Lifting with air

April 3, 2003
Moving heavy loads need not be back-breaking labor, not if you let pressurized air do most of the work.

It continues building a column as long as there is banding and strapping. Driving the motor backwards disassembles the column and its components return to storage.

Load Modules from AeroGo, Seattle (www.aerogo.com), use air to literally "float" heavy loads, up to 480,000 lb, making them relatively simple to move and position. Clean compressed air inflates a donut-shaped bag, which expands but does not support the load. As pressure builds, air leaks out underneath the bag, creating a 0.003 to 0.005-in. layer of air. The load then floats on this nearly frictionless layer and can be moved in any direction.

Modules are less than 2 in. tall, so there is often no need for a separate jacking system to get the load onto the modules. Large loads require several modules. Controlling air pressure to each module can balance unequal weight distributions. One caveat is that the floor must be flat and smooth (i.e., vinyl, tile, terrazzo, and concrete). Users can choose from a variety of standard models or a custom order to meet specific needs. They've been used to move big and heavy items, like 6,000-ton caissons and the eastern seats at old Mile High Stadium in Denver, as well as delicate machinery, such as IC manufacturing machines on raised, clean-room floors.

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