Vacuum Lifters Diversify Into Multiple Material Applications

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | August 2010 Vol. 65 No. 8
A crew from Miller Pipelines unloads 56-inch O.D. concrete pipe in Mexico.

Handling pipe on construction jobs is a labor intensive, time-consuming and potentially-dangerous task, but one that is necessary on every water, sanitary sewer and energy pipeline project, as well as many utility projects where cable is placed in duct or conduit.

Pipe supplies must be unloaded from trucks and each length or reel of pipe moved into position for placement in the ground. The conventional method for accomplishing that is to strap or chain pipe to an excavator boom or crane to move joints of pipe.

Using a powerful vacuum force, a vacuum lifter can unload and position most types of pipe used on underground utility construction projects. Vacuum suction securely holds material, eliminating the need to strap or chain pipe to the lifting boom, preventing material or coating damage that can be caused by other lifting methods.

Gateway Pipeline used the Vacuworx MC3 to handle 12-inch line pipe in Cushing, OK.

Vacuum lifting equipment has been routinely used on pipeline projects for more than a decade, and Vacuworx, a primary supplier of vacuum lifters, introduced the MC “mini” model at the 2009 UCT show in San Antonio.

Sales of the MC “mini” have been well over initial projections, said Shawn Lowman, Vacuworx director of sales and marketing.

“Contractors have welcomed the mini, especially on the distribution side of the industry,” Lowman said. “The staple for the mini has been steel pipe up to 12 inches OD in 40-foot lengths and smaller.”

MC lifting unit components include the main beam and reservoir; small displacement, one-cylinder gasoline engine vacuum pump, vacuum valve; hydraulic reservoir and system; rotator; and vacuum pad. It can be mounted on an excavator, backhoe, wheel loader, forklift, boom truck, or other types of equipment routinely used on construction sites. For example, it can be pinned to an excavator; has fork pockets for forklifts and loaders; and is available with a picking eye for a crane or knuckle boom type truck. The vacuum unit is controlled from the host vehicle with a closed-frequency wireless remote.

Host equipment must have the capacity to accommodate the approximately 800 pounds of the lifter, plus the weight of the load.

Vacuworx manufactures five vacuum lifting units ranging from the MC which can lift 6,600 pounds to the RC20 with lifting capacity of 44.000 pounds.

“All of our lifters apply to a utility project but due to the weights of materials being lifted the mini is certainly the best fit,” Lowman said. “Most utility contractors do not need our larger models very often.”

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