Low is good

24 April 2008

The RazaDeck 200 from Wolfe Designs offers platform heights of 0.55m, 1.0 m and 2.0 m, and weighs ju

The RazaDeck 200 from Wolfe Designs offers platform heights of 0.55m, 1.0 m and 2.0 m, and weighs just 52 kg.

The UK's Working at Height directive doesn't ban the use of ladders, but it does force end users to consider carefully whether they should be using them. The end result has been the development of several small, innovative platforms to provide working heights of under 10 m, and a massive increase in UK demand for small electric scissors and UpRight TM12-type machines: “it's like a new industry”, as one scissor manufacturer told AI.

Good examples of new products are the Pop-Up scissor, a battery powered, push-around model from NSG UK - winner of product of the year at the recent Hire Association Europe annual awards - and the Raza Deck 200, a new take on the access tower concept from Wolfe Designs, the company that brought us the ingenious Towermatic scissor last year.

The Pop-Up has been winning plaudits - and orders - since its launch earlier this year. The 270 kg weight machine (shown on this month's cover) has a 240 kg payload capacity on its 1010 mm by 520 mm platform, and will reach its maximum 1.63 m platform height in eight seconds. The scissor lift cylinder is powered by battery and it is light enough to be manually pushed - also small enough to enter elevators and go through standard single doorways. The list price is €3500.

Rental companies have bought about 80% of the 350 units sold likes to emphasis one desirable characteristic of low height models, “The machines must be easy, almost fun, to use.” The Pop-Up is made in China for NSG and the company is investigating sales opportunities outside of the UK, although domestic demand is keeping it busy enough.

Wolfe Designs, meanwhile, extends its access products with the RazaDeck 200, an access tower offering platform heights of 0.55m, 1.0 m and 2.0 m. It's a one-piece platform, weighs just 52 kilograms and the clever feature is a foldable side-frame that allows the tower to be flat-packed for transport and which, by means of 16 sealed torsion springs at the frame hubs, can be erected and collapsed in a series of simple moves. AI tried it out at the recent SED show and it is very easy to use. Small outriggers are required at the top height, and also at this position you have to access the platform from inside the frame.

“It looks simple”, says Wolfe's sales manager Chris Suter, “but the geometry has been patented. It's actually very clever.” List price will be around €1500 (US$2800). Wolfe is talking to Altrex in the Netherlands about a possible cooperation agreement for both the Towermatic and the RazaDeck 200, and Wolfe is also dealing with Compact Power Inc for sales in North America and Australian scaffolding manufacturer No Bolt.

Other UK companies are getting in on the low-access act. Turner Access has introduced the Deltadeck 250, with a maximum platform height of 2.84 m; Zarges UK - part of the Zarges-Tubesca group - has introduced the Sherpamatic (platform heights between 0.72 m and 1.65 m) and Sherpascopic (two versions, with platform heights of up to 1.52 m and 2.23 m). Zarges UK is also now importing the powered, self-propelled vertical mast Turbo F7 and Turbo F9 models built by its French sister company Comabi.

And of course there are plenty of other manufacturers supplying small, self-propelled or push-around platforms, including the big three - Genie, JLG and Haulotte. Haulotte has recently added a wide selection of vertical mast machines - the six model Star range - and JLG used the Intermat show earlier this year to show a new version of its Toucan Junior 8 model. The ‘Lite' version now weighs 750 kg rather than the 1000 kg of the standard model. The company is also understood to be planning a new product, an equivalent to UpRight's still popular TM12 machine.

Recognition of the need for compact access equipment is certainly not limited to the UK. Italy's Braviisol is finding success with its Leonardo platform (see caption story) and Germany's Lehmann Zugangstechnik is investing in its vertical mast products (see opposite).

If the new UK working at height regulations are prompting innovation, it is worth pointing out that good ideas travel, even without the stick of regulation. Contractors, tradesmen, rental companies the world over could benefit from some of the innovation that has been ‘forced' on the UK. Regulations aren't always popular, but when it comes to working at height, they can have a big impact.

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