Maria Hadlow explores the flexibility and range of vertical mast platforms.

21 February 2012

Skyjack's SJ 16 16ft vertical mast which went into production at the end of last year.

Skyjack's SJ 16 16ft vertical mast which went into production at the end of last year.

With such a varied range of general and specialist applications, it is left to the customer to decide which vertical mast solution they will choose. Maria Hadlow reports.

Vertical mast machines range from the simple lightweight push-around variety to more complex, rugged models with jibs for increased flexibility. Most claim the benefit of being light weight and able to reach areas that conventional access equipment cannot.

Paul Kreutzwiser, senior product marketing manager says, "Vertical mast lifts have a few unique advantages over conventional scissor lifts. For starters they are compact and lightweight with ability to access areas conventional lifts cannot easily get to.

"These lifts are also lighter and able to be used on more jobsites including finished buildings which are more sensitive to overall weight as well as local floor load pressures, providing an alternative for the everyday ladder."

Snorkel says that UpRight built the first push-around atrium mast lifts and in the TM12 it produced the first compact self-propelled vertical mast. Following UpRight's integration into Snorkel, these lifts are still part of the company's core product range.

Snorkel recently updated the TM12 and rebranded it as the M1230E (M = mast, 12 = maximum platform height in feet, 30 = width in inches, E = all-electric drive train).

Richard Tindale, global sales and marketing director for Snorkel, said: "The TM12 was really the first low-level access platform, designed specifically for those maintenance and fit-out applications that increasingly utilise powered access rather than stepladders or podiums.

"The productivity, economic and health and safety benefits of using powered access in these applications are well documented. These lifts deliver a substantial return on investment for both the hire companies who rent them out and the end users, such as construction contractors."

Promoting the productivity benefits of using a very lightweight vertical mast machine for internal fit out work in construction has long been the campaign of Mr Bravi who designed his first Leonardo to help him with his own work in the industry.

The machines not only remove the need to use scaffold towers, which can be time consuming to erect and often need two people to do it. They can be used on finished or semi finished floors that cannot support heavier powered access equipment. Architects have even specified the Bravi Platform equipment because using the very lightweight machines in the fit out can allow them to use less concrete in floors.

In recent years Bravi Platforms has produced machines which are increasingly tailored to particular applications, heavy duty machines for outside work, the , two-man platforms, ultra narrow platforms, low cost options and the Caddy specialist warehouse, pick and place model.

All developments are driven from customer feedback and that has led to the company's latest development - a departure from Mr Bravi's advocacy of the self propelled machine. It is Spin-go a push around version of the Caddy.

Bravi Platforms is not alone in producing both self-propelled and push-around mast machines. Snorkel's range for example not only includes the M1230E but the UL push around range, the entry level PAM26 (26ft) and the 20ft self propelled SPM20.

The Chinese company Dingli also produces both push around and self-propelled vertical mast machines. There are eight machines in the push-around GTWY series, five of which have duel decks designed to carry two people.

They range between working heights of 6 to 14m with a lift capacity from 200 to 300 kg. "Four large outriggers with microswitches maintain stability and safety," says the company.

Of the six models in the AMWP self propelled series two have a dual mast design to provide more height and load capacity - 7.5m with 200kg capacity and 9m with 150kg capacity. The others are single mast compact models with working heights between 6m and 7.5m and lift capacities between 125kg and 150kg.

The market of vertical mast platforms is becoming increasingly specialised - with manufacturers targeting specific application areas and many providing productivity options and accessories.

Bravi Platforms has a handling device for drywall sheets and plaster board, which can be used on its Leonard and Bravi Lite models.

Haulotte took its electrically powered 6m working height Star6 design (there are also 8m and 10m versions) and developed the Star 6 Picking for pick and place applications in commercial and retail stores such as DIY, cash and carry, warehouses and shops where no fumes and low noise are important.

The Star 6 Picking allows the operator to drop and pick up parcels, small boxes and parts stored at height on shelves with maximum comfort and safety. The picking tray, with an edge, has a load capacity of 90kg and the skirt on the platform maintains safety as tools won't fall.

The tray has four adjustable-height positions, there is an ergonomic control box with a new joystick and saloon-style doors provide easier access to the platform.

With a 1.64m height in stowed position allowing passage under standard doors and/or lifts as well as 0.76m width, the Star6 Picking is suited for working in congested areas.

