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What Are the Different Types of Heavy Lifting Equipment?

By Amy Rodriguez
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many different types of heavy lifting equipment are available in the marketplace, including forklifts, winches, hoists, cranes, and vacuum lifts. Each machine uses a unique mechanism to manipulate a large and heavy object; some devices move the item up and down or side to side, as well as a combination of both movements. Normally, a business will purchase or lease heavy lifting equipment based on the specific industry's needs.

Forklifts are a common lifting machine for many businesses. A worker drives the forklift, much like a small vehicle. The machine's front end has two metal protrusions that can be slid into a wood pallet to move products around a warehouse environment; the forked front end can lift items up into tall storage areas in a safe manner.

Another heavy lifting equipment device is a winch. This mechanism uses a wound rope to pull a item, such as during towing. Most winches are attached in a stationary position against a wall or even on a heavy service truck; workers can attach the winch's end hook to a piece of equipment to allow the winding mechanism to pull the item along.

A hoist pulls heavy items upward using a chain or rope; this form of heavy lifting equipment is typically used for lifting smaller products, such as a car engine block. Many hoists are permanently attached to the ground in a repair shop or warehouse area. The heavy object must be maneuvered over to the hoist for lifting; many times, forklifts are used in conjunction with hoists to move the item to the permanently set lift.

A crane uses an angled boom to move items up and down, as well as side to side. Of all the heavy lifting equipment types, the crane is one of the most versatile. Cranes can be built in small and large sizes, based on the lifting needs; most crane designs allow the lift to turn horizontally in a complete circle to move heavy objects in almost any direction.

Vacuum lifts use high pressure air vacuums to adhere to a heavy object for lifting. These machines are especially helpful for lifting oddly-shaped items, such as panes of glass. They can also lift heavier objects, such as cargo containers, so that ships in port can be loaded and unloaded efficiently.

Purchasing a lift can be extremely expensive; many businesses lease or rent certain lift types depending on the company's needs. A lease can generally be contracted for daily, monthly, or yearly lift use. The business owner should confer with the equipment leasing company to ensure the correct lift choice for the specific company application.

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