Vertical Lift Module for Freezer Application

Custom VLM for aircraft solution

This custom vertical lift module (VLM) was built for a large aircraft manufacturer based out of Washington State. The lift is designed to handle 20 aluminum trays weighing 300 pounds each for a total capacity of 6,000 pounds.

Our design was required to hold these parts within a .1” flatness tolerance and the entire system had to function inside a freezer at -15° F, requiring us to use special freezer-rated components. This custom VLM is also built to withstand earthquakes since the facility is located on the west coast

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How Custom Freezer-Rated VLM works

The vertical lift interfaces with a manual transfer cart that holds aluminum trays measuring 30” wide by 40’ long. The VLM uses eight electronically synchronized fingers on a carriage that reach out, pick up a single aluminum tray, and move the tray to a specified level within the VLM. While moving the aluminum tray, the lift’s two synchronized motors ensure the tray stays within a .1” flatness tolerance to avoid causing any wrinkles or bubbles in the aluminum.


Applications & Benefits for Freezer-Rated VLM

  • Storing and handling of sensitive parts or manufacturing materials
  • This VLM design can be translated into applications for large, hard-to-handle parts, and automation in extreme environments.
  • Increased part accuracy and quality
  • Reduced employee labor time inside the freezer

Specifications for Freezer-Rated VLM

  • The vertical actuation of the carriage is done with two synchronized 5hp gearmotors and high strength timing belt. The telescoping action of the fingers is done with electronically synchronized 24VDC powered roller motors and custom power transmission system. We also used powered rollers to power the belt conveyor on the telescoping fingers.
  • The VLM measures 46’ long x 19’ high x 9’ deep.
  • The operators use a 10” HMI screen to control the VLM. This screen is also used to communicate any faults, alarms, and I/O statuses. Field devices were run to I/O blocks throughout the machines, and we used Ethernet to run those blocks back to the main panel. The powered roller cards were all put in series with Ethernet as well, which is very easy to maintain and troubleshoot.
  • This VLM is housed inside a freezer, so the machine guarding is a simple fence inside the freezer to protect any operators inside the freezer. We also have safety sensors on the outside to prevent operators from being near the door during a part transfer or closing of the freezer door.
  • The structure of the VLM was designed using our SolidWorks 3D modeling software. Through that software, we are able to perform finite element analysis on critical parts and weldments. We then sent the model to seismic engineers that would do a final analysis to ensure our design would survive a seismic event. All gearmotors, powered rollers, belts, and bearings were rated to survive a -15° F environment for the life of the machine.

Resources for Freezer-Rated VLM

Product photos

  • vlm-lift-carriage
  • vlm-freezer-storage-rack
  • vlm-freezer-model
  • freezer-vlm-telescopic-photo-eyes
  • freezer-vlm-rendering
  • freezer-vlm-lift-tower
  • freezer-vlm-inside-freezer
  • airframe-freezer-full-system
  • freezer-vlm-carriage
  • airframe-freezer-racking
  • airframe-freezer-lift-tower
  • airframe-freezer-full-system


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