Suction cup lifters are just what they sound like, suction cups used to help lift unwieldy or heavy materials. This allows a worker to handle and place large tiles, metal sheets, or drywall panels safely. Industries that use these devices include automotive repair shops, construction companies, and manufacturing facilities. With such a wide range of applications, there are different types of suction cup lifters on the market. Each has certain capabilities and limitations, and each is designed to be used in a specific way.
The lifetime of these products also varies depending on the materials used in the production. This also creates a wide range of price points from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars.
Press In Place Suction Lifters
These are the most rudimentary types of suction cup lifters. A single suction cup, or a set of two, is attached to a plastic or metal handle. These are large suction cups made of flexible, thin rubber. You apply pressure to attach it to your clean, dry material.
These small, handheld lifters are mostly used for positioning material for final placement. It is recommended that you do not rely on these suction cup lifters to carry your material. They are not strong enough to carry a heavy piece of wood or tile from one location to another.
These suction lifters range in price from under a dollar up to fifty dollars. The lower the price, the less reliable they will be. Remember the old saying, you get what you pay for.
Manual Pump Style Vacuum Suction Lifters
This type of suction lifter relies on a vacuum created by pumping air into a chamber in the device. Most of these manual pump style vacuum lifters have some type of plunger rod that is forced in and out. This action draws air out of the suction cup and flattens it, forcing it to adhere to the material being lifted.
Because the air pressure within the suction cup is now lower than the surrounding air pressure, the cup will remain in place until the bond is broken by releasing the pressure or lifting the edge of the suction cup.
As a general rule, larger cups have greater holding ability than smaller cups because they create more of a vacuum effect, and the difference between the air pressure inside the suction cup and outside the suction cup is much larger.
These types of suction lifters can be compact and easily carried by a single worker or heavy and large, requiring a crane to lift the material being used.
Compressed air suction lifters
Another popular suction cup lifter is like the manual pump lifter. The compressed air suction vacuum relies on the pressure created by an electric air compressor to force the vacuum to take place. As the air compressor forces air into a chamber on the device, the suction cups flatten against the material, creating a powerful bond.
These lifters can vary from a single cup handheld size up to 10 square feet with many suction cups. On the larger models, hoses lead the air to the individual arms of the device, allowing all the suction cups to attach at the same ratio.
These suction lifters are available at home improvement stores and contractor supply warehouses. They can be inconvenient because you must have access to electricity, and you must have an air compressor. Some of these lifters also require a special type of attachment to connect the air hose to the device.
Compressed air lifters are designed for professional use and can lift large sheets of material weighing a few pounds up to a few hundred pounds. Some of these models attach to a crane by a hook and others include rail systems that move the material from one place to another.
Motorized electric suction lifter
A small, electric motor powers this most desired type of suction cup lifting device. This motor creates a vacuum that forces the suction cups to adhere to the material being lifted. The primary advantages of this device are the speed at which it creates the bond and the strength of the bond.
Some of these devices require household electrical current, but there are several on the market that run off of battery power. Most of these feature rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, designed to recharge quickly and perform for many hours without failure.
Many of these devices feature interchangeable suction pads made from rubber or polymer. Many of these pads have a raised outer edge to strengthen the bond between the pad and the glass. Pads are available in round or oval shapes, mostly.
These devices range in size from handheld models to crane lifted models. Like the compressed air lifters, some of these suction devices can be mounted on specialized rail systems to move equipment. Examples of this type of application include automotive manufacturing plants and commercial building job sites.
The motorized electric suction lifter is designed for professional use. It is durable and made from the highest quality contractor-grade materials. The handling can vary depending on the device, but the most lightweight model is the GRABO Nemo, weighing just 3 pounds with the battery installed. The larger, multi-cup models can range into the hundreds of pounds.
Industrial, rail-mounted systems designed for assembly lines such as the Liftronic will weigh hundreds of pounds and require special electrical current.
For small, quick jobs such as replacing a pane in a house window, the inexpensive single suction cup device applied by pressure will be sufficient. For applications such as landscaping or tile installation, a stronger, pump activated suction cup device will be more effective. These vary in size and cost, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Some of these larger lifts have additional needs and requirements such as electricity and floor mounts. For best results, carefully evaluate your needs and do your research before making a purchase.