Skyjack has several options on its recently upgraded SJ12 and SJ16 vertical masts. These are a light duty pipe racks, which can accommodate steel studs as well, tool tray, fluorescent tube carrier and an AC inverter currently just for ANSI/CSA markets but soon available for as well.

The upgrades on the Skyjack machines have stemmed from feedback received from customers on the initial first year or so in production with the SJ 12. They are a relocation of the hour meter to the mast so it is more visible and easier to take reading and the repositioning of the control box connection to the mast, for a sleeker, lower profile mount

Also the pothole protection deployment system has been upgrade to be less complicated and more reliable. Hydraulic upgrades have been made to help smooth the drive and allow the user to make adjustments to things like steer priority, so smoothness and responsiveness of controls can be tailored, which is an advantage on jobsites that are crowded or require a bit more finesse than typical construction sites

Mr Kreutzwiser says, "All upgrades have been made and are in process of being launched in conjunction with the addition of the first SJ 16's to hit the production line that started in the fourth quarter of 2011."

At the ultra lightweight and low cost end of the vertical mast spectrum is JLG's Liftpod. LiftPod, is designed to combine the portability of a ladder with the stability of a work platform and sells for around $2,500.

Introduced in February 2011, the LiftPod FS60 is compliant with ANSI A92.3-2006/CSA B354.1-04, and has a 30in base that can be transported through standard doorways and tight aisles fully assembled. With a 12ft working height and a 6ft standing height, the FS60 has non-marking rear caster wheels for enhanced mobility.

The LiftPod is powered by an 18-volt drill or an optional power pack for increased flexibility and affordability. "The FS60 is suitable for a variety of settings, including industrial, commercial, hospitality, educational and healthcare facilities, as well as office buildings.

"These applications include office/facility general maintenance, light replacement, HVAC, installation of security and information networks, and painting to name a few," says JLG.

The non construction environment was the starting point for Edmolift whose products are designed and built in the UK and Sweden.

The company says, "A focus group was established from our market sector to aid our engineers, designers and stylers and we learnt that existing platforms are perceived as being big, scary and of an industrial appearance.

"It was soon very clear that whilst a bulky, heavy machine is at home on a construction site and was indeed essential for the rigours of site work, the same machine is not appropriate for use in an elegant hotel lobby, hospital ward or a smart city office.

"In these environments a far more refined product is needed."

Edmolift's answer to this need was AIR (Access Innovations Range). It weighs 240kg and is available as a push around or self propelled model. Working height is currently 4.5m with a 5m model due to be launched in May 2012. It has a lifting capacity of 180kg and you should get more than 200 lifts out of a single charge.

The company said, "In every respect the intended environment, operators' capabilities and work tasks have been considered for AIR. From the use of materials and colour to the control buttons and gate hinges, we have ensured that all items have been optimised to suit our clients' requirements and preferences.

Almost at the opposite end of the scale are the vertical mast machines designed for tight work spaces both inside and out.

French manufacturer ATN PIAF 880R and 1000R are intended for use both indoors and outdoors. They have anti-marking tyres or tracks and are activated 100% hydraulically to reduce maintenance

"One of the particularities of these mast boom lifts," says ATN, "is that they can be operated in cold stores, where temperatures vary between 20°C and - 40°C, or on humid or wet sites, as they exclude any type of electronic component or card.

Current models: The PIAF 810 (8.10m) runs on a tracked carriage and is designed for use on rough ground or on fragile floors thanks because of its low ground-bearing pressure of 0.5kg/cm².

If you require a higher mast boom lift, the PIAF 880 with wheels (8.80m) and the PIAF 1000 with wheels (10.04m) are available. ATN says that it plans to extend its range of vertical mast boom lifts, and will therefore present the PIAF 1100R at the Intermat fair in Paris next April.

Genie emphasis the added value a jib can provide to a vertical mast, ""We added a jib version to our popular Runabout range to give our customers more choices in industrial and maintenance applications" said Jeff Weido, Genie Portables Product Manager, Terex AWP.

"With an outstanding 140° jib range of motion and a narrow footprint, the GR-20J and GR-26J are ideal for locations where superior outreach in confined spaces is required. In addition, both the units can be driven at full height to increase users' productivity."

The vertical mast category of access equipment is indeed varied and yet the lightweight, compact nature of the equipment remains across the spectrum, clearly we can look forward to more new machines in this class for both specific and general applications.

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