A Review of 3 Popular Lift Tables: Pneumatic, Hydraulic and Ball Screw

Written By: Joe Campbell

One of the more overlooked issues in the material handling industry is the ergonomic safety of employees. The lifting, bending and twisting that often comes with manual labor in our field, can quickly cause neck, back, and other upper body injuries.

One easy solution to help with ergonomics is industrial lift tables. While the lift table is a great idea, you may not know exactly what kind of lift table you will need for your application. Below, I will explain the three most popular lift tables along with the advantages and disadvantages to each.

Pneumatic Lift Tables

Pneumatic lift tableA pneumatic lift table is powered with a shop air compressor to lift and position product for easy loading and unloading. It typically uses some type of airbag—either single, double, or multiple—depending on the size of the lift table and its application. The obvious advantage to using a pneumatic lift is the fact that it does not require any electricity. This also means there are no risks of hydraulic exposure or process contamination.

This type of lift table requires minimal maintenance and can be used in clean rooms and food processing plants. However, pneumatic lift tables are typically not used in heavy-duty applications with lower maximum capacities, where a large vertical lift is needed, or where accurate placement is required.

Hydraulic Lift Tables

Hydraulic lift tableThe hydraulic lift table is the most common type of lift table with the broadest variety of applications. It uses an electric motor to compress hydraulic fluid in durable cylinders to lift the load. With the wide varieties of electric motors and hydraulic cylinders available, you will find the largest range of sizes and maximum capacities available. Many standard designs are available and can be used in conjunction with various other equipment such as conveyors or turntables.

While being the most popular lift table, it does require an electrical drop nearby and an increased chance of contamination by hydraulic fluid. The hydraulic lift does not come with accurate placement, however, options are available to assist in those applications.

Ball Screw Lift Tables

Ball screw lift tableThe ball screw scissor lift table uses an electric motor to turn a horizontal or vertical ball screw that actuates the scissors and platform up and down. This type of lift is the most precise and repeatable type of lift since it relies on electric power and mechanical parts to lift loads instead of relying on air or hydraulics.

The ball screw can also be easily programmed to automatically lift to a specific height by putting an encoder on it or by adding a simple transducer. With its precision and reliability, the ball screw lift can be easily integrated in automated facilities where it interacts with other machinery.

While being capable of having the fastest lift, it can be limited on capacities and platform sizes with limited room for inner parts. Also, this type of lift is often more costly than other lift table options.
Lift tables are an excellent choice for reducing ergonomic injuries in the workplace. If you have questions about which type is right for your application, please contact us. We’re happy to assist.

I have been with Bastian Solutions since June of 2012, and I enjoy helping out my customers not only from the design side but the implementation side as well. I started as a Project Engineer and have since transitioned into the Applications Engineer, which has allowed me to see many aspects of this career.

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1 comment

  1. Mary Haurilak says:

    Thanks Joe, for this easy to understand article.

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