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Advances in lifting column technology improves user experience

Author : Niklas Sjöström is with Thomson Industries

06 April 2016

Vertical lift is required in a range of medical equipment where accessibility and comfort can improve care and patient outcomes.

Powered wheelchairs built with these new lifting columns will feature a minimal retracted height making it easy for patients to get into the chair

Applications such as wheelchair lifts, examination tables and dentist’s chairs, or adjustable nurses’ stations and optician instruments such as non-contact tonometers all require vertical lift to provide an optimal patient experience.  

The latest Lifting Columns from Thomson come in a range of models with features to match application needs. Whatever the combination of speed, range of movement or capacity loading is required; Thomson can deliver a solution that helps improve equipment performance, cost and design for doctor and patient benefit.

Maximum extension-to-retraction ratio 

The new LC Series offers a combination of speed and performance. For example, the LC2000 can improve machine performance by providing high load capacity, long stroke length and good speed to maintain efficiency of operation. The column uses a telescopic lead screw with a nesting three-piece extrusion to enable a surprisingly small minimum retracted length and great extension-to-retraction ratio. Ideal for use in machines such as wheelchairs or examination tables as well as ergonomic workstations, this series provides up to 2000N loading and, as standard, can operate at between 15 and 19mm/s. Custom designed units can also be manufactured for higher speeds, and have been proven up to 25mm/s. 

High load capacity models

The LC3000 is designed for bariatric, chiropractic and other applications where high load capacity is of utmost importance. LC3000 uses a ball screw with a three-piece extrusion which has additional extrusion overlap to allow for extended-length bushings. This design provides a load capacity of up to 3000N with high moment loading in a compact frame size. The column also has a very short retracted length and the smooth, quiet operation required for medical or home environments.

Powerfully quiet

All components within Thomson Lifting Columns are designed for low, consistent noise and smooth operation to foster a pleasant working environment and help keep patients calm. The units use high performance linear actuators with a noise-deafening cover, making them ideal for use in medical applications without the need for any additional noise attenuation being added to the machinery. Each column uses a single motor and screw ensuring smooth operation and patient comfort, while also allowing for lower amp draw and longer life.

Best for ergonomics

Modern innovations in lifting column technology mean medical machine builders can design without compromise

The Lifting Columns are telescopic to maximise the extension to retraction ratio and give the flexibility required to improve patient, doctor and operator ergonomics. For example, powered wheelchairs built with these new lifting columns will feature a minimal retracted height making it easy for patients to get into the chair and also offer high extension enabling users to reach high objects, such as wall cabinets. Equally, equipment such as examination tables or dentistry chairs can be adjusted to allow patients to get on easily and then quickly and smoothly be moved to the optimum height to ensure doctor/dentist comfort and reduced risk of back injuries. The rapid movement further ensures comfort and safety without compromise to the efficiency of patient throughput. 

Bearing the load

Thomson Lifting Columns are stand-alone actuators that provide lifting force while also handling potential moment loads of up to 400Nm. The design uses engineered polymer slide bushings to provide column moment loading capability. These bushings slide along the extrusion as the column telescopes and are keyed to enable up to 40 percent more moment load than alternate designs. A loading brake also ensures the load is held even on power failure, to provide complete safety for the user.

In applications where there is too much side load for a single column, two or even four units may be easily synchronised together using a combination of the Thomson encoder and DCG control or any suitable third-party controller. The resulting system will offer stability, load capacity and moment load capacity as required, while still being easy to integrate into the overall machine.

Reducing machine and lifetime costs

The outside of the columns are made with an aesthetically pleasing aluminum extrusion which is designed to be visible. The attractive exterior means that no additional covers or shrouds are required, simplifying the machine design and reducing manufacturing costs. Pre-drilled mounting holes and an end of stroke limits which require no external limit switches further ensure an easy to mount, cost effective solution.

The fully enclosed columns use high viscosity grease to prolong life and they provide 10,000 cycles at full load, giving reliable lifetime performance with no ongoing maintenance or greasing requirements. 

There are three models of Thomson Lifting Columns, each with unique features and benefits. All can be readily customised to meet precise application requirements where necessary. Provision for higher retracted lengths, mounting plates with customer specific mounting arrangements, special cable lengths and double or extended bushings to provide greater moment load can all be produced with good lead times.

Thomson Lifting Columns are self-supporting, compact and produce a smooth, quiet lifting motion for patient peace of mind. They are designed to give the flexibility in height required to avoid back injuries as well as meeting high load and extension requirements. All units come as a complete system with an attractive housing, making installation and machine design simpler. In addition, the columns provide rapid movement for the amount of loads they can lift to give required performance without compromise to productivity. The design further means that a single, central column can handle significant moment loads or, if required, multiple columns can be easily synchronised into an overall machine design.


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