Frequently Asked Questions


Questions about Vacuum Lifting:

Q:

How does vacuum lifting work?

A:

The Vacuworx™ Vacuum Lifting System consists of 4 principle components: a vacuum pump, which is driven by a self-contained engine or hydraulically powered by the host machine; a vacuum reservoir and valve, which provides vacuum in the event of a power failure; vacuum pad(s); and visible and audible vacuum alerts. The vacuum pump maintains a constant vacuum in the pressure reservoir. When activated, the system pulls a vacuum between the pad and object to be lifted, providing a power positive seal. Pad seal is used on the vacuum pad to cover the material to be lifted and create the necessary suction. The vacuum seal holds until the operator activates the release (even in the event of a power failure).

Q:

How is vacuum lifting safer than traditional lifting and rigging methods?

A:

There are numerous ways in which vacuum lifting is much safer than traditional rigging methods. With vacuum lifting, fewer ground personnel are required so there are no workers in harm’s way around or under the lift. There is no need for employees to climb on trailers to attach slings, hooks or clamps, or to wrap chain or poly slings around pipe, so there is no chance of injury due to climbing on pipe by workers. Also, traditional rigging requires high quality products that are constantly inspected and tested for wear and overuse. If you happen to be using low quality rigging products, they can easily break and drop a load. Slings must also be centered exactly to prevent slipping. Vacuum lifting can also handle materials without displacing adjacent pieces.

Q:

What is the safety factor for your lifters?

A:

All of our lifters and pads are built per the safety factors compliant with American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) BTH-1-2011 and B30.20 standards.

Q:

What kind of tests have you performed to ensure safety for our company?

A:

All Vacuworx products are manufactured and designed to meet or exceed numerous global engineering and safety standards. We meet or exceed the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) BTH-1 for design and engineering and ASME B30.20 for construction, build and implementation. Our vacuum lifters also meet or exceed the AS (Standards Australia) 4991 standards for Australia. Additionally, Vacuworx products meet or exceed European CE requirements for the Machinery Directive, the Low Voltage Directive and the Electromagnetic Interference Directive. Each lifter goes through a pull test to ensure that they meet their stated Safe Working Load (SWL).

Q:

How much money will I save by using vacuum lifters?

A:

Your savings will depend on several factors, including the length of the pipeline job, number of employees currently used in the pipe handling operations, remoteness of the project, labor costs in your area and equipment currently being used, as well as many other factors. In the USA, we have found that costs for the pipelaying function using a Vacuworx Lifting System are about 90% less on a typical pipeline construction job.

Q:

How long will a lifter last?

A:

That is a difficult question, and it’s like asking how long a car will last. We have lifters still in service in Australia from the 90s, as customers there have taken great care to preserve and service the lifters properly. Obviously, if the machine is not cared for and serviced properly according to our manuals, it will shorten the life of the lifter.

Questions about operation and what can be lifted:

Q:

What happens if there is an equipment failure and you have a load in the air?

A:

The vacuum valve will still hold the lift. The vacuum will hold for long enough for the operator to lower the load safely to the ground.

Q:

Can it lift pipes with special coatings?

A:

Vacuum lifting is actually the preferred method of lifting pipes with coatings, as it protects the customer’s investment in the coating! Vacuum lifters will work with virtually all types of coatings, as long as the coating is bonded to the pipe and will support the weight of the material.

Q:

How long does it take to generate the vacuum to make a lift?

A:

During the first startup, you will need to generate enough vacuum force to get into the “safe” (green) range on the vacuum gauge. This takes only about a minute and then you are ready to lift. Once the lifter is placed on the load and the “lift” button is pressed, the vacuum takes less than two seconds to hold the material. Releasing the seal also only takes seconds to release.

Q:

Can it lift plastic pipes?

A:

Yes! Vacuum lifters can lift almost any non-porous material. Certain types of plastic pipes may require our RPP style of pad, which has a smaller radius to allow for the more lightweight plastic pipes. Be sure to check with Vacuworx personnel for the correct pad for your specific application.

Q:

I have extra long pipes on my project. Can your pads handle these?

