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How Do Platform Lifts Work?

Platform lifts have become a widely favoured option for improving accessibility in buildings that are unable to accommodate traditional passenger lifts. These lifts are specifically engineered to elevate or descend platforms, making them well-suited for confined spaces and locations subject to government regulations, such as low-rise structures. Their affordability and straightforward installation process have played a significant role in their increasing appeal.

Types of Platform Lifts

To fully understand how platform lifts operate, it’s essential to first learn about their basic functions and the various types available.

Step Lifts

Flexstep Incline Step Lift

Step lifts are installed on either side of steps to assist users in accessing another level while keeping the steps clear for other pedestrians. They typically provide a travel distance of about one meter and can be used both indoors and outdoors. These lifts are perfect for small height differences and are commonly found in residential and public buildings.

Inclined Stairlifts

Flexstep Incline Step Lift

Inclined stairlifts are designed to help wheelchair users access different levels in a building via a stairlift fitted with a level platform. These platforms are usually installed on the side of the staircase adjacent to a wall. They are versatile and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, and can be adapted to fit curved or straight staircases with multiple turns or landings.

Vertical Platform Lifts

Vertical Platform Lift

Vertical platform lifts are similar to traditional enclosed lifts but differ in travel height, speed, and capacity. They are ideal for small domestic buildings and require minimal building alterations compared to conventional lifts. Vertical platform lifts are typically installed on a wall and come in various designs to suit different needs and aesthetics.

How Platform Lifts Function

The functionality of platform lifts is determined by the drive system used. There are three main types of drive systems, each with its unique benefits and drawbacks.

Hydraulic Drive System

In a hydraulic drive system, the platform is attached to a hydraulic structure. To move the lift up or down, a button is pressed, causing hydraulic fluid to be pumped from a reservoir into the structure. The resulting pressure extends the structure, raising the lift. To lower the lift, the fluid flow is reversed. This system requires additional space for the mechanism and can emit a strong odour in hot weather.

Screw and Nut System

This system employs a vertical screw pole that matches the height of the lift’s travel path. The platform is equipped with a motor that drives a nut attached to the screw. The lift ascends or descends as the motor turns the nut in different directions. Installation typically involves mounting the system on a supporting wall to stabilise the unit, especially for longer travel distances. Regular lubrication is necessary to prevent wear and tear on the screw and nut threads.

Encapsulated Chain System

The encapsulated chain system uses a chain enclosed in a durable casing made from polyurethane plastic to prevent slipping. A gearbox and motor turn a driveshaft connected to the chain, which moves the lift up or down. The materials used in this system are highly durable, ensuring a longer lifespan for the lift.

Platform lifts offer a practical and efficient solution for improving accessibility in buildings with limited space or specific restrictions. Whether using a hydraulic, screw and nut, or encapsulated chain drive system, these lifts provide a reliable means of vertical transportation. Additionally, modern lifts are equipped with self-lubricating features that automatically service the gears and threads each time the lift is used, ensuring long-term functionality and safety.

If you’re considering a platform lift for your building, understanding the different types and how they operate can help you make an informed decision. With numerous customisation options available, platform lifts can be tailored to meet the specific needs of any space, enhancing accessibility and convenience for all users.