Hydraulic VRC Vs. Mechanical VRC: Choosing a Vertical Lift

If you’re at the point where you’re considering a vertical reciprocating conveyor (VRC), you’ve already determined that your current material handling strategy needs an upgrade.

Hydraulic VRC Vs. Mechanical VRC Choosing a Vertical Lift

VRCs may be a cost-effective solution: They’re intended solely for moving materials (not people), so they’re less expensive to install and maintain than freight elevators. VRCs are more efficient than lift trucks, and they’re ideal for maximizing vertical storage space in warehouses, storage facilities, and other operations. 

But before you reap the benefits, you’ll need to choose a vertical reciprocating lift that matches your facility’s needs. Below, we’ll outline the advantages of hydraulic and mechanical lifts, then provide some tips for purchasing. For additional guidance, call 1.800.247.9500 to speak with a member of our sales team.

Hydraulic VRCs and Mechanical VRCs: Key Differences

Hydraulic material handling equipment works by compressing fluid, which generates the power needed to lift loads to a designated height. Mechanical VRCs use a motor with a chain or cable system for the same purpose. 

For buyers, the most obvious difference between the two lifting mechanisms is power. High-power hydraulic equipment must keep maximum working pressure below certain thresholds to operate safely. As a result, mechanical VRCs can support higher capacities, and custom-built mechanical units may be faster and capable of handling more frequent load cycles.

Of course, the design of the system is an important factor. Modern hydraulic VRCs are powerful, quiet, and low maintenance. For general applications (for example, serving mezzanines in warehouses or lifting parts in automotive factories), hydraulic lifts are an excellent choice. For high-capacity or multi-story lifts, mechanical VRCs may be more appropriate. Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor

Apart from capacity, hydraulic and mechanical lifts have other distinct advantages and disadvantages:

  • Mechanical VRCs typically require less upkeep than hydraulic units, though this depends on the design of the lift.
  • Mechanical mechanisms typically use less electricity, leading to lower long-term operational costs. Again, this is highly dependent on the design of the unit.
  • Mechanical units are significantly more expensive to design and install.
  • Hydraulic lifts are generally a better option for two-story operations or facilities with mezzanines (with a maximum height of roughly 30 feet).

Both mechanical and hydraulic lifts must be in full compliance with ASME B20.1, the Safety Standard for Conveyors and Related Equipment. All units must have appropriate safety features to prevent drop hazards and to guard personnel while the lift moves between levels.

Related: The VRC Buyer’s Guide Choosing a Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor

Choosing the Right VRC for Your Operation

For most facilities, hydraulic VRCs make sense: They’re affordable, efficient, and safe, ideal for handling loads of 10,000 pounds or less. If your operation has multiple stories, and you do not need to move personnel along with loads, a mechanical VRC is preferable. 

At BHS, we engineer each VRC for its specific application. Each VRC can be built to match custom height requirements, weight capacities, traffic patterns, and carriage sizes. Our goal is to ensure integration with existing material handling systems — conveyors, lift trucks, and other equipment — to increase efficiency while prioritizing safety. 

Whether you’re considering a mechanical or hydraulic lift, our team can help you evaluate your options and make an informed decision. To get started, contact our sales team at 1.800.247.9500 or read more about vertical reciprocating conveyors from BHS.