A:

We can design and manufacture a solution for extra long pipes of all types of materials. Some solutions include a spreader bar to allow for multiple pads, or just a longer pad to accommodate the specific length. Just give us the pipe diameter, length, material and weight and we can give you a solution!

Q:

I’m using very flexible plastic pipes on my project. Can your pads handle these?

A:

We can design and manufacture a solution for very flexible plastic pipes. Just give us the pipe diameter, length and weight and we can give you a solution!

Q:

Can I use a 24” pad for my 20” pipe?

A:

Our pads are designed for a small range of 1-inch higher and 1-inch lower than the specific diameter they are made for. For example, a #24 pad is designed for 24-inches, allowing a pipe range of 23-25 inches. Unless otherwise advised specifically from Vacuworx, we do not recommend using pads for materials outside of this range. Other competitors have a wider range stated for their pads, but they have also have a greater number of cases of dropped pipe due to improper fit. For this reason, we prefer to be on the safe side and limit our range accordingly. However, if you have two sizes of pipe that are close together, we can review to see if we can manufacture one pad that will safely handle both pipe diameters.

Q:

What’s the smallest pipe size you can lift? What about the largest?

A:

The smallest pipe our vacuum lifters can lift is 4-inches (100 mm). There is no maximum size as we can customize a pad for larger pipes.

Q:

How long does it take to change to a different pad?

A:

The process of changing to a different size pad is very fast, usually taking just 4-5 minutes. You only need to remove two pull pins and disconnect the vacuum hose to remove a pad, attach the new pad, connect the vacuum hose and install the two pull pins and the change is complete.

Q:

Can I lift off-center?

A:

The lifter will allow for some off-center lifting and will also allow up to a 15-degree tilt. Anything beyond that will start to put undue stress on the rotator. The lifter has rubber “stop blocks” on the side of the rotator to help minimize the impact of an off-center lift.

Q:

How does the lifter attach to my excavator?

A:

The vacuum lifter is attached to the “stick” of the excavator after the bucket is removed. We also attach hydraulic lines to the bucket curl circuit of the excavator to control the rotation of the vacuum lifter. We only need to know the brand and model number of the excavator to be sure we send the proper adapter, pin, spacers, bushings and hydraulic fittings.

Q:

How long does it take to hook a lifter up to my excavator?

A:

The initial hook-up can take about an hour to accomplish. If you are using quick couplers, we can modify the adapter to fit their specific coupler.

Q:

We are lifting with a crane (or forklift or telehandler) instead of an excavator. Is vacuum lifting still an option?

A:

Yes, vacuum lifters will work well with host machines other than excavators. However, keep in mind that when using our vacuum lifters with these kinds of equipment the rotator cannot be used, since the crane block will rotate freely during the lift and there is no way to control it. If using with a crane, we will remove the rotator and attach a lifting eye on top of the lifter to allow for use with the hook block of the crane. If using with a forklift, reach stacker or telehandler, a special adapter with fork pockets is installed instead of the rotator.

Questions about power source and internal parts:

Q:

We are lifting pipe inside and cannot use your machine due to the fumes from the fuel. Can you make an electric model?

A:

Certainly! Electric versions of all of our lifters are available. We just need to confirm the electricity requirements and the host machine, as typically in-plant applications utilize an overhead crane.

Q:

Can you make a hydraulic model instead of diesel?

A:

Absolutely! We currently have hydraulically driven “H” models for the MC 5 and all RC Series lifters.

Q:

What kind of parts will I need to stock?

A:

Vacuworx stocks all parts in our facilities in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and our dealers will also stock most common parts locally. The most common parts needed are the pad seal (Tough Seal™), seal adhesive, filter kits, oils, gauges and batteries. MC and RC Series lifters have three air filters that need to be changed based on the conditions of the project or application. Dirtier environments will require more frequent filter replacement.

Q:

How long will the pad seal last?

A:

The life of the pad seal depends on two factors: 1) what is being lifted; and 2) the operator. If you are lifting material with a smooth surface, you will get longer life from the pad seal.  If you are lifting something with a rough surface, such as concrete, the pad seal will wear out faster. If you are lowering the pad straight onto the material being lifted, without twisting or rubbing the seal against it, you will get longer life.  If the operator is not as skilled and doesn’t go straight down onto the material, rubbing it or dragging it across, you will not have as long life on the pad seal. If there is a small tear on the pad seal, you can just replace that one section (see manual for details).  

Questions about shipping and rental:

Q:

How fast can you ship from Tulsa?

A:

We stock our lifters and most pads in Tulsa for fast shipment out to our customers. We also stock all parts for quick delivery to keep your machines running and reduce downtime. For custom-built pads, we can usually manufacture and deliver in 2-3 weeks or less.

Q:

What countries can you ship to?

A:

As we are a USA-based company, we are not allowed to sell into any country that is banned by the US Government, nor are we allowed to sell to another entity that might forward these to one of the banned countries. As of May 2013, banned countries are Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria and North Sudan.

Q:

These seem really expensive compared to what I use now. Are rental options available?

A:

Yes, rental options are available for all of our products. Please check with your local dealer or with Vacuworx for specific details and rental pricing for your application needs.

Questions about Vacuworx advantages and support:

Q:

I’ve seen these before from another company, and we did not have good success with their machines. How are your lifters better than theirs?

A:
  1. Most competitors have simply tried to copy our design. We are the market leader, striving to be the most reliable vacuum lifting company in our industry.
  2. Many competitors also have a larger “range” for the vacuum pads, which potentially creates an unsafe lifting environment. When customers get into heavy pipes on the edges of those ranges, then there are possibilities of dropping pipe. For lifting steel pipes, we limit our range to 1” above and below the stated diameter of our pads to ensure you are always making a safe lift every time. This range is larger for our RPP pad for lighter plastic and poly pipes.
  3. Lifting equipment is the only thing we make, so we are constantly researching how we can improve our lifters based on customer feedback, our own internal testing, and new applications that are brought to our attention by our global customer base.
  4. Many of our competitors make other equipment as well and do not focus on improving their lifters. Their copies are much like some of our older models, ones that we have long since improved on. Other competitors just look to make a cheaper, less reliable and lower quality copy of our lifters. Some even outsource the manufacturing to low-quality sources.
  5. Some of our competitors do not meet global safety and engineering standards. All Vacuworx products are manufactured to meet or exceed numerous global engineering and safety standards. Our products meet or exceed ASME BTH-1 for Design and Engineering, and ASME B30.20 for Construction, Build and Implementation. They also meet or exceed the AS 4991 Standards Australia that apply to vacuum lifters. Additionally, Vacuworx products meet or exceed the European CE Machinery Directive, the Low Voltage Directive and the Electromagnetic Interference Directive. Vacuum lifters manufactured by Vacuworx are engineered products that have gone through extensive engineering design review, Finite Element Analysis, critical testing in the field, and additional specific testing during manufacturing.
  6. Vacuworx does all of our manufacturing in our own facilities. Our customers are always welcome to visit our headquarters in Tulsa for a tour!
  7. We also know from years of experience which parts work the best and are the most reliable for the rugged needs of a vacuum lifter. We even designed our own vacuum pump, as commercial pumps couldn’t stand up to the reliability requirements we have at Vacuworx.
  8. The European brands are not able to participate much in the North American market as their quality just does not meet the rugged standards required in North America, the largest pipeline market in the world!
  9. Bottom line, you cannot buy a higher quality vacuum lifting system than Vacuworx!
Q:

What training/documentation is available?

A:

All lifters are shipped with an Operation and Maintenance Manual, which includes Warnings, Safety Issues, Specifications, Warranty information, Parts information, Operation Guide, Troubleshooting Guide and Maintenance Guide. In addition, one of our certified technicians is available for an on-site operation and maintenance training session for your service technicians and equipment operators.

Q:

What about service after the sale?

A:

Vacuworx service technicians are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Most issues can be handled over the phone. We are also in the process of establishing a global dealer network, giving you access to a local dealer who can handle any outstanding service issues that may arise. This ensures that you will have minimal downtime in case of a major service issue. NONE of our competitors offer this!