elite-4Platform lifts are a great way to get wheelchair users from one level in a building to the next. You’ve seen them before; they’re common in schools, hospitals, open floor-plan office buildings, and even in some homes. Many wonder how these lifts actually work. Here is a breakdown on how they operate.

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Hydraulic Power – All platform lifts plug into an electrical outlet; this is how they are powered. Electrical energy is then converted into hydraulic energy. Hydraulics are the main driving force behind most, if not all, wheelchair lifts. Hydraulics power a drive mast, which is controlled by the rider. The drive mast lifts the platform into the air or eases it back down to ground level. Without the hydraulic power, feeding the drive mast the platform lift would be nothing but a fancy display of plastic and metal. This is why it is so important to have a battery backup. If someone is riding a platform lift and the power goes out, the backup battery will keep the lift operating smoothly.

User Controlled – Like we said, wheelchair lifts are rider controlled. Buttons on the control panel allow the user to direct the drive mast. By pressing a button to go up a level, the drive shaft uses the hydraulic energy to pump the platform up to a desired height. In order to go down, the drive shaft releases hydraulic pressure, allowing the platform to gently glide back down to ground level. The user of platform wheelchair lift has complete control over the movement of the platform and can even stop it mid-ride. Some lifts even come with a built-in obstruction sensor; if something comes in the path of the platform, the lift will halt operation until the obstruction is removed. This feature keeps the rider safe and keeps the machine from being damaged.

The Break Down – We know this is a lot to take in, so let’s put hydraulics and drive masts into simpler terms. Picture the drive mast as being one large screw that the platform sits on top of. When the rider wants to ascend, the drive mast (screw) rotates so that the platform rises. When the user wants to descend, the drive mast (screw) rotates the opposite way so that the platform gently falls back down to ground level. Using hydraulics to fuel a soft and gentle ride, the drive mast acts just like a screw. Note, even though we are comparing the drive mast to a screw, just know that the platform itself does not spin as it rises and falls. This is just an analogy.


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