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.

The benefits of vacuum lifting extend beyond moving steel pipe, and Lowman said contractors in the utility and general construction industries are discovering that a growing number of applications are suited to the procedure.

Vacuum lifting technology unloads this 72-inch concrete pipe.

“Using vacuum lifters for concrete pipe has taken off recently,” said Lowman. “Minis are being used on a lot of concrete culvert work in ODs as large as 30 inches. Because concrete culvert pipes are short and weigh less than longer joints of steel pipe, we haven’t found a limit on OD size the mini can handle.”

Lowman said MCs also are being used for concrete drop boxes and lids for drainage work. As weights increase, the larger RC10 models (22,000 pounds lifting capacity) may be put in service.

New market
The most prominent “new” market for vacuum lifters, said Lowman, is for plate steel.

“The mini,” he continued, “has proven very effective for moving the road plate that contractors use to cover holes they have excavated for making repairs so that cars can drive over the affected areas. They unload plates off trucks with a mini attached to the end of job-type crane and position the plate over the excavation. The process is reversed when removing the plates. It is preventing a lot of delays and saving smashed fingers.”

Large custom plate lifters are being used in rail yards and ports for unloading and loading rail cars and barges.

“The Vacuworx plate system,” Lowman said, “will typically replace what was once being done with two forklifts or wheel loaders and their operators, doing the job faster with one machine and operator. Unlike magnets on a crane, the Vacuworx system requires no cool down time.”

Whatever the lifting job, Lowman believes vacuum equipment is superior to conventional methods.

“Any contractor utilizing vacuum lifting versus traditional methods can expect numerous benefits,” Lowman said. “We certainly focus on the safety aspect of the Vacuworx system but the efficiency benefits are hard to ignore. Contractors can increase load and unload cycles by 700 to 1,200 percent, and do so with less people. That is a huge cost savings, not to mention payroll savings for less people needed. Some contractors have reported that they have received a reduction in insurance rates due to having no one in harm’s way when lifting.”

When installing concrete, PVC and ductile iron pipe, Lowman said a vacuum lifting system can be used to slip joints of pipe together in the trench, an important safety feature.