How Do Forklifts Work?
Forklifts are incredibly useful and nifty pieces of machinery that have revolutionised the warehousing and transportation industry in numerous ways. Typically, they are manufactured in the form of electric powered forklifts or combustion engine forklifts fuelled by gas or diesel. Some forklifts allow the operators to sit while driving, while others require the operator to stand. With this in mind, some of you reading may be asking yourself “How do forklifts work?” Well, in this blog article, we are going to discuss:
- How do forklifts work?
- What are forklift hydraulics?
- What are roller chain pulleys?
- Final point
How Do Forklifts Work?
The controls of a forklift are relatively straightforward and simple. They include an acceleration pedal, brake pedal, steering wheel, forward gear, reverse gear, steering control and lifting control, all of which are enclosed within a forklift cab. Unlike cars, forklifts use rear-wheel steering which means when you turn the steering wheel, the wheels on the rear axle turn. The reason for this is that rear-wheel drive allows the operator a greater degree of rotation and precision when handling. This is particularly important when handling a heavy load while operating a forklift.
The lifting controls are also a very important part when operators use forklifts. The lift controls consist of two levers, one for lifting the forks up and down and one for tilting a load back and forth. This is ideal for transporting heavy loads from one area to the other or from point A to point B in a safe and efficient manner.
Finally, forklifts utilise a ‘hydraulic system’ which, when the tilt handle is moved either forward or backwards, helps adjust the height of a load when it is lifted by the forks of a forklift. Below we go into more detail about how forklift hydraulics work.
How Do Forklift Hydraulics Work?
A hydraulic system makes it so forklifts can lift and hold a load in the air while being able to manoeuvre around the warehouse. The way they work is derived from Pascal’s Law. The law explains that if pressure is applied to a liquid in a limited and compact space, the pressure will be sent through the fluid in every direction without losing any of its power. When a tilt handle is moved forward, this pressure forces the fluid against a piston which then transfers the energy thus, creating force which helps lift the forks upward. In contrast, when the tilt handle is moved in a backwards motion, air is slowly released from the hydraulic system’s cylinder valves so that less pressure is created which means the masts are rocked back toward the vehicle.
Below we have the four principles of a forklift hydraulics system:
- The reservoir – This is where the liquid is located
- The pump – Which is responsible for transferring mechanical energy into the system
- The valves – Which instigates the hydraulics start or stop function. The valves also direct the fluid’s movement.
- The actuators – These devices transfer generated hydraulic energy and transform it into mechanical energy for forklift use.
Roller Chain Pulleys
The hydraulic pistons are attached to the masts of the forklift. However, the actual forks that carry a load are attached to the main body of the forklift through a pair of roller chain pulleys. When the hydraulic pistons push the masts up, the gears on the masts push against the roller chains. Because one side of the chains are attached to the immobile frame of the forklift, the only way the masts can move up is if the gears rotate clockwise consequently, causing the forks to pull upward.
Now that we have discussed ‘How do forklifts work?’ and the forklift hydraulic system, it is important to note that only trained and certified operators should be employed to use forklifts, especially when raising or lowering heavy pallets. This is because forklift operators need to be able to properly calculate the load and how much lift power is needed to move it. Failure to do so can cause catastrophic errors, time inefficiencies or even fatalities within warehouse or transportation settings. As such, to help combat this, it is advised that new and experienced operators conduct regular forklift training so that their skills and knowledge are maintained and adhere to the stars as set by the HSE. We have also written a blog on the different types of forklift training for more information on how you can enhance and improve your forklift operating skills.