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What is a Scissor Lift?

By Jenn Ratliff
Updated May 17, 2024
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Industrial lifts have traditionally been in use in manufacturing and production settings to raise and lower people, work pieces and materials. The scissor lift, sometimes known as a table lift, is an industrial lift that has been modified for retail and wholesale settings. Customers perusing the aisles of a large retail store in the late evening hours have no doubt seen one, if not realized what it was. In basic terms, the scissor lift is platform with wheels that acts like a forklift. In a non-industrial setting, it is useful for completing tasks which require the speed, mobility and transporting of people and material above ground level.

The scissor lift is unique in that it doesn't use a straight support to raise workers into the air. Rather, the platform raises when the linked, folding supports underneath it draw together, stretching it upward. When extended, the scissor lift reaches anywhere from 21 to 62 feet (6.4 to 18.8 meters) above ground, depending on its size and purpose. It can be powered by hydraulics or an electric motor, but it's a bumpy ride to the top. The lift's design keeps it from traveling with a constant velocity, instead traveling faster in the middle of its journey and slower with more extension.

The first scissor lifts were built in the 1970s; although improvements in materials and safety have been made since then, the underlying basic design is often still used. The concept was ideal for the many retail establishments that were beginning to expand their inventory. As a relative to the forklift, the scissor lift boasted portability along with effectiveness. In addition, they were the only industrial platforms that could be retracted and fit into the corner of the office.

Modern scissor lifts maintain a presence in nearly all aspects of manufacturing and production, from construction to assembly to vehicle repair and beyond. Newer models can travel over the smooth surface of the warehouse floor or the uneven terrain of a construction site. The casual shopper may never know the next step the scissor lift takes, but then again, she may just be using it to get that stubborn cat out of her front tree.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon195975 — On Jul 13, 2011

Nice informative article.

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