Hoist 'highlites' usefulness of aluminium

A portable hoist for mobility impaired individuals has been developed using anodised aluminium for a lightweight, high strength, low cost construction

A portable hoist, for enabling mobility impaired patients to move between beds and an armchair or wheelchair, has been developed using aluminium as its main construction material.

The 'Huntleigh Highlite' was designed by Carl Ford, a mechanical engineer who is a wheelchair user himself after a hang gliding accident. After attending a conference abroad, Ford recognised the need for a portable transfer system as conventional hoists were too heavy and bulky.

A business agreement with Huntleigh Healthcare was established and Ford (and his business partner Tim Henson) the hoist was developed at Huntleigh's factory in the West Midlands using formed aluminium extrusions supplied by Hydro Aluminium Extrusion (HAE).

Initially, the frame design was to use carbon fibre composite, since it would provide the greatest strength-to-weight ratio, but this would have been too expensive so a cost effective alternative was sought. HAE supplied three different aluminium leg extrusions of varying diameters for the four telescopic legs on the frame, as well as a main beam extrusion and an extruded catch for a leg lock mechanism. The aluminium was anodised to give an attractive finish.

The lightness of aluminium means the hoist weighs just 23kg. Aluminium is roughly a third of the density of steel, yet in terms of strength, by using the correct alloys and design, aluminium can be as strong as structural steel. In the case of the hoist, a safe working load of 130kg was achieved, enabling users to be effectively lifted and transferred, while retaining a very lightweight unit for portability.

John Bradley, buyer at Huntleigh Healthcare, commented: "We chose HAE because it is an integrated company offering high quality."

Tom Shelley

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