The Bode Process - Hydraulic vs. Mechanical VRC: Understanding the attributes

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Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors (VRC) are lifts designed for the vertical transfer of objects and materials to different vertical levels. These vertical lifts offer efficiency, as well as an increase in workplace safety through reducing labor and potentially eliminating the need to carry materials from one level to another. To get the best, most cost-effective use from a VRC it is important to know which type of fits the specific application.

There are two main types of VRCs:

  • Hydraulic VRC
  • Mechanical VRC

Hydraulic VRCs

Hydraulic VRCs operate via hydraulic motor/pump units and actuating mechanisms. By using these elements hydraulic VRCs are free of cables, chains or bearings in their design. These VRCs are well-suited for two level (ground plus one) applications and dimensions can be adjusted to fit into application specifics. When figuring out if a hydraulic VRC is the right choice for the application it is important to look at the product’s attributes.

Hydraulic VRC pros:

  • Low initial cost
  • Over-speeds avoided by velocity fuses
  • Hydraulic cylinders/cables/ram provide redundant safety

Hydraulic VRC cons:

  • Greater potential maintenance
  • Limited cycle rates

With hydraulic VRCs you are looking at lower initial costs compared to the mechanical option. You are also getting a product that has additional safety built-in by dual-lifting mechanisms designed to activate in case of failure. However, with hydraulic parts there is the greater chance for required maintenance as time goes by and these hydraulic lifts are usually limited in the cycle rates per hour.

Applications that do not require heavy cycle-use, are limited in budget, have only 2 levels, and/or require a smaller space to incorporate a lift are great applications where a hydraulic VRC can be beneficial.

Mechanical VRCs

Mechanical VRCs operate through a chain/cable drive lifting system. These systems allow mechanical lifts to accurately stop and reach multiple vertical levels making them great for applications where more than two levels are involved. These lifts have the ability to take on large capacity loads and are designed to be durable through heavy workloads. Mechanical VRCs have attributes that differentiate them from their hydraulic counterpart, which allows them to be suitable for larger, more complex applications.

Mechanical VRC pros:

  • Long service life
  • Faster speeds
  • High cycle rates
  • Wider carriage options

Mechanical VRC cons:

  • Higher costs than hydraulic lifts

Mechanical VRCs offer better speeds, cycle rates, and service life when compared to the hydraulic option. However, you need to account for higher costs in terms of the initial cost as well as installation costs due to the use of wiring. Mechanical VRCs larger carriage and capacity options can increase costs further, but in-turn offer the ability to adhere to larger load requirements.

Final Takeaways

Hydraulic VRCs are fit for the applications in which there could be budgetary concerns, smaller capacities/carriages required, and only ground plus one levels of travel needed for the lift. While mechanical VRCs apply to the larger projects where wider carriages are needed to hold larger capacities of materials, and applications consisting of heavy traffic and more than one elevated level.

It is important to note that both styles of VRCs offer a variety of options when it comes to their size, styles, safety features, and cosmetics. The suppliers Bode uses such as Wildeck and Pflow offer code compliance with regulated VRC products under ASME B20.1 National Safety Standard for Conveyors, as well as a huge variety of different options and features. Whether you are going with a hydraulic or mechanical you are getting a quality product that will do an efficient job of the vertical transfer of materials, while maintaining an increased level of safety. The benefits of using a VRC in general are geared towards increased efficiency, safety, and ability to reduce labor and decrease potential injury to employees.

"When it came to accommodating this consolidation, Bode was at the top of my list."
Project Engineer
Coca Cola of New England

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