater to smaller passenger group sizes travelling shorter distances. Their speed is limited to 0.15m/s, making them better suited for vertical transport in a low rise building. On average, the travel time for on a platform lift is 22 seconds. An advantage that platform lifts offer over passenger lifts lies in their installation. A much smaller footprint is required, thus enabling their installation in most buildings.

Due to their performance characteristics, platform lifts have found favour as a mobility platform for wheelchair users. Typically, they are able to carry 1 wheelchair user at a time and can be crafted in 4 different variants to suit the environment:

  1. Open platform lifts
  2. Enclosed platform lifts
  3. Low pit lifts
  4. Wheelchair platform stairlifts

How Do Platform Lifts Operate?

3 main aspects of platform lift operations will be covered in this article – hydraulic power, user control and operating system.

Hydaulic Power

All platform lifts operate based on hydraulic power, with electricity being provided from a nearby outlet. Electricity is converted into hydraulic energy, which then powers a drive mast. This lifts or lowers the platform to the desired level. Without the hydraulic power, the lift would be stuck and dormant. As such, in cases of emergencies where electricity to the platform is cut, a backup battery must be available.

User Control

Just like passenger lifts, platform lifts are rider controlled. The user friendly buttons interface on the control panel allows the wheelchair user to direct the drive mast. Two possible operations take place when a user presses a particular floor.

If the floor is higher than the current level which the lift is at, then the draft shaft uses hydraulic energy to pull the platform lift up to the right height. Conversely, if the floor is below, then the drive releases hydraulic pressure, thus allowing the platform lift to slowly glide down to the lower level.

In similar fashion to an emergency stop button in passenger lifts, platform lifts also have a halt operation that can be triggered by the user. In the event where the platform lift’s sensors pick up an obstruction, the same halt mechanism is used to safely stop the lift. This keeps the wheelchair user and the machine safe.

Operating System

In this section, we explain the hydraulics and drive masts of a lift in simple layman terms. Picture the drive mast as a large pulley that the platform sits on top of. When a higher floor is requested, this pulley rotates in one direction, pulling in metal cable and thus causing the platform to rise. On the other hand, when the lift is to descend, this pulley rotates in the opposite direction, thus allowing the platform to be lowered by the cables.

Are Platform Lifts Safe?

Platform lifts are safe for both adults and children provided that they have been installed by a certified contractor. Other than proper installation, your contractor would advise you on the safety guidelines, operation and weight restrictions of the platform lift. It is essential that you are familiar with these.

Additionally, like any machine, platform lifts do require maintenance from time to time. Common symptoms of potential near future malfunction include squeaking and squealing sounds. These are indicative of a loose cable or pulley. Another common issue is that of misalignment between your platform lift and the floor. If you suspect that your platform lift is not operating as usual, then you need to immediately contact your contractor.

Trust Tai Hee Engineering as Your Platform Lift Contractor

Tai Hee Engineering Trading Pte Ltd is a leading importer and service provider of the latest technology of accessibility equipment from Europe to Singapore and South East Asia. They provide consultation and installation services of residential stair lifts, commercial wheelchair lifts, enclosed platform lift as well as glass platform lift. These consultation and installation service are catered to private home owners as well as commercial and public areas.

Interested to find out more about platform lifts? You may read a related article on:

What is a platform lift used for?

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