People have been using lifts to build tall buildings and objects for thousands of years. Until recently, those lifts consisted mostly of crude ladders and scaffolding that left a lot to be desired in terms of safety. When the steam engine burst upon the scene in the 19th century, the modern aerial lift was invented soon after.
The first hydraulic lifts were produced in 1845. They were propelled by a steam engine, and had many limitations. In 1880, the electric lift was invented, and the use of aerial lifts took off.
Today, there are two basic kinds of aerial lifts – scissor lifts and boom lifts. Also known as aerial work platforms, or AWPs, both types are designed to provide temporary access at height. Both can be used for a wide variety of jobs and work sites. However, they have three main differences that determine when and where they can be used.
Boom lifts can move vertically and horizontally. Scissor lifts can only go up and down. Boom lifts tend to have smaller work platforms or buckets. Scissor lifts generally have larger work platforms. Perhaps most important, boom lifts can achieve much higher working heights than scissor lifts. In fact, the tallest boom lifts can achieve work heights approaching 200 feet in the air. The tallest scissor lift in the world can achieve barely more than half that height.
The Tallest Scissor Lift
In 1963, Charles Larson received a U.S. patent to develop a scissor lift. However, the first scissor lift didn’t reach the market until the early 1970’s. It was an instant hit. Since then, the demand for scissors has continued to grow. Over the years, scissor lifts grew larger, taller, more robust, and safer. These days, they are considered an indispensable tool for construction, warehousing, building maintenance and many other industries.
Scissor lifts comes in two types – electric and internal combustion (IC). The electric engine is powered by a battery. It is mostly used indoors. IC scissor lifts can run on gas or diesel. Also called “rough terrain” scissor lifts, they are designed for outdoors use and uneven surfaces. Some dual-fuel models can work outdoors and indoors. They use gas for outdoor work and emission-free propane for indoor jobs.
Scissor lifts started out with fairly low working heights. Early on, it was rare to see a scissor lift that could go higher than 20 feet. Then two things happened. The technology and design improved, making scissor lifts stronger and more stable. This, in turn, made them safer. Companies began using scissor lifts for more and more types of jobs. As the demand for scissor lifts grew, scissor lifts began to grow taller. Now, scissor lifts with working heights of 30 to 50 or more are not uncommon.
Currently, the tallest scissor lift in the world is the Holland Lift Megastar HL 340. This impressive lift has a max working height of 33.5 meters, or 109 feet, 11 inches. This makes it a popular choice for:
– Building facade work
– Working on power plants and large warehousing projects
– General construction
– Cladding (the application of one material over another to provide a skin or layer)
– Architectural glazing
The Megastar HL340 has many other useful features. It has a safe working load of 2,200 lbs. It comes with on-board generators for power tools. It allows the operator to drive at full height. It also has a gradeability rating of 40%. This allows it to be driven on fairly steep slopes. This diesel-powered “mega” scissor lift also comes with a hefty price tag. So it’s not surprising many users lease the Megastar HL340 rather than buy it outright.
Medium-Height Scissor Lifts
Another reason early scissor lifts offered minimal working height was they were designed for indoor jobs. As they became sturdier and safer, they began to be used in more outside jobs. Since outside jobs can often require working higher up, the demand for taller scissor lifts continues to increase. Now, more scissor lifts are being built to work at around 40 to 50 feet. The following may not be among the tallest scissor lifts in the world. But sometimes you don’t need to go 100 up in the air to get the job done.
Three popular scissor lifts at medium heights include:
– Working height of 88.5 feet
– Lift capacity of 2,200 lbs.
– Automatic leveling system balances out unevenness of the ground
– Popular with façade and installation jobs
– Working height of 45 feet
– Lift capacity of 500 lbs.
– Drivable at full height
– Tight turning radius makes it good for indoor work
– Working height of 56 feet
– Designed for rough terrain
– Dual fuel engine and 4-wheel drive
– Auto-leveling outriggers
The Tallest Boom Lift
The working heights of today’s scissor lifts are remarkable. However, they don’t come close to matching the heights of the tallest boom lifts on the market. The title of “world’s tallest boom lift” belongs to the JLG Industries Model 1850SJ Ultra Boom. This remarkable boom has a top working height of 185 feet – about the size of a 19-story building. Even more amazing, it offers three million cubic feet of reachable space.
Height isn’t the only feature of the 1850 SJ Ultra Boom. It also offers performance to match. Despite being the tallest boom lift, it can extend from the ground to full height in less than five minutes. It includes a telescopic jib that extends and retracts. The platform can hold up to 1,000 lbs. And the boom comes with an LCD platform display to enhance safety and productivity. For example, the graphic display shows the operator’s position in the work envelope to aid in positioning. Engine status, fuel levels, service codes and other messages assist with operation and troubleshooting.
The boom’s ability to telescope into and around structures makes it an ideal choice for steel erection and energy-related construction in:
– Petrochemical applications
– Power generation and wind plants
– Stadium, convention center and theater construction
– Entertainment and studio-related applications
The Tallest Genie Lift
From a height standpoint, the Genie® SX-180 Boom Lift comes in a close second to the 1850 SJ Ultra Boom. It delivers 180 feet (54.86 m) of vertical reach and 80 feet of horizontal outreach. This creates a large working envelope that other boom lifts can’t approach.
The large 7’ x 3’ platform can hold up to 750 lbs. It automatically remains level as the boom moves. The lift be driven even when fully telescoped, which reduces downtime on the job. You can find the tallest Genie lift hard at work in many industries:
- Gas and oil refineries
- Chemical maintenance
- Large utilities
Scissor Lift Training and Certification
When you have people working 60 above the ground and higher, training becomes more important than ever. So why not go with the experts at AerialLiftCertification.com? Our training is fast and affordable. Workers can take the online classes wherever they have Internet access. The training is OSHA-compliant. And workers can print their certification card as soon as they pass the exam. Keep your workers safe with our top-rated aerial lift training program – even if you don’t use the tallest boom lift or tallest scissor lift in the